This is the 'pink' project I've been working on recently. It's a big deal to me and hopefully it will be loved by the little person cuddled up in it.
As you can see, it's a reversible blanket in chunky baby wool. The brief was that it had to be big enough to wrap around a baby and I think it will fit just right.
If you're wondering where this idea came from, it started a few weeks back when I thought I would drop into SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit) at our local hospital. I'm not really prone to this type of uninvited visit, but I wondered if they needed any more knitted items. Our knitting group supplied them eighteen months ago with blankets, mittens, booties, hats and burial gowns via 'The Little Love Project.' In fact, we made so many items that I was almost sure they were pretty well stocked, but I thought I would check all the same.
The next bit didn't really go to plan... I couldn't find SCBU! I've only been there once or twice to drop off items and that was eighteen months ago, plus I get all self conscious when I have to speak into intercoms, so I ploughed on into the first ward entrance that I came across and that just happened to be Hedgehog Children's Ward.
After explaining why I was crashing into their ward I was directed to a group of nurses (not sure of our collective noun) and asked them what they needed. They immediately said, 'blankets,' then 'hats' and 'mittens' and 'booties!' They explained that they have babies of all sizes there and quite often need blankets for holding/cuddling, mittens and booties to cover IV lines and hats just to keep them snuggly.
Oh, sweet music to my ears!
After some discussion about colours, size of garments, etc. I walked out with a list of VITAL needs and some lovely ideas knocking around in my woolly brain. As blankets were first on the list I wondered if it would be possible to come up with a design just for Hedgehog Ward. I also wondered if I could create a pattern that every knitter would be able to master (and enjoy) despite their level of skill? The latter was really important as our knitting group, 'The Purls,' have some very new knitters and some VERY capable knitters .
For the next couple of weeks all I thought about were blankets, hearts and hedgehogs. I spent most of my lunch hours and evenings trawling through woolly websites for the right colours and yarns. I started off with all sorts of elaborate designs but had to rein it in as this blanket had to be suitable for every skill level. Being very much the novice, I tried to get up to speed on pattern design and writing, plus the most important thing of all...how big should a blanket be if you need to wrap a baby in it!!! As I didn't have a baby to hand, I pretty much guessed it against the size of a friend's Norfolk terrier... I'm sure I'll find out later if this is a hideous mistake.
Despite my lengthy internet-trawling I ended up choosing wool from our local craft shop (did I mention they had a sale on?). This lovey chunky baby yarn was just perfect and not too expensive. I was really trying to stay away from pink and blue but the other colours available in this wool just didn't inspire me - too pale - and I wanted this blanket to be strong and definite. You'll see several colour variations in my photos, all to do with complicated stuff like light. I will crack this particular skill sometime soon...sometime! In case you're wondering, the closest to the real colour is the small hedgehog block.
My initial calculations didn't take very long to jot down and looked good on paper, but that's firmly where they stayed. In figures I'd created something square rather than rectangular and I had to improvise as I was knitting.
I'm already aware that the creations in my imagination are very different from the finished products. There are 'items' that I haven't yet put on this blog due to shame...for example the wool dispenser that looked like a loo-roll holder and a mandala that had sides like a vase. But you can't really go wrong with a blanket, can you? Well, it turns out you can. Several times!
My next learning curve was that this blanket needed to look good from the front and from the back, so, several pattern options were immediately ditched leaving me unsure as to what I should do next.
The most hopeful of my attempts was a large heart in the centre of the blanket. The free pattern that I found looked nice, easy to knit and there was a chart. But for some reason it didn't look right on the blanket. The heart came out as a sort of lozenge shape and not curvy enough for me.
So, it was unravelled and I started again, this time choosing a simpler heart pattern...
I made these hearts up as I went along; as you can see they definitely needed refinement. I did this later using reverse stocking stitch which gave better definition to the shape of the hearts.
I then got to thinking about the more experienced knitters. This is an easy blanket and they may find it a tad boring (although it's great project to knit when you're watching TV). So I wondered if there were any free hedgehog designs out there to keep them entertained, and lo and behold! I found a brilliant free chart on Ravelry. I would, of course, credit the person who designed this hedgehog but I just can't find them. The pattern's been used for so many projects that I'm not sure who it belongs to - if I can track them down I will mention them because it's a lovely design.
