Since I devised my list of 40 things to do before I’m 40, I have had a birthday. In only one day I changed from having forever to complete my tasks at a youthful 37, to feeling completely overwhelmed by the knowledge that I have less than two years before the big 4.0. When you consider there’s a couple of trips abroad to be had at the very least, that’s a lot of planning to be done.

I have managed to tick a few things off the list.

I visited a Michelin starred restaurant.

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My lovely husband took me to Simpsons for a birthday lunch. The staff there couldn’t have been more welcoming and friendly, although I confess I did feel something of a fish out of water. The food was very………..complicated. Lists and lists of ingredients. But it was all completely delicious. I’m not a food blogger and would have been far too embarrassed to start taking pictures, so you are spared that at least. We each had a different taster menu of four courses, and where possible chef prepared the plates so we both got to try a bit of everything. The highlight was the braised ox cheek. So soft! And something neither of us had tried before. After the meal the waiter bought some complimentary macaroons on a plate with ‘Happy Birthday’ piped in chocolate. I felt very special and, whilst I don’t feel the need to repeat the experience frequently, it was a lovely treat.

I have restored a piece of furniture

Specifically this little desk, picked up on Ebay for a song.

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I chose it to fit into a little nook in my living room. We have only two rooms downstairs, and no spare bedroom space, so carving out an area to work has been a bit of a challenge. This small desk is perfect, and could easily evolve into a study desk for either of the children’s rooms as they get a little older.

It’s got a mid-century vibe to it, teak and well made. The replacement handle was probably why it was so cheap, but I liked the mixy-matchy vibe. My ‘upcycling’ was relatively simple: I sanded it down, revarnished all over, and gave the drawers a lick of paint. Dulux tester pots were perfect for this.

I’m really pleased with the result.

It’s very much my style I’d say, and compliments my G-plan coffee table and wall unit. Next I’m after a sideboard to put the TV on. They are fetching some lofty prices of late, way above my bargain threshold. Its strange to think you couldn’t give them away just a few years ago!

I have learnt how to read Tarot

Well, perhaps that should say learnING, since its a slow process to become really knowledgeable. I am fortunately a quick learner, especially once I have an interest in something, there’s no stopping me! I have a decent working knowledge of each card and some basic spreads, but its more about developing one’s intuition and learning to see the cards in relation to each other as a whole.

I am enjoying it much more than I thought I would. I bought a set of The Housewives Tarot, a fabulous deck featuring illustrations that could have been designed especially for me! They are very easy to use for the beginner, with detailed images and clues. I am tempted to invest in a tradition Ryder Waite deck next, some Tarot cards are so beautiful and I can see it would be an easy collection to fall into.

The Four of Wands is one of my favourite images
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I’ve been reading for everyone who’ll let me. Friends, husband, even the lovely ladies on my pregnancy forum have been getting daily card pulls. As you would expect, some seem more successful than others but I think I am improving. I find it difficult to read for myself though; it’s limiting to talk to yourself about a card’s reading, I need people to listen. Typical extrovert behaviour.

In truth, I remain sceptical about spirits, magic and all things mystic, and recognise that cards are heavily open to interpretation. I do believe in an individual’s guiding energy though, and if we choose certain cards, there may be hidden meanings it would be helpful to discover. Tarot has been one of my best discoveries this year.

Now that I look at it, I really need to get much more of a move on if I’m to finish the list before 40. There are a number of other slow burners: I am trucking through West Wing Season 4 and the List of 32 Books That Will Change My Life, plus November is my vegetarian month, and the husband is dying to teach me poker.

If all goes well over the next few weeks, the part time working (a Serious One) will become a reality too. Watch this space!

Indulging in my favourite hobby of commuter knitting this morning, I hit a quandary.

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I’m about 50 rows into my latest project. Using a ball of cheery yellow sock yarn I bought during my Cologne trip earlier this year, I absentmindedly cast 60 stitches onto my DPNS, with the vague idea of trotting out (no pun intended) another pair of socks for my winter undies drawer. I’ve been experimenting with different stitch patterns, and made up this little triangle motif with a view to naming the finished project Cheese Toasties.

I’m always getting ahead of myself.

The leg is all but done, and now I have some decisions to make. Short row or heel flap? I think short row looks better, but heel flap FITS better. Should I carry on the pattern through the foot? It’s actually quite boring to knit, and doesn’t look as good as I hoped. A stocking stitch foot would get these finished so I can move on to the next proj……….ooooooooooh look, something shiny!

