Monday, 30 April 2012

On a happier note

W just about managed to escape being squished by his gorgeous cousins at the weekend

Sunday, 29 April 2012

When the givers are taken

It's been impossible for me this last week, watching the news about the death of Claire Squires while running the London Marathon, not to think of Dad. Two years ago this August, he died while swimming in the London Triathlon. He wasn't even supposed to be competing that day; he was signed up for the individual event the following day. The company had put a team together, encouraged by Dad, and it was they who were taking part on the Saturday. When the colleague who was due to tackle the swim leg was injured, Dad immediately stepped in. What happened once he was in the water, noone has really been able to tell us. We know that it took a good few minutes to get him out of the water once he'd been spotted face down. We know that the medical team on site worked unbelievably hard to bring him back; and they did in fact get his heart beating again. But he'd been without a heartbeat and circulating oxygen for at least 5 minutes and when we reached him in hospital, the medical staff tried so delicately to tell us there was no hope, but that they would do what they could. Three days later, on Mum and Dad's wedding anniversary, the doctors took the decision to turn off the life support machines. Don't ask me what killed him - we still really don't know. My best guess from the autopsy report and the doctors reports at the time was that heat exhaustion was the starting point for what went wrong that day. 

There was little publicity when Dad died. The South Yorkshire Times ran the story of this local lad done well, but the Triathlon organisers struggled to even acknowledge his death. There was no public rush to make donations to Dad's charity of choice, although family, friends and colleagues all contributed generously in his name. Watching the growing total of Claire Squires' Just Giving page had me wondering though ... "was Dad any less loved or admired than Claire?"

I think the answer is that to those who knew and loved Dad and Claire, the loss is unquantifiable and incomparable. And each and every day, hundreds of people give their lives in the service of others without any expectation of thanks or commemoration. That so many strangers have chosen to donate on Claire's page, shows me how much our society really does appreciate the contributions made by the givers and how sad it makes us all when they are taken.

On behalf of all of us, I would like to thank those who supported Dad's charitable endeavours. Mum has always hoped that we might take his initial fund-raising target from £500 to £5,000. We are only a little way off that final target. If you would like to help us reach it, please visit, or watch out for details of my up-coming sponsored crochet (yes, I realise it isn't particularly sporty, but it would have made Dad laugh I'm sure!)

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Hurrah for Mumsnet

They've just accepted me into their blogging network. I'm hoping it's a good thing, a sign that I'm not writing complete and utter drivel and a chance to take the shop global ... hmm well you never know, do you?

Baby Sun Hat Pattern

I've worked this in DMC Natura Cotton using a 3mm Pony crochet hook. Using a finer yarn and a smaller hook has given a head circumference of 18", which is about right for a 3-6mth old baby. It's the same pattern as the last one I made, but that came out at about 20", so is more suitable for a toddler.

The original free pattern for the hat designed by Alla Koval is here. It's written using American terminology. If you'd like the UK version, let me know and I will send you a copy.

crochet baby sun hat

If you like the hat, you might also like the girl's crochet cardigan ...

Monday, 23 April 2012

Thank heaven for little boys !?!?!?!

When I started this blog, I told myself that I wouldn't include any toilet stories because it just seemed a bit unnecessary, but then today happened ... I took W for his third lot of injections and of course he was soooo brave when the nurse jabbed him as she remarked how his lovely chubby thighs would make it easier on him (I wonder where he gets those from?). He hardly cried at all, in fact it was more like an angry shout than an actual cry with real tears like you get when he has to wait 5 minutes for his milk.

As directed, we waited 10 minutes in the surgery to make sure he didn't have a reaction to the shots and then we headed off to The Cosy Club so I could feed him before tackling the 30 minute walk home. We walked via the meadows to say hi to the ducks and laugh at the swan scaring the pigeons off his patch and stopped to call W's dad to let him know what a brave boy he was (that's W, not his dad). I should have realised something was up, because W had gone from being a total chatterbox to a look of complete serenity. It turns out that while his dad was dodging falling masonry, the s**t was really hitting the fan our end!

When we got ourselves settled in the cafe and I unclipped the harness in his pushchair, I noticed with horror that where his t-shirt had ridden up over his little (?!) tummy, his white vest was brown ... from the top of his nappy to his arm pits - front, back and sides. I managed to get him out of his seat and into the baby changing toilet without further mishap, but once I'd got him there, I hadn't a clue where to start. I decided I'd work from the feet up - it took a while, half a packet of baby wipes and some baby yoga positions, but we got there, chatting and laughing all the way. Finally, he's clean and dry and I'm just reaching for his new nappy, when ... yes ... right now, of course ... time for a wee. And what a long one it was. The nappy changing thingy, so well-designed from a safety perspective, now seemed to fill like a basin. I've decided that there is really very little to be done when the hose is going off, certainly if you want to keep the sense of panic to a minimum and avoid scaring the baby. I'm only a little worried that if I keep smiling at him while he's doing it, he'll take it as a sign of approval and start doing it for laughs.