As I did't have enough wool to start the blanket again, I made a panel to test out the pattern. When you knit this little creature your brain will tell you it looks nothing like a hedgehog, it will tell you that you've gone wrong and knitted a bunch of random patternless stitches. But at the end, you hold out your creation at arms' length and the result is MARVELLOUS!
Despite not having any chunky wool for the hedgehog I pressed on regardless. The tension is a bit pants because I used aran weight wool, but I think it looks OK.
...I hope you like it too! I also hope you enjoy making your version. If you do, please send me a photo so that I can add them to ToadRockStreet.
Just out of interest, the whole process of creating this blanket has taught me so much, even though I thought it would be a doddle! If you're so inclined and haven't done so already, have a go at creating your own pattern. I can promise you it will be an experience!
THE PATTERNS: * * * * * * * *
I have three patterns for the Hedgehog Cuddle Blanket.
The patterns are under 'Pages' on the left hand column, with easy instructions and photos for beginners.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
I'm going to add the patterns to Ravelry as well and if you fancy it please consider joining our group, 'A Little Love...from The Purls.' We'll be able to give you all the support you need if you're making items for babies in hospital.
Our knitting group will be starting to make blankets for Hedgehog Ward at Pembury Hospital (Tunbridge Wells) in the next week or so.
If you would like to make a blanket for Pembury please let me know and I will send you the postal details. If you live too far away or you're not able to post items but want to be involved then please consider knitting for your own local hospital, or just for your own loved ones.
Whatever you do, I hope you enjoy making your own Hedgehog Cuddle Blanket.
This blog entry is my submission to the Deramores Blog Awards 2014.
Deramores is the UK’s number one online retailer of knitting and crochet supplies.
So, it seems I'm knitting a warthog! What a surprise, I thought it was a cowl.
That's a bit better.
Knitting has taken over from almost everything else at ToadRockStreet this week...apart from greenhouses. Those pesky little metal things in the picture above are the bane of our lives at the moment. They're everywhere: on kitchen worktops, tables, in drawers and mostly scattered all over the garden. Where they aren't is holding the plastic panes of the greenhouse in place during the high winds we've been having since December.
The current scenario is that the wind blows down ToadRockStreet, rattling our old windows, causing weird wind devils as it passes each of the little houses in our little road. I look at the Musician Husband in that 'we're going to lose the greenhouse again' way and he looks back with a 'please don't send me out there again' way. I knit furiously, pretending not to hear the roar outside and the Musician Husband has that 'I'm watching football look,' which means he's not concentrating on anything I might be asking him to do.
Now, please don't think I sit back in the warmth of ToadRockStreet and send my poor husband out in the howling wind...well, actually I do 'ask' him to go out, but it's purely because he's taller than me. I can't reach the roof panes of the greenhouse so it's become his job. Honest! And I always make him hot coffee when he comes in...
Sometimes we go out into the garden at night with a torch to check on damage, but we've given up on this approach as it means we have to DO something if the greenhouse panes have blown out and are circling the garden as though possessed. Trying to pin the panes back with those pesky little metal things in the dark (or light to be honest) is almost impossible. Fingers bleed, words are spoken, divorce is mentioned. As soon as one is in place, another pops out. The worst case scenario is that we completely lose one or more panes. Our long suffering neighbour often brings one back in the morning with a resigned 'when are you going to sort this out' look. He's always lovely about it but I wonder how many more times we can get away with it. On one occasion I went round the entire group of houses in Denny Bottom to find a missing pane - if you don't know that greenhouses can be made of plastic you get some strange looks.
This is the only photograph of our greenhouse I'm happy to share with you at the moment. Our garden is in a shocking state and shame is definitely a word I would mention at this point, but I wanted you to see the clips in place and feel our pain.
Whilst all this greenhouse-worry is going on, I'm in front of the fire with the Cow'n'Wolf and I'm knitting pink things.
Strangely I don't really like pink much. Some shades are OK but I'm definitely not a girly princess type, so I often ignore it when I'm buying wool. Yet, recently, that's all I've bought. I think it's because I'm working on a big project (big in my little world) and this project happens to be pink.