Attention deficit. Me?

And now I’m wondering, should they be socks at all?! The weather has turned cold very quickly here, and I realise I have a dearth of gloves. Naturally, the fabulous Kitten’s Bottom Mitts I knitted earlier in the year have already disappeared into the ether. This yellow yarn might not be the softest, but it would be warm, and would be a nice match for the yellow beret I finished recently. But there are other decisions. Simple wristwarmers or full on mitts? SHOULD I GUSSET?

Socks or gloves. Socks or gloves. Daddy or chips. Socks or gloves.

HELP ME.

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A glance at this blog would have you believing that I don’t knit anymore.

Whilst it’s true I have taken it easy over the summer months, as I can’t bear the sweaty squeakiness of hot yarn, knitting is still something of a daily occurrence in my life. I have rattled out quite a few items recently: baby bits for new arrivals, a couple of pairs of vanilla socks, and hats. Lots and lots of hats.

My home is a hat Bermuda Triangle. My Ravelry project page tells me I have completed lots of hats, a handful of which are very wearable, but since casting off they have just disappeared. I imagine there is a bag in my scary, spider-ridden loft containing all manner of winter woolly goodness. As least I hope so, otherwise Borrowers are getting bigger these days. I’ve decided I need a few more hats, but I’ve not only been knitting for me. Also included in my endeavours are a couple of birthday gifts for friends, a family set for a Secret Santa swap, and lots of the little buggers for the Innocent Big Knit project (but more on that later).

The first FO I have to share is my favourite of the bunch. I chose Ripon by Rachel Coopey to tie in with The Knitting Goddess Ravelry Group’s Movie Star KAL, and blogged about my intentions here. April (was it really so long ago?!) was the month of Maggie Smith, and Coopknit’s Toasty collection featured Yorkshire town names, the county where Downton Abbey is set. Ms Smith plays the inimitable Dowager Countess of course. I scoured t’internet for a pithy quote of hers to title my projects, but they were all too long. Eventually I settled for Being Defeatist Is So Middle Class, which turned out to be depressingly prophetic.

I have made no secret of how challenging I find Coopknit patterns, but bloody hell they are impressive. I am not an amateur knitter by any stretch, but there is something about intricate cabling and travelling stitches which stalls me. I struggled to get started on this one at all, twisting my joining in the round three times before opting to knit 4 rows straight before trying again. This gives my hat a customised slightly rolled brim, which works I think.

I was also up against it with the yarn. The Titus is a beautiful and complicated mistress, by turns soft yet prickly. She’s not easy, but you wouldn’t love her if she were. Some things are worth trying that little bit harder for. She is very, very splitty (I should say here that I HATE it when people complain on Ravelry about yarn being ‘splitty’. If its a plied yarn I just think people should get over themselves and stop moaning, its so common a whinge. That said, this really is something else!). Even with sharpy sharp Knit Pros, the fuzzy halo combined with constantly travelling stitches and my general lack of patience made this hat quite the undertaking.

Frogging is nigh on impossible, so when I spotted I’d knitted a couple of rows incorrectly, I packed this away until I had the energy to tink. A couple of weeks ago I dug it out, and as always seems to happen after a hiatus, it flew along!

You like?

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It’s so warm and cosy, and the buttery yellow colour is really very pretty. I love the colours in this pic, they seem to sum up our Indian summer and encroaching early Autumn perfectly. This one will get a lot of wear.

Until I lose it.

In other hat news, I will share briefly the hats I’ve been knitting for my Secret Santa family. The lady likes bright colours, so I’ve made a Berkeley Hat in an wool/acrylic mix frim Sirdar. I’ve learnt the hard way not to give complicated yarns as gifts. No modelled pics here, as these are really not my colours! This was a fun knit though, the travelling simple cable creating a spiral in this one-piece knit

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I used the leftovers to knit a Poppy for her daughter

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She has two sons, and I have completed the hat for her oldest. The Dead Fish Hat is one of those patterns that I can’t believe I haven’t knitted already. It’s fun, it’s free, it’s easy………….what’s not to love? This was the perfect way to use up some leftovers, and I’ll definitely being making more. This one still needs eyes, but I didn’t want to freak out the delicate sensibilities of my beautiful boy, who models it here.