Anyway, nearly half an hour we were in that diabled loo. The Cosy Club staff were getting worried about us we were gone that long. When we eventually did emerge, I'd had to dress W in the only spare clothes I had in the changing bag, which happened to be a 0-3 months babygrow (he now weighs 18lbs). Luckily I had some embroidery scissors in my bag, so I cut the feet out and left the poppers between his chubby thighs undone. Oh what a sight! Thank goodness W didn't see anyone in there he knew!

W downed his milk in one and the lovely bar staff brought me a fresh coffee - thank you thank you thank you - if this happens to me again, could you please make it wine?

Monday, 16 April 2012


One baby hat all finished ... apart from it looks way way way too big for a newborn, so I shall be sending for one of my nieces and starting again with the right weight yarn and proper size crochet hook. I think it looks pretty though. I'll see if I can adapt the pattern to make a boy's version and will post both in the projects section when I get a moment

crochet sun hat

Wrong order pics

Was trying out mobile blogger as W had fallen asleep on my knee (yes they are his feet poking out in the pics), but it's put the pics in the wrong order ill change them as soon as i can move.

Yesterday's promised hat pics

This is the crown of the hat, with increases each row worked into the front post of the stitch, rather than two stitches being worked into one. You can see where the increases have happened as they show up as the lines radiating out from the centre ...

The second picture shows where I'm up to and the pretty design that's the brim of the hat. I managed to get this far last night after W had gone to bed, so it gives you an idea of how quickly crochet projects take shape.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

That's one problem solved ...

Since I started this blog, I've found myself struggling for time to do the very thing that got me started here ... crochet! Between freelance headhunting work, admin (including never-ending W washing) and looking after a baby all day, I've had very little time for making which is getting a bit frustrating really.

Today, though, I discovered that if I sit next to W while he's lying on his play mat with all his hanging toys, he will happily watch me crochet and listen as I talk him through the stitches. My only worry now, is that his first words are not "dada" or "mama" or "flippin' starvin'", but "front post treble" or "yarn over needle"!! Oh well, you can't have it all.

Anyway, because I was talking to him, W allowed me to make good progress on a baby sunhat that I'm making. I'd like to get it finished, because it taught me something new - when you're working in the round, you can increase the stitches in your row by working into the front post of the same stitch you've just worked as normal. The hat's in treble crochet and this way of increasing has created a lovely pattern. I'll pop a picture in the project gallery later on for anyone that's interested. As soon as I get time, I'll write the pattern up in there too.

Now that I've got W off to sleep (fingers crossed), I'm going to crack on with the hat ... and then the blanket ... and then the camisole ... and then ... ?

Thursday, 12 April 2012

In case you were wondering ...

W made it until 4.10pm before shouting for more food ... that's a poor 1 hour 10 mins. I think maybe mother and son have some crossed wires on the old communications area ... 5 gulps of milk and he was asleep. Looks like I need a few sleep creating strategies up my sleeve to fool a nosey chappie who doesn't willingly sleep during the day. Suggestions anyone?

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Human or Hippo?

For his bed-time feed last W had 11 ounces of formula over the course of an hour. He's 15 weeks old and had only had a 6 ounce bottle at 4.45pm (which he apparently drained within 10mins!). He didn't bring any of it back up and each time I tried to stop feeding him, he shouted at me that he was still hungry and proceeded to tackle the 2 ounce increments as if he hadn't already had the previous ounces. When he got half way through the last 2 ounces, he pushed the bottle out of his mouth with his tongue and went calmly off to sleep.

This massive pre-bed consumption prompted a debate about whether we were over-feeding him and allowing him to comfort eat or whether he was genuinely hungry. I've got a bit of a mental block about dummies, but my partner (probably rightly) suggested that we maybe ought to try one to see if it's just the sucking that W likes and whether that might be enough to give him the comfort and satisfaction he needs to float off to sleep. I'm not sure we reached a conclusion to our debate last night, apart from to agree that we're not keen on toddlers running around with dummies hanging out of their mouths, but maybe it's wrong to count them out.