I'll be posting about it soon - not because I want to keep you in suspense - purely because it ties in with a Ravelry group project and I want the whole things to come out in one go rather than split across a few sites.
This is the first sample, not quite right yet and not pressed so looks a little lumpy. Hopefully it will work out OK.
I also finished the pink aran socks for my Scottish-Welsh colleague. She'll get them at the end of the week and I hope she loves them. I put them on for a few seconds (I washed my feet first) and they're like putting clouds on your toes...OK, a bit over the top...they're really soft!
Whilst I've been furiously knitting I've also been furiously undoing! The warthog cowl pictured at the beginning has been undone. 100 grammes worth of knitting and nothing to show for it. It served its purpose though, in a therapy-sort-of-way, as I sat and listened to the wind howling, but it was wrong in every way. It was a four row pattern (honeycomb), two of the rows were 'knit' and the other two rows were so simple you couldn't get them wrong. Well...I did. The pattern itself was over 2 stitches, that's all, 2 stitches and I still messed it up. I blame the storms.
I've cast on again, knowing full well that I'm using the wrong sized needles. I only have four Magic Loop needles in my possession and just couldn't part with the money for another set when I knew this wool needed just 0.5 larger than the ones I have. The tension is quite dense but I like the effect, even though it looks nothing like the pattern. Maybe I've got it wrong again??? If I have it's not just the tension that's dense...
I quite like it, so don't mind too much. If we get snow it will be so lovely and warm to wear.
On the weather front it was like being let out of hibernation today. The sky was an intense blue and the sun was shining. There were fluffy little white clouds.
We thought about sitting out to eat breakfast and then realised how foolish that was when we went for a walk and had to light the fire afterwards to get warm.
Here's Toad Rock today. Can't quite believe it, but it's true. We had an amazing walk around our usual haunts but it was lovely to feel that warmth from the sun and hear the birds singing.
As we walked with the dogs up to Toad Rock, I noticed this worrying addition to the Musician Husband's coat. He'd been using it to bend those pesky metal clips into place on the greenhouse yesterday and forgotten it was still there (proper tools still escape him...he's a flint and stone man if truth be told).
We also picked wood up for the fire when we were out. Sawing it up is my favourite job of all. There's something very reassuring about cutting up wood, it feels like a basic way of providing for your family.
Luckily we have somewhere we can pick up wood with the landowner's permission. We take only what we need for a couple of fires and always check that what we pick up isn't home to some small creature.
Then, we're in front of the fire again...
And another week is over. Work tomorrow. Hopefully we can all find something comforting in the routine of every day.
If the storm has caused you more worry than a few panes of a greenhouse popping out, I can only hope that you get everything back to normal soon.
We made poppies at work to sell for the British Legion. This is my little lot. I loved every second of making them, which I hope doesn't sound awful when it's such a sad, noble cause.
Each of us made our own version of a poppy, so there were lovely blousey red petalled ones, some with beautiful buttons at the centre and some quite unfussy (like my own). It was amazing to see them all together; a fantastic cross section of the talents of our knitting group (The Axa Purls).
Unfortunately, the purple ones weren't up to the exacting standards of our organiser (you know who you are! x), but I managed to make 80-90 of the red ones.
At the last count I believe the total raised from everyone's efforts was £735, and this is just selling them at work in TW. Next year our organiser will expect more and more (you know you will) so I'll probably have to start making them now for 2014.
Edit: the final total was just under £1,100. What an amazing achievement. If only there was no war and no reason to keep making them...
Loch Ness at last! After months of training...I don't think I've ever been so nervous. I was entered into the Big Yin (one mile), twice around the course. I knew I could swim the course easily but there's something quite weird and scary about swimming in open water. Your brain makes you think all sorts of silly things and an easy swim can turn out to be your biggest challenge. If you add in thoughts of Nessie, Atlantic fish (apparently huge) and hundreds of feet of inky blackness underneath, then you have a winning recipe to hyperventilate.
The day started beautifully; calm water and a stunning sunrise as we drove around the loch to get to Dores. We'd expected the swim to be cancelled as a storm was forecast with high winds coming in from the west. The storm was due to last for most of the morning, but when we arrived all was calm and pleasant and it seemed the high winds were going to arrive much, much later in the day. The race was brought forward by an hour to avoid any chance of poor weather and it looked as though they'd planned it just right. The water was like a millpond, and it wasn't inky black, it was clear and fresh. Perfect! The local hotel had set up a breakfast tent and we drank steaming hot coffee and I trembled slightly in my wet suit. There was a tension in the air as everyone started to get ready for the swim.