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I need hat pattern suggestions for a baby boy now. Something that might work in colours similar to the fish. What have you enjoyed making?

Another recent pattern discovery has been Ysolda’s Gretel. I knitted one in haste for my boss’ leaving present last month. In so much haste I didn’t get a good pic, but it was in Dream in Colour’s Classy (my all time fave) and flew off the needles to great effect and a warm reception. I’ve already started knitting another, for a pal’s birthday later this week. I had an odd ball of Classy in November Muse, and figured whilst it was too close to the hue of my barnet, it would look great against her red hair. Tres Autumnal. Plus, I just want to knit with Classy some more. I love it so, but its like hen’s teeth here in the UK, I can’t find it! If anyone wants to send me some, it’s be very gratefully received and knitted up very, very quickly.

Is that a bit cheeky? Probably.

Until next time, knitfans.

It’s true that there are a thousand posts like this in the blogosphere. Here is mine.

I wrote this list acutely aware of the fact that, as I turn 38 next month, I have a ever-decreasing time frame in which to achieve all these things. With that in mind, many of the items are ‘smaller’ and more achievable; I’ll save the novel writing for the Before I’m 50 list.

When I asked friends and Mr Google for ideas, the same obvious ones came up. These include: running a marathon, climbing a mountain, swimming with dolphins, bungee-jumping/sky diving etc. Whilst I’m not totally risk averse and actually quite enjoy heights, there are many things ‘extreme’ that just don’t appeal. The List needed to be things I WANTED to do, rather than felt I had to. Plus, I avoid running on principle. It’s too trendy and bad for my knees. Besides, if nature wanted me to run it wouldn’t have built me so jiggly. Built for comfort, not for speed. There are some physical activities, I’m not totally lazy, but quite a lot can be ticked off whilst enjoying a sit down and a nice cup of tea.

Not all of the things on the list are firsts. But if I have done them before, its not been lately. There are experiences from my youth I’d like to relive before I’m scared of breaking a hip.

I have randomised the order from my original notebook so I didn’t get caught up on priorities. I go into this with a view to completing ALL items.

Without further ado….

 

The List

 

1. Reduce to part time working: This is a serious one, and its been part of my life plan for a couple of years. I resent leaving my children as much as I do. I love them and I miss them.  At the moment we can’t afford to drop a penny to meet our modest budget so I’m working all the hours, but I’ll get there.

2. Go glamping: Like, in a yurt or something. Somewhere I can sing round the campfire but still get a dry towel and charge my phone.

3. Dance until dawn: I’ve done this before, but not within the last 15 years or so. I love still being awake when the sun comes up, it makes me feel naughty.

4. Learn how to ride a bike: I can get on one, and peddle it forwards, but I’m screwed when I get to a corner. I’m not after a star turn in the Velodrome, but maybe a rental weekend and a ride in the country would be nice. Don’t judge me, I was a bookish child.

5. Host a swishing event: I’ve been looking for one to go to for YEARS in Birmingham but it appears no-one hosts them. I’m worried there’s a very good reason for that, but I’m willing to give it a go. There’s a couple of local charities I can support so I am thinking or organising it as a clothes swapping based fundraiser,  maybe Autumn time as people’s wardrobes are in transition.

6. Watch all of The West Wing: I’m two seasons in, but as its not currently on Netflix its at the back of my viewing queue. Definite cold weather viewing, I’ll get on this towards the end of the year.

7. Host a radio show: No idea how to go about this one. I just want to inflict my *cough* eclectic music taste onto someone.

8. Have an overseas family holiday: I was 23 before I flew on a plane, I want my children to experience this earlier. Will be looking at Europe breaks for next summer.

9. Go on a Murder Mystery weekend: Not a night, a proper full on weekend. These ones look brilliant!

10. Publish a knitting pattern: The only knitty thing to make the list, and admittedly a little reluctantly. I felt like I had to have one in there. I suck at designing, but I should nurture my creative spirit.

11. Decorate every room in the house: This isn’t as lofty an ambition as it sounds. We only have a small house, and I’m not including the kitchen and bathroom as they were done last year. So it’s only five rooms in all, and that includes the hallway.

12. Mow a lawn: Just because I’ve never done it. We have a lawn, but it’s normally Big G’s job.

13. Learn how to play chess: Really keen to do this, cause its like, intelligent innit?

14. Read the Lord Of The Rings trilogy: I couldn’t get into the films, but I have enjoyed the Game of Thrones books, so willing to give fantasy genre another chance. I live with a LOTR geek, so I have access to all the literature.

