Baby hats

I finished the baby hat that matches the little top I made recently.

Baby kimono and hatThe pattern is Super Stretchy Baby Hat. There was just enough yarn to complete it but not enough for the I-cord “bobble” at the crown. So I thought I’d knit another hat with an I-cord ending.

Rolled brim baby hatThis one used up 20g of sock yarn left after knitting these toe-up socks. I didn’t use a pattern for the hat, I just calculated I’d need about 100 sts for the size I wanted (14-15” circumference, suitable for a newborn) and then cast on 99 because I like to have an odd number of crown decreases. I used Jeny’s Stretchy Slipknot Cast-On – learnt earlier this year when I made the Lia sweater – to make sure the bottom of the hat wouldn’t be tight, and then I just knitted until I felt it was time to start decreasing.

Top of baby hatI could have done 11 decreases spaced at 9 stitch intervals in the first round, but I opted for 9 decreases 11 stitches apart instead. That made the first decrease round K9, K2tog, repeat to end, and subsequent decrease rounds K8, K2tog; K7, K2tog; K6, K2tog, etc. I worked one plain round between each decrease round. When I got down to 18 stitches I did a K2tog round and then a round of double decreases (Sl1, K1, PSSO) to reduce to 3 stitches. Then I knitted an inch or two of I-cord and tied a knot in it.

I’m not sure about the rolled brim. It might make the hat wearable for longer because it can be rolled up or down to adjust the length, but I suspect that it won’t stay in place too well, not having the elasticity of ribbing. I’ll probably make another of these hats from sock leftovers but it will have a conventional ribbed welt.

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We all need reading glasses

I’ve reached the age where I have to use reading glasses and so does just about everyone I know. I have to get mine from an optician because one eye needs a much stronger lens than the other, but most people buy a few pairs of the cheap-as-chips specs that are on sale in every High Street and keep one in every room in the house.

Butterfly pouchI was having coffee with a pal, Fiona, who is in this presbyopic demographic too. When I pulled a little zipped pouch out of my handbag while searching for a pen, she admired the butterfly fabric and said she needed something similar for her reading glasses. That surprised me, as the cotton fabric and light padding don’t offer a lot of protection, but Fiona pointed out that her cheap reading glasses were much smaller than most hard cases and she just wanted something lightweight that would stop the lenses from getting scratched in her handbag. As she said, there’s no point lugging around a bulky, heavy case to protect something that cost £2.50 and can easily be replaced if necessary.

Reading glasses casesThis got me thinking. I’m always looking for new ideas for Christmas stocking fillers and slim cases for reading glasses would fit the bill perfectly. I started by making a case for Fiona from the butterfly fabric – not ideal as it turned out, because the spacing of the butterflies doesn’t fit well with the dimensions of the case, but I’m hoping Fiona will be happy with it. The second one I made has the butterflies running sideways, which works better.

I then made a few more in different fabrics, some with button and loop fastenings and some with Velcro.

A similar design works as a mobile phone case too. I made a few slightly wider ones which will do as little presents for the younger women in my life who don’t (yet) need reading glasses.

Glasses cases and mobile casesAll very easy and nothing required other than scraps of cotton dress fabric or lightweight furnishing fabric, polyester wadding and buttons or Velcro.

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Sheepy fun

Masham Sheep Fair

Friends from “down south” came to visit last weekend. We took them to Rievaulx Abbey on Saturday morning and then, on the way home, called in at Masham. The annual Sheep Fair was on and the website promised all kinds of sheepy fun. We were not disappointed.

Masham has a huge town square, almost like a French town. It was heaving with people winding their way between the temporary sheep pens and the stalls selling local produce. We had lunch in the Black Sheep Brewery’s visitors centre – very good – and then watched the Sheep Show.

I’ve seen this engaging Kiwi deliver his patter at many a wool fair in the last few years, and he’s always both entertaining and informative. His well-trained sheep look entirely happy in front of the crowds and seemed to enjoy the attention (plus the abundant sheep nuts that kept coming their way). Our friends probably went away with the impression that the good people of the dales spend every weekend watching dancing sheep, but no matter.

Coastal Colours 4-ply yarnWhere’s there are sheep, there’s wool, of course. The Craven Guild were giving demonstrations and there were yarns and felted items for sale in one building.

A gorgeous skein of alpaca, silk and cashmere 4-ply from Coastal Colours found its way home with us. I’ll be making a scarf from it.

Baby kimono top

Predictably enough, the new baby (a girl!) in the family arrived before I’d finished the little crossover-top I was knitting. It’s done now though, complete with buttons and crocheted loops to fasten it right-over-left.