Then the weather changed!
I'm not sure how it started exactly but at some point I noticed that the wind had picked up a little, enough to ruffle the millpond appearance on the lake. Then the safety crew had problems securing the marker buoys (almost as big as a small car) which blew around on the water for a while.
Soon, hair was being blown at right angles, Monster Swim flags looked as though they would rip from their masts and the water turned an inky black.
There were over 500 of us in the 'pen' by this time and we were packed in tight. As we waited, the loch started producing big waves with white horses as far as the eye could see. The sky darkened. We were warned that it would be a challenging swim and if we had any doubts about our ability to swim safely we weren't to go in at all. Immediately a few people left which shocked me. I'd never thought leaving was an option. Also, they looked super fit and young. Most, like me, stood and weighed it all up.
Then we got in.
I've never swum in conditions like that before, so, I had no idea if I could even put a stroke together. When the first few waves hit me I didn't quite know what to do, but eventually worked it out and got into some sort of rhythm. The trouble was that after a while I realised I hadn't really got anywhere. The first marker buoy seemed to be the same distance away as when I started and it finally dawned on me that I was going nowhere fairly slowly. I was swimming with all my might into a strong wind and big waves and all I was really doing was making a few feet in progress at a very slow rate. Quite a few people were being rescued in front of me and I was getting tired. I realised there was no way I was going to complete even one circuit of the course, so, sensibly (I've been told) decided to head home and, this time, didn't need to be rescued.
As I came in the race was disintegrating. One of the marker buoys had broken its mooring and was blown in to shore. More people were being rescued by the safety boats and lifeguards. Without the marker buoy the race circuit could not be maintained so the whole thing was abandoned. It was a huge anti-climax after such a long time preparing and I was really disappointed that all of my training had not built more stamina and muscle power to cope with the conditions. I still have a lot to learn about open water swimming!
But this is what it was all about; the medal and and the £300+ raised for Marie Curie Cancer Care.
£30 pays for 90 minutes of hands on nursing input to support a patient/family. My sponsors have paid for 10 hours of nursing time for people who need it and that's amazing!
I can't wait to enter next year's Monster Swim and know 3 people already from TW who want to take part. I'm SO looking forward to it.
But our day didn't end there. After a quick shower and change of clothes we headed for Fort Augustus and found the best fish and chips we've had in a while - we ate them in the car with the dogs watching expectantly from the back. I have to add that as we passed Loch Ness again it had returned to a gentle calm...
...although still a bit cloudy.
As we ate our chips, we were entertained by the two boats (above) in the lock. There are tens of these locks keeping Loch Ness open to both the east and west coast of Scotland. If you're a sailor it must be really frustrating to go through them - takes loads of time and skillful manoeuvrings. I thought both crews did really well, but the Musician Husband had quite a few comments about the correct way to deal with the situation (he does this every time we go near boats, but he has got a particularly good memory for processes).
We moved on after a while, mostly because the car had steamed up and the dogs were not happy that we were eating and they weren't. We ambled along to Loch Lockie and all was quiet and peaceful again although ominous clouds hung around for the entire afternoon.
We got back to the B&B by early evening. They have a couple of drams of whisky for you each night in a little decanter. It was very welcome after all the wind and rain. I slept as though I was dead. It was great. I'd been nervous about the swim since April so all was finally right with the world.
12th June 2012 - what a great day! We spent the day knitting for The Little Love Project. One whole day! Absolute bliss!
Our company allow us one day a year to help local charities (our Hearts in Action project). There's quite a range of activities but if you come up with a good idea they support you. My two lovely friends (Jane & Susie) and I organised a day of knitting and sewing to provide tiny clothing and blankets for premature and stillborn babies in our local hospitals. We held the event at work and invited knitters from across the company to turn up and lend a hand. In all, 37 of us were there and we made 130 items - booties, mittens, blankets, burial gowns, hats and 'Angel Pockets.'