15. Sleep under the stars: Maybe I can slip out of that yurt one night.

16. Have a boudoir photo shoot:  OBVIOUSLY, I need to lose two stones first.

17. Win a TV quiz show: I now have one appearance under my belt, so the next step is to actually win one!

18. See a ballet:  Since I’m not sporty, I should be cultured. Opera is a step too far, but ballet I can do.

19. Learn how to make a signature cocktail: Because a sophisticated, ballet-going lady such as I should have her own drink.

20. Restore and revive a piece of furniture:  I’m thinking sanding and painting rather than replacing dovetail joints, but I’m openminded.

21. Perform on stage again: I’ve done quite a bit of amateur theatre in the past, but the time-guilt combo of career and parenting but a stop to it. I used to love it though, and hope to again.

22. Eat at a Michelin starred restaurant: Spoilt for choice in Birmingham, since we have more Michelin restaurants than any other UK city outside London. Maybe one for a special lunchtime.

23. Go bellydancing: Although generally exercise shy, I do love to dance. And I do have a belly.

24. Learn how to read Tarot: I think of myself as a healthy sceptic when it comes to all things mystical, but I do think card reading can be a useful way to self-reflect, providing you use them to clarify your own thinking and not see them as messages from the beyond.

25. Swim five lengths: As embarrassing as my cycling this one. I’m not a strong swimmer, and generally expend all my energy staying afloat. I’d love to learn a proper strong swimming technique. My daughter is a fish; I want her to see mummies can swim too.

26. Start a pension plan: So I said this list was all about WANT, but this is a NEED. Well, I have to be sensible sometimes, I am nearly 40.

27. Get a colonic:  Out of nothing more than gruesome curiosity.

28. Practice basic yoga:  This is something I should already be doing, I need to work harder at finding a local class.

29. Cook every recipe from a cookbook:  I’ve just bought Nigel Slater’s iconic Real Fast Food, and the recipes look accessible and delicious. Unfortunately there are also over 360 of them. That’s a meal every other day. I don’t even make toast every other day. I MAY revise this down to 100 recipes. Or something.

30. Go vegetarian for one month:  I did this in a half-arsed manner for Lent one year. I do worry about eating so much intensively farmed meat, and can see a veggie could be healthier for me, and almost certainly better for the earth.

31. Have my nails ‘done’ properly: My idea of a manicure is to trim my hangnails with the kitchen scissors. I see girls with glossy, glittery talons. I want a bit of that.

32. Play poker: I suck at cards, which I’m willing to accept as throughout life I have been blessed with wonderful luck in love. Poker rules feel like something I should know, though.

33. Drive on a motorway: I have a THING about driving. I need to get over myself.

34. Go to a high tea in a classy hotel: Like I said, a list of WANTS. I always want cake.

35. Read the 32 Books That Will Change Your Life:   From this list here. I have a head start having read 5 or 6 of them already.

36. Plant a wildflower garden:   Just because it would be so pretty! And it would mean less lawn to mow.

37. Visit Scandinavia: I hesitated to put grand travel plans, since I didn’t want budget restrictions to hamper my success. But the truth is I am woefully poorly travelled, and this is one part of the world I have long wanted to visit. It may well be a trip for my 40th as things stand.

38. Sew myself a dress: Sewing is something I feel like I should be good at given my knitting prowess, but its a skill I’ve never really nailed. I blame it on a sewing machine which has never worked properly. What do you mean, a poor workman blames his tools? (grumble, grumble).

39. Play with some kittens:   I just love them, and I haven’t cuddled any for ages!! I’ve had my babies, my life is devoid of cute. I need kitten cuddles and I need them now.

40. See a West End show: I saw Les Miserables about twenty years ago. I’m due a revisit.

It’s been a while since I posted about a charity shop haul, and although I have been picking bits up here and there, I enjoyed a rare targeted trip today.

I’m planning my wardrobe for a trip to Cologne next week, sans kids and husband, to visit a beloved old friend. Said friend is very glam, so I’m always a bit more sartorially aware when I see her. I was hoping to lose a bit of weight for the trip (cliché much?) but of course this hasn’t happened, and as I find myself heavier than usual at the moment my wardrobe options are looking limited.