Anyway, we are lucky enough to have a little boy who has mostly been sleeping through the night for the last 4 weeks. I'm sure it's because he's getting enough milk on board during the day to sustain him and on the days when he has less than usual, he often wakes at 2am for a top up which he seems to drink without even waking up. He only has as much as he needs and as soon as he has had enough, he stops sucking and goes right back to sleep. So, the question is, do I just keep feeding him when he asks for it as he is a happy baby who sleeps through the night? Or is he possibly developing a greedy / comfort eating trait which we ought to nip in the bud (however you do that with a baby!!)?

When he woke at 6.30am this morning, he had a straight 6 ounces. By 8.30am he was after more milk (that's about 2 hours ahead of his usual schedule), so I changed his nappy and tried him with a dummy .... no chance of being fooled by that!! After 3 or 4 attempts to get him to suck on the dummy, which he kept spitting out, I gave in and he had another 6 ounces. By 10.30am he was purple in the face and shouting for more, so I gave him another 6. Amongst all that eating he managed a 40 minute nap in his cot and then after his 10.30am feed he fell asleep on his play mat ....

I disturbed him moving him to his cot and he seemed to be shouting for yet more milk, so I tried the dummy again. This time in his half asleep state, he latched on to it and fell asleep sucking away happily. Awake again after 40 mins and this time he was flippin staaaaarvin!!!! Another 6 ounces straight down in one - then I tried the dummy again, but he laughed me out of town and we settled on another 2 ounces. So, I'm wondering .... growth spurt (again???) maybe and how on earth will we make it from here (3pm) to 5pm without his head exploding through hunger?

Answers on a postcard please ....

Monday, 9 April 2012

Running before he can walk ...

We're not really sure whether W should be trying to stand at 3 months, but it's hard to fight those strong little legs so we're trying him in one of those walker thingies ... Sadly his legs don't quite reach the floor yet, but then neither do mine!

Lovely cake

just had one of my beautiful birthday cup-cakes for breakfast - I'm sure that's not very healthy, but then again, I have just got back to my pre-pregnancy weight, so I'm celebrating .... with cake

actually, these really do look too pretty to eat - thankfully, they taste as good as they look and W is lying on his play-mat with all his toys hanging around him and having a right happy chatter to himself ... maybe I've got time for one more cake ... mmm

As well as cake and cake related bits and pieces, I got a lovely set of Knit Pro Symfonie wooden crochet hooks and a case for putting them in. In fact, I got two cases, which is handy because I've been keeping my hooks in a paper bag up until now!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

And Three Cheers for Nanas & the Mablethorpe Sandtrain

As it was my birthday yesterday, mum agreed to come and babysit for W so I could have a night out on the tiles. Strange but true, my partner and I haven't had a Saturday night out together when I wasn't pregnant that wasn't a family party for over 25 years. I know, on the face of it, that just doesn't stack up, but if you knew the whole story it would make perfect sense. Needless to say, by the time we had eaten dinner and got into town at 10pm, I was exhausted and ready to come home. Sheer willpower kept me going for the first couple of hours, until dare I say I was sufficiently disinhibited (is that even a word?) by a couple of drinkies to allow myself to be lured onto the pub "dancefloor" by an array of cheesy music, which had apparently been requested. I know this is a reasonably sleepy market town, but I'm pretty sure it was actually self-indulgent djs taking advantage of the fact that the poor town folks have almost nowhere else to go for a boogie. Anyway, we had an excellent night, despite the poor music, and thankfully my mum never heard a peep from W all night.

We got home at 3am and W was up for a pre-breakfast snack at 5am. We're so lucky with his sleeping, but I do so wish he'd managed to hold out until 7am this morning! Babies and sore heads really don't mix too well. Babies, sore heads, teenage step-children and a cold, wet, grey Easter Sunday at a minor English seaside resort are a whole new world of pain and challenges - all self-inflicted of course. Thank goodness for the Mablethorpe Sandtrain and seaside sugared donuts.

family on Mablethorpe Sand-Train

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Hurrah for Grandparents!!

W's gone on an adventure with his grandparents and I have a whole day without bottles and nappies. I always miss his giggling and beautiful eyes locking into mine, but it is lovely to be able to get on with some things.

The question though, is what to do first ... I'm still working freelance for my old headhunting company in London. That's paid work and a clear priority. Plus I get to speak to lots of grown-ups and pretend for a few hours that I'm still living my old life (which actually I barely miss if I'm honest!). I can squeeze in a few posts on here along the way, particularly to beef up the crochet pages. Apologies to anyone who visits those pages at the moment and leaves disappointed .... I will get the content on them as quickly as I can. Which leaves ... oh dear ... the housework ... again - oops! At the very least, I must clear up after last night's rather late but delicious home made rajasthani red meat curry. The grandparents spotted it as soon as they walked in this morning to pick up their grandson - oops again!