All of the patterns and samples were laid out and knitters could choose what they wanted to make according to their skill level and the amount of time they could give. Most people took their knitting home if they couldn't finish it on the day.
We saw many knitting styles on the day: English, Continental, Finnish (a technique that was super fast by our lovely Oili who is from Finland). We saw many ways to tension the wool and we taught a few people the basics (boy, were they naturals!!)
Some even matched their nail varnish to their wool...
We chatted and ate cakes, a lot! We drank lots of coffee and tea - we even had hostesses for the day who couldn't knit or sew but wanted to help, so, they made sure we had plenty of hot drinks and biscuits instead.
Some brought their own wool and needles...lovely!
And we got on with a whole day of knitting.
Booties with heart covered ribbons.
Tiny burial bonnets.
Small soft comfy blankets.
Sweet 'going home' jackets.
Achingly sad 'Angel Pockets' for less fortunate babies.
We also had a very capable friend and colleague, Babs, who brought her sewing machine and some beautiful fabric...
And we knitted alongside as she turned these beautiful fat quaters into tiny burial gowns.
The founder of the project came over (Tanya Wright) to meet us all. She knitted a gorgeous little hat and met the press who took photographs of us all (we ended up in the local paper!!).
It was a fantastic day, very sad in places as we knitted burial garments, and very happy and enjoyable during the rest as we chatted, knitted and sewed. As a result we're starting a knitting group at work (so far called the Knit Nurses until we can find a more suitable name) and we'll continue to knit for the Little Love Project and other charities as we go along.
The Little Love Project is a voluntary project set up to provide knitted garments for premature and stillborn babies in Kent hospitals. We hope that the clothing we provide (such as blankets, mittens, bonnets or burial gowns) is one less thing for parents to think about during such a difficult time. The Little Love Project also aims to provide counselling for parents in Kent who experiencing early miscarriage, premature birth or stillbirth. If you wish to join the Ravelry group and knit items for The Little Love Project your work will be very much appreciated!
When was the last time you picked up some knitting needles or a crochet hook and made something completely random using any colour you wanted?
If you fancy the idea then you might just love making some Innocent Smoothie Hats for The Big Knit.
Weird or what? You can make whatever you want.
As long as they're over 3cm high and about 3-5cm wide, they can become an Innocent Smoothie Hat.
I knitted these in a flash! Well, they took about 15 minutes each; one of them took ages as I'm trying to get to grips with Magic Loop needles. The bobbles were great fun and I got to use my new bobble maker...none of the old cardboard cut outs for me any more. I used DK wool from my workroom-stash, cast on approximately 30 stitches on 4mm needles, then made it up as I went along.
So what is this really all about..?
Innocent Drinks are running another campaign for knitters and hookers in 2012 to make as many hats as they can for Innocent Smoothie bottles. Each hat sold with one of their Smoothie bottles makes 25p for AGE UK. A whole army of volunteers add hats to bottles and they're sold in large stores like Sainsburys. Innocent are definitely running the campaign this year (through my woolly contacts I know the mother of a child model who's just done the photo shoot). Innocent have also made contact with the Innocent Smoothie Group on Ravelry and confirmed that they're running the project this year. If you aren't a member of Ravelry and it's your sort of thing, then do consider joining as it's a fantastically inspiring international woolly community
Here are my offerings so far. The only one I really planned was the pointy orange and brown hat. I imagined it would be a sombrero but it looks more like the Sorting Hat from Harry Potter.
I intend to knit more of them during various 'windows of opportunity' throughout the day: lunch break sitting in the park (if it ever stops raining), watching TV, in between sips of a nice cold glass of wine just after work when we're sitting in the garden (if it ever stops raining) and first thing on a weekend morning when the Musician Husband and the Cow'n'Wolf are fast asleep.
By the way, the Musician Husband said some very unflattering and quite naughty things about my pink hat (which was the one I was most pleased with) and I feel I can't send it to them now for fear of being arrested.
There were so many fantastic designs last year. You can truly unleash your woolly thoughts and make something fabulous. I think they have a competition for the best hat as well.
If only this was one of mine. Just look at those knee caps...inspired!
I've found some Facebook & Flickr input about The Big Knit 2012 but I'm not too hot on either site so I'll have to leave it up to you to search and find what you need. I would love to see your designs if want to share them!