Browsing during my lunch hour yesterday (I work in the centre of Birmingham, a city which markets itself as a shopping capital of Europe: nightmare), I saw this dress in cheapie shop, Select. It fulfilled my requirements for a new dress at this particular time: stretchy (read, comfortable), cheap and short enough to go over leggings or wear alone. The British summer has not played ball so far so I wanted to cover all bases.

At £15 its cheap enough, but then I thought maybe it was TOO cheap? Would this wash and wear for a long time? Did the design LOOK cheap? As I approach 40, I’m more aware that I can’t rock the pound shop chic look like I used to, particularly in styles like this that nod to the 90s quite so much.

I reckoned I could do better and boost my wardrobe from the chazzas with the same £15. So I set off this morning to ‘do’ Cotteridge and Northfield, my most local of Birmingham ‘burbs, and host to a plethora of charity shops. My brief: short dresses/tunics to wear alone or over my leggings/skinnies, and tops that might go with these. I bought them on a whim last month as they were comfy but I have not a clue what to wear with them. The baggy style of them make my bum look as big as Bulgaria, but despite the desire to go longer, I think short tops would give a more balanced silhouette.

And this is how I did. WITH CHANGE.
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Not bad, eh? Here’s how they all came about

1) This Jasper Conran lovely came from a local CIC called Autism Birmingham. It’s owned by an old school pal, and raises money for a fantastic cause, helping local children with autism access much needed products and services. The shop is cheap and cheerful, with all clothes £1 or less, and is usually a selection of basics from the cheaper end of the high street. I popped in primarily to stock up on holiday reads, as their books are only 20p, but I couldn’t resist this. Jasper Conran! For £1! It matches the green trousers perfectly.

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2) This it today’s star buy. I love the surfy-style brands but the stuff rarely suits me. I took this ONeil dress to the fitting room not expecting much, but it’s great! Perfect length to wear alone or layer, the faded green colour is one of my most flattering. I also like the neckline. I’m quite busty and find high necks feel a bit strangling sometimes. Mine for £5.

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3) Whenever I go charity shopping, I often get some kind of ‘thing’ stuck in my head, and then I struggle to see anything else. It might be a certain type of garment, or an era. Or a colour. And today I was looking at ALL THE ORANGE. This little jumper isn’t for the trip, but it’s so soft I couldn’t leave it there. It fastens at the neck but has an open back which I found unusual. I’d never heard of the brand, Charlie and Robin, but a quick Google in the fitting room told me it was an Anthropologie, rare in the UK. Mine for £3.50.

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4) Finally, this little cream top nearly passed me by, as its not a style I normally go for or a brand I knew. But I thought it would match the trousers so tried it. Peplum tops have been tricky for me in the past, but this was flattering, and a bargain at £3.
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Anyone good at Maths may have worked out I’ve only spent £12.50 so far. Well, there were a couple of extra purchases.

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I spotted these sandals outside one shop, where the sun appears to have melted the lining. I didn’t realise until I got them home and tried them, the lining stuck to my feet, yuck! I’m hoping the effect will wear off, but any tips will be gratefully received. I’m still happy I bought them though. Whilst not the sexiest ever, they are Clarks. And red! They are barely worn and the heel is pretty interesting. And best of all they were £1!!

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My last purchase was this pretty beaded necklace, picked up for £1. Which left me with 50p for a Greggs doughnut.

Doesn’t look like I’ll be fitting into those old skinny clothes anytime soon………….

..or a rectangle, or an oblong (although I’m never quite sure what the difference is).

Most of our virgin knitting projects begin with a shape along these lines. Cast on, garter stitch, cast off. And no matter if you’re six or sixty, there is a great deal of pride to be had in the first piece of fabric you create.

I am teaching a Learn to Knit workshop at a LYS next month and was asked to come up with a functional first project idea. I started with the square: coasters, mitts, some kind of cosy?

I went with mitts, as I felt something wearable maximises the boast factor of ‘I made this myself'; it also gets the most out of the yardage, as the learners will be given one 50g ball of Debbie Bliss Rialto for the workshop. June may not the best time to be making woollen accessories but these are tiny mitts, and the more seasonal cotton poses too many tension pitfalls for the novice knitter.

What I came up with could hardly be called a pattern, although for the purposes of the workshop it is, with a pattern sheet and everything. For the more nervous student there is a completely garter stitched version

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And for the more intrepid, a mitt incorporating……………wait for it…………………the purl stitch.