Note to self: earn more and get a cleaner!!!!

Easy Baby Blanket Project

I've just updated the project page with details on how I made W's baby blanket. It's a great project for getting the basics of crochet nailed before getting stuck into more complex patterns. Working the rows backwards and forwards is strangely therapeutic and it was great for keeping me occupied when I was pregnant ....

Baby Blanket I

This blanket is in double crochet (US single crochet) using a 4mm hook and a variety of yarns from crochet cottons to baby alpaca - basically a little bit of everything of DK and 4 ply weight that I had in my yarn stash. It is an excellent project for perfecting some basic crochet techniques. It will help you to practice:
  • Making an even chain, loose enough to work, but firm enough to provide a strong edge
  • Double crochet (US single crochet) stitch to a regular tension over a large area
  • Turning your work, including using turning chains and maintaining a straight edge
  • Changing your yarn to create the stripes
  • Working in the loose ends of your yarn
  • Creating a decorative edge

crochet stripy baby blanket

By using a variety of yarns, you will have the opportunity to learn a lot about tension and the relationship between yarn weight and hook size. I used the same size hook throughout and loosened or tightened the tension using my fingers. As a result, some stripes are very solid and firm, and some are a bit looser, which creates slightly different textures for baby to explore. By working this way, I was able to maintain the same number of stitches throughout the project.

To make the blanket:
  • Choose a starting yarn such as a double knit cotton and make a slip knot in the end of the yarn
  • Make a chain that is about 1m long. Focus on making the individual loops as even as possible. Baggy stitches are a sign that your tension is too loose; really small stitches are a sign that your tension is too tight. In my experience, it will be about right when you can comfortably slip your hook between the top V of the stitch and the back loop of the chain (please bear with me while I work on some drawings / pictures / videos!)
  • When you've finished your chain, turn your work so that you can go back the way you just came. Using the same yarn, start by working your first double crochet (US single crochet) stitch into the second loop from your hook. That gives you your first turning chain of a single chain. If we were working in treble crochet, we would need a turning chain that was 3 chains long. The turning chain effectively becomes the first stitch in your new row.
  • This first row, or foundation row as it is known, can be a bit tricky when you're starting out. Focus on keeping your tension as even as you can, by keeping an eye on your stitch sizes - too small and your tension is too tight, too big and your tension is too loose. Make sure you are putting the hook into the same place for each stitch so that you get a good strong even edge.
  • When you get to the end of your foundation row, working in the same yarn, chain 1 to create your turning chain for the next row (remember, it's a single chain because you are working in double crochet). Now turn your work and place your first double crochet stitch into the last double crochet stitch of the previous row, ignoring the the turning chain.
  • Work the rest of the row in double crochet, remembering to keep an eye on your tension, and making sure you place a double crochet stitch in every stitch of the last row. If you make a mistake, it's really easy to unravel your work and do it again. If you spot the mistake early on, this is definitely worth doing, but if you're half way down your work, I'd chalk it down to experience and carry on.
  • When you're ready to move on to your next stripe, select your new yarn.
  • To make a perfect stripe, you join your new colour yarn on the last stitch of the previous row in the old colour. Work your last double crochet as normal for that row, but when you get to the final two loops on the hook, switch to the new yarn.
  • Make your single turning chain in the new yarn and then turn your work and double crochet as before, ignoring the turning chain and putting your first stitch in the last stitch from the previous row.
  • Experiment with different stripe depths and different colour combinations. Aim to keep the stripes the same width by adjusting your tension so that the blanket stays the same width without increasing or decreasing stitches.
  • If you want a square blanket, keep going for 1m. Mine ended up being about 1.5m long.
  • When it's the required length, fasten off the last yarn.
  • Select a yarn for finishing the edges. I used a combination of a single line of white double crochet to create a neat edge to work from, and then a shell edge in red as decoration.
  • You'll need to work in all the yarn ends from the stripes. You can do this individually for each yarn which obviously gives the neatest result, or you can cheat a bit and work your double crochet edge over the ends so that they are effectively wrapped in your edging.
  • By the time you come to do the edging, you will be a double crochet expert, which will help you get this bit right. When you're doing the edges, there isn't a nice neat and tidy line of stitches to work from the last row. You will need to use your judgement and a bit of trial and error to create an edge that is straight and flat. If you pick up too many stitches, it will start to look more like a ruffle than an edge; too few stitches and your work will look puckered. I recommend keeping your work reasonably flat so that you can keep an eye on what you're doing. (If you can manage to make the number of stitches on each side divisible by 6 with one over, that will help you with the decorative shell edge.)
  • Once you've been all the way around the edge and reached your starting point, join your last stitch to your first with a simple slip stitch and fasten off.
  • For the decorative edging, I chose a shell edge.
  • Have a look at your work and decide if you think there is a right side. Then with right side facing, join the yarn for your edging into the fastened off slip stitch you've just made.
  • To create the shell edge, you will work each individual shell pattern over 6 stitches. Ideally, you will have been able to create sides with stitches divisible by 6 with 1 over. If you're a little out, don't worry too much, you'll be able to add in an extra stitch or two as you go - use your judgement here. Only you will know that you've fudged the pattern a bit to make it work!
  • So, with right side facing and your yarn joined in the slip stitch for the last row, miss 2 stitches, then work 5 treble crochets in the next stitch, then miss 2 stitches and finally slip stitch into the next stitch. To create the next shell, you do exactly the same thing: miss 2 stitches, work 5 treble crochets in the next stitch, miss 2 stitches and slip stitch into the next stitch. You should be able to see how that works out over 6 of your stitches from the last row each time. Properly written in pattern terminology, the shell pattern looks like this: *miss 2sts, 5tr in next st, miss 2 sts, 1ss in next st, rep from * to end.
  • When you get back to where you started, slip stitch into the first stitch of the edging and fasten off.