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The workshop is only two hours long, and the brief is that attendees will be picking up sticks for the very first time, so I’m not anticipating FOs in class. I hope there will be just enough time to introduce the basic techniques and get everyone knitting with confidence.

The yarn is a delight. Though a little splitty for newbies, it lovely plump merino-ness is very forgiving and will even out some tension issues. The mitts pictured are unblocked, and not looking too bad. The duck egg blue shade for these samples was provided by the LYS. Personally, its amongst my least favourite colours. Duck egg to me is often dull, uninspiring and overused (in decorating circles at least). But it does have the virtue of being light in colour; whilst students will be able to choose whatever shade they like from the LYS staggering range, I’m hoping they follow suit as it’s so much easier to knit in a paler hue.

It’s also a great colour to match the Birmingham skyline this late spring afternoon; check out this picture from my office window.

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Maybe mitts in June is not such a bad idea after all!

The Christmas Jumper has seen something of a resurgence in recent years. Previously, it’s reputation had been so poor that only weather forecasters and Noel Edmonds dare go near it, but it’s now travelled through the seas of hipster irony into (dare I say it, passé?) Primark territory.

This winter just gone, you couldn’t glance at Facebook or trip down the high street without seeing multiple reindeer and snowflakes in vibrant red and green gracing people’s chests. Thankfully, there has also been increased interest in more tasteful Fairisle/Scandi styles too. The Christmas jumper was to 2013 what the onesie was to 2012.

The office I work in has taken part in Save The Children’s Christmas Jumper Day the last couple of years, a lovely gentle fundraising idea that everyone gets involved in. Incidentally, this website has a couple of free knitting patterns for tiny jumpers.

Awful photo of a photo; I am in the middle wearing the orange Gap affair.

Awful photo of a photo; I am in the middle wearing the orange Gap affair.

To my slight embarrassment, I have worn (gasp) a shop bought jumper both years. And though I do believe the trend to be on the wane, stylish hand knitting never goes out of fashion, right? Therefore, I have started knitting my Perfect Christmas Jumper!. I love this look of this design. I’m more vintage-inspired than true-vintage though; I’ll probably do a less flamboyant sleeve top. At just 5′ 1.5″ tall, padded/dramatic shoulders seem to wear me rather than the other way round. The 40’s style waist does suit me however, I’m quite short-waisted and most tops are too long.

perfect christmas

I was inspired to start this project thanks to a KAL suggested by Andi over at the Untangling Knots group on Ravelry. She proposed a breakdown of garment parts throughout the year. I’m currently on catch up having bought my yarn late, but hope to post some progress pics soon. She’s even produced a badge for those of us playing along.

The yarn I'm using is Cygnet wool-rich 4 ply. It seems fairly authentic for the period, and to be honest I couldn’t afford the kettle dyed type indie yarn I usually buy my fingering weight in. I’ve gone for Geranium, a very Christmassy red, although a little blue toned for my usual taste! It’s pair with a cream to soften it a little.

I’m hoping knitting throughout the year will provide inspiration for me to avoid the crazy November rush in other areas. I’ve had ropey Christmases the last couple of years. Like most women I take on the primary role of festive organiser, despite working more hours than my partner. Gift purchases I tend to have a handle on; internet shopping truly is a beautiful thing, plus I work in a city centre so can pick things up as and when.

Where I have disappointed myself has been the entertaining/decoration side. For two years in a row, late December has seen me in tears because I am working right up until the day and I haven’t saved enough annual leave to get things going (this is despite the fact my workplace is VERY quiet that time of year. Remember the Robot?). My holiday allowance is woefully low, and I often need to take days for childcare etc, so its often unavoidable.

I am in a constant quandary with my work/life balance thing. As a natural extrovert I struggle with the reduced social time my working and family responsibilities now afford me. In truth, I rarely entertain at home. When I do try to arrange visitors it feels like I can’t get arrested at times; I guess because its so infrequent that I extend an invitation. Consequently I don’t make a lot of effort to make the home as nice as I can; we’re so rarely there.

But this year, I have decided you will definitely know it is Christmas Chez Minx. My early ideas are, like the jumper, vintage inspired. Now that car boot season is underway I have started to keep an eye open for vintage baubles. My main idea is an Edward Scissorhands tree. No, not black and spiky, I mean the 80’s-does’50’s version Kim decorates in the rather excellent movie

Edward Scissorhands

We already have a white tree, and the red bows look simple enough. I’m thinking a Pintrest wander might through up more ideas. Pretty soon it may even be time to crack open my Delia’s Christmas Collection book. As it happens, I’m not much of a cook, but man do I like reading cook books. I like Delia’s no nonsense style, and this tome is old enough to be edging towards retro (if not vintage) territory. I may not be at the menu planning stage, but its all about the ideas right now.

It might seem odd to be contemplating Christmas so soon after Easter, with the promise of summer round the corner, and I don’t want to wish them away. Maybe its a knitting thing to think of the long game? We are not into instant gratification after all. Plus, with a career background in retail, I’m used to thinking a season ahead. What do you reckon? Do you think about Christmas throughout the year? What are your plans?

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This is another project that’s been finished a while, but the writing up and photographing seem to take an age! In the end, I have opted for this very natural photo taken in the pub by my pal last night. We were there for the pub quiz, the England flag was flying to celebrate St George’s Day.

We lost the quiz. I think it was my fault. I don’t expect another invite.

I was distracted as I took some more knitting, the first cotton garment to grace the needles in a while; I have plans to make a few this year, in anticipation of a hot summer. A post for another day I think, back to the cardigan.

I chose this pattern, Marion by the ever so talented Andi Sutterland, for my Knitting Goddess Movie Stars KAL project for April, based on Anthony Hopkins.

The link? Well, he starred in a 2012 film called Hitchcock, playing the famous director. Hitchcock directed one of my favourite films of all time, Psycho, in which a character called Marion Crane is killed in the infamous shower scene.

The movie is one that has always been there, THAT shower scene iconic enough to be familiar even in childhood, when I had nightmares about Norman Bates hiding in my wardrobe. It was a student that I began to appreciate the true genius of the film. As part of my Theatre Studies degree at Liverpool Hope University, I took a film module and wrote an assignment on the evolution of the horror film; specifically slasher flicks. It was 1995 and Scream had just been released, which satirised the usual formula and piqued my interest. I wrote about that film, and traced the genre back through the heyday of Halloween to Psycho, considered by many to be the forerunner.

More recently, the TV series Bates Motel has reminded me how much I loved the original, as well as providing me with my new fashion icon. Unfortunately, the second season is proving a little lack-lustre, so I turn again to the original to be scared and entertained. Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates is just one of the best cinematic baddies ever.

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*shiver*

Onto the pattern itself. I love Andi’s designs, having previously knitted a Miette and a Stray. This was just as well done as the others; clear, simple and just my style! The rope-type cables put me more in mind of a medieval Maid Marion, perhaps the original inspiration for the design. I chose some Classy from stash, in a lovely russet brown which will match a lot of my cross-seasonal wardrobe. I fretted about finding five buttons to match from my eclectic tin, and opted for mis-matched vintage ones in the end. You can see from the photo that they ended very high on the button band, and I could’ve done with just three. I may remove the two erroneous buttons, but I will keep the remaining ones odd I think. It adds to the handmade look I like, plus I abhor all finishing and like to minimise it where possible!

Next month is Maggie Smith. I already have something up my sleeve (or on my head) for that……….

I can’t quite believe this has happened to me again. It has, in fact, happened so many times that I couldn’t begin to list them. I do know that  this is the third time I have been upset by it.

I felted a handknit.

Actually, that’s not true. A handknit was felted, but not by me. My lovely husband, seemingly breaking the lacklustre homemaking habit of a lifetime, decided to wash ALL OF THE CLOTHES this weekend. Of course in our house (for reasons to be explored further), dirty clothes are not limited to the laundry basket, but may be found loitering in unusual places: the car, the kitchen table, the magazine rack, and the stairs, where they sit for days waiting for someone to carry them upstairs to the empty laundry basket.

It was due to this lack of clear demarcation that I pulled this sorry looking affair from the washing machine. Yep, just washed. Not even tumble dried. It’s TINY! Of course, even if it were big enough to fit my 4 yr old daughter, it’s stiff as a board and unwearable. The kitty scores another blanket for her bed.

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This was the cardigan that I had whispered about on  this blog before, so nervous was I about its future. I knitted it in part to atone for another disaster, my Blackberry Cardigan of 2011.

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I love woolly, sheepy, PROPER wool. The above FOs were knitted in Rowan Purelife and Knitpicks Wool of the Andes. However, I (and my husband) clearly can’t be trusted.