If you've enjoyed making this blanket, then I've created another kind of as a stitch sampler. It's the wavy baby car seat blanket!

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Choosing your yarn and hook

Yarn & Hook

There are a whole host of crochet specific yarns out there, but you can crochet with any yarn and even with plastic bags, twine, wire or fabric!

When you're starting out, I recommend a DK (double knit or worsted in American terminology) weight cotton yarn in a light colour. This will be smooth to work with and will create loops and stitches that you will be able to see clearly. Something like King Cole Bamboo Cotton DK which comes in a great range of colours, has a smooth surface and isn't prone to splitting. For a slightly finer weight yarn (4ply or sportweight), try the DMC Natura Cotton range.

Once you've selected your yarn, you'll need a hook. Hooks range in size from 0.5mm to 25mm and beyond. They come in a variety of materials from plastic, to steel, to bamboo and rose wood. A good place to start that will keep your initial outlay to a minimum while you're learning is the Pony Crochet Hook range; but if you want to treat yourself, then the colourful wooden Knit Pro Crochet Hooks are a delight to work with.

For DK (worsted) yarn, I would tend to go for a 3.5mm hook. As you gain in experience, you can try different hook sizes to change the tension of your work. You can also check the band from the ball of yarn that you are planning on using. Often, it will show the recommended knitting needle sizes only, but as a general rule, the yarn will crochet up well in a hook size which is 0.5mm smaller than the recommended knitting needles. By way of example, the band on the King Cole Bamboo Cotton DKrecommends using 4mm knitting needles. So if we subtract 0.5mm from 4mm, we get to the 3.5mm crochet hook.

Oh No - Family Wide Bug!

First experience of a sick household :( all members feeling distinctly poorly. Thank goodness W seems to be mostly sleeping his off. Should be an opportunity to catch up on the washing, housework, ongoing crochet projects, but I think I might have a snooze myself. Maybe I'll wake up feeling on top of the world! Or at least without achey arms. Oh dear, spoke too soon - he's awake again ...

Monday, 2 April 2012

Nesting Crochet

While I was still pregnant and once I'd finished the blanket, I thought I would have a go at making a little jacket for the new baby. Bearing in mind I had no idea of the sex, I took a punt on blue and white, thinking I could add pink buttons if it was a boy! What I hadn't realised though, was that the vintage pattern I had used was actually for a 2 year old ... and on top of that, I used a cotton yarn that I had in my stash which was probably entirely unsuitable for the project. If I ever get him in it when he's big enough, he'll hardly be able to use his arms, poor kid!! It makes me think of what it would have been like to be a two year old in Victorian times.

So I am recording the project here for posterity before I unpick it and try again. It's a really cute Sunday best type jacket though, so I'll just get some more suitable yarn. I've got 21 months to get it right ...

vintage baby crochet cardigan

Learner Mum Update

I've been busy this morning updating my page on being a new mum. The plan is to share my own experiences and thoughts and include some of the things that I wish I'd known at the beginning, as well as the things I'm learning as I go along.

As he's asleep now though, I shall take the opportunity to work a few more rows of the baby blanket I'm making for a friend. Here's where I've got to ....

I hope that's not too much pink for a boy!!!