As much as I love knitting, I’ve always hated laundry. Life is too short to iron, and our lifestyle means everything gets thrown into the machine, and the machine is always on. I try and keep handknits in the cupboard, they don’t need washing really, but it seems I dropped the ball here.

So what’s the problem? I’m a big subscriber to personality type analysis, particularly the Myers Briggs model (Take a free test here), and I think the way hubby and I see the world has a lot to answer for*. We are both heavily Intuitive over Sensing; meaning we’re better with ideas and concepts, than you know, umm, real stuff. I think this is why I like the process of planning projects, choosing yarn and then knitting, much more than keeping or wearing the items very often. We are also both much more Perception over Judging. I like to think of this as meaning we are more open minded, journey not destination, easygoing people. In reality, it means we like having fun and not clearing up.

While its nice to have a label to put on things, I have never been in any doubt as to the way I roll.

1) I have had (and lost) more purses, umbrellas and keys than you have had hot dinners.
2) An old nickname was ‘Wheresmy’ because I started every sentence with it.
3) Despite charming the pants off housemates, I ended up in spats with each and every one due to my slatternly ways.
4) I regularly shiver whilst I am out, having forgotten to bring a hat/scarf/gloves, despite having knitted hundreds of them.

Ridiculous, isn’t it?

Over time I have developed coping mechanisms, and can pull a pretty good impression of an organised and together woman; even though my natural preference is probably more like that woman Ross dates in Friends with the messy apartment, and I by no means use personality as an excuse. I have to make more effort, I do, but I get that being flakey is not ditzy and cute when you’re 37 and a working mother.

Perhaps what I should have done is married a very S/J kind of guy. To balance things out. Instead, I fell in love with quite possibly the only man in existence less practical than myself. Who is wonderful and I shan’t bad mouth him. Even though he is in the Bad Books today, as I have one less cardigan in my wardrobe.

From now on, I ONLY buy superwash wool. Seriously. If you catch me sniffing the sheep stuff, pull me away.

It’s the children I feel sorry for. During Sunday’s Easter hunt, my daughter was having problems finding all of her eggs.

‘Look in the place where you keep all of your clothes’ I suggested.
‘What? The floor?’  she replied.

Still, with parents like us, what chance does she stand?

* For anyone into this stuff, I’m ENFP and he’s INFP.

My little girl impresses me every day. She’s 4 years old and approaching the end of her reception year. As one of the younger children, we had our reservations about her going to school, but she loves it and is learning so much; every day seems to bring something new.

She’s developed a real love of drawing and colouring, and its turned into a nice activity for us to do together. I was reminded of my old hobby via a thread on my Pregnancy and Parenting Forum. Like all children her age she loves to run about and has boundless energy, but when it comes to ‘chillout’ time you can find us crowded over one of her (or my *cough*) colouring books.

Here’s our latest pic (can you guess who sits on which side?).

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My favourite colouring-in tools are felt tip pens, in particular these ones, but of late, my little artist and I have been using colouring pencils more. I like the subtley of shades, the finished effect is somehow more sophisticated.

I’m all for bright colour, but also enjoy variations on the theme. My latest project is a pair of Mixalot socks. This fab pattern allows the knitter to mix and match stripes and lace sections, and seems to be to be made for lots of confusing colours.

I am using a mini skein set from The Knitting Goddess in Blackened Rainbow. I find the darker shades much more interesting than an ‘inyerface’ rainbow spectrum, and I’m loving how it’s knitting up. I am slightly concerned about running out of yarn, as the set is only 70g. As a UK size 4/37, I should be OK, although I may have to make compromises about stripe selection. I think I may just go random on the second sock, rather than matching, as it allows me more leeway. Plus fraternal socks are kind of cool.

I knitted a pair of these before as a gift, and am pleased that I’ll get to keep these ones! I estimate I keep only 5-10% of the socks I knit, and my underwear drawers are woefully sparse.

I have modified the pattern slightly. I started knitting the medium, but it looked very baggy on the leg, so decreased to 60 stitches for a size small foot. The shape is now rather slouched, like the socks we all went crazy for back in the 90’s.

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I’m hoping my gauge hiccup doesn’t cost me too dearly in yarn (always swatch people!), thankfully the lovely Knitting Goddess sells individual skeins in odd colours should I need to make up the difference.

My daughter has been eyeballing them and has requested a pair. Maybe they will be next on the needles!

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