Baby kimono top, finishedI’m wary about buttons on baby garments, but you have to fasten them somehow and I think a button or a snap is probably safer than a tie, as long as it’s sewn on securely. To be extra safe, I chose larger than normal buttons – a six-year-old would have trouble swallowing one of these, never mind a newborn.

I have a little of the Fair Isle effect yarn left so I’ve started knitting a matching hat. There should be just enough without striping it with white again.

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Nearly new kitchen

Yay! The kitchen cupboards are done. After 3 weeks of dismantling, sanding and painting, not to mention a whole afternoon of rebuilding, stage 1 of my kitchen makeover is complete. The freshly painted doors and drawers with their new handles look very smart and have brightened up the room. Everyone thinks we’ve had a new kitchen installed.

Before - beech doorsAfter - white painted finish(Please excuse the clutter and less than clean floor in the photos, domestic management is not my strong point.)

Kitchen after 3Stage 2 – new worktops to match the beech block one that’s on one run of base units – will have to wait until next year. I’ve had enough for now. I did think about fitting soft-close hinges and retrofitting a soft-close mechanism to the drawers, but that would cost more than the paint job and handles (about £90, since you ask) and didn’t seem like value for money.

In any case, my environmental sensibilities wouldn’t allow me to replace 26 perfectly good hinges just because more sophisticated ones have appeared in the 20-odd years since we installed this kitchen.

Stick-on silicone bumper padsBut how to prevent the new paintwork getting chipped if someone (me) carelessly bangs closed a cupboard or a drawer? Answer: stick-on silicone bumper dots. I bought enough to put one at the top and bottom of every opening edge, and now nothing slams shut no matter how hard I push – within reason.

You may have spotted in the “after” photos above that the plinth and the cornice are still beech-coloured. When I laid plans to paint them, I’d forgotten that they are made of chipboard with a wood-effect papery surface. I didn’t think that would stand up well to being sanded. Or painted for that matter, I was afraid the wet paint might seep though and lift the surface layer.

I’ve decided to leave the cornice as it is, it matches a beech-framed mirror on the wall as well as the beech block worksurface. But the existing plinth will have to go. It’s actually made from two plinth strips, one stuck on top of the other, to raise the height of the units – my dear husband and I are both taller than average – and it is falling apart. I’ll replace it with MDF when I can find somewhere locally that will cut it (I don’t like the fumes, and I don’t possess a table saw, more’s the pity), and then paint it with ordinary white gloss paint. Again, that will have to wait until next year when my kitchen mojo returns.

For details of the specialist paint I used, see this Kitchen cupboard makeover post.  The handles came from Wilko.

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Kitchen cupboard makeover

Kitchen during 2Our kitchen is in total disarray at the moment, with all the cupboard doors removed and the contents of the drawers stacked on every available surface. It’s all in aid of sprucing up the room by revamping the units.

We installed the kitchen from scratch in 1995. Actually, we didn’t have much choice because the suspended timber floor collapsed – the result of a drainage leak we knew nothing about until it was too late – and everything had to be ripped out so that a new concrete floor could be laid. We took the opportunity to move the sink and change the layout to one that worked rather better. The new kitchen units and worksurfaces came from IKEA, and a few years later we rejigged things a bit more to add a built-in oven and hob. We’ve done very little since apart from changing the tiles and painting the walls.

The last of my major summer decorating projects is painting the beech kitchen unit doors and drawer fronts. I’ve bought some paint that is specially made for kitchen cupboards and gets very good user reviews on the B&Q website, so fingers crossed. We’re going white, which funnily enough is the colour of the old kitchen units, the ones that had to be pulled out when the floor collapsed.

Before the paint can be applied, all the doors, drawer fronts, end panels, filler pieces, plinths and cornices have to be thoroughly cleaned and lightly sanded. I’ve opted to remove everything that I possibly can rather than trying to paint them in situ – I didn’t fancy trying to achieve a perfect, run-free finish on vertical surfaces. I’m doing the various components in batches of 4 or 5 items at a time: on Day 1 I remove hinges and handles, sand and wash – my blocking mats are perfect for protecting the doors and drawers while they are being sanded outside, but it’s not doing the mats a lot of good;

dusty-blocking-mats.jpgthey get the first coat of paint on the inside surface on the morning of Day 2 and then the outside surface in the afternoon; on Day 3 I do the same but with the final coat.

In progress 1The following day I start on the next batch. Doing it batchwise keeps it from being overly daunting – there are probably 25 items in total – because it means only about 2 hours’ work per day.

The paint takes 3 weeks to cure fully and in the meantime you’re supposed to treat the painted surfaces gently, avoiding knocks, splashes and vigorous cleaning. I’ve opted to leave the doors and drawer fronts off during that time, to prevent any mishaps. Hence the disastrous state of the kitchen at present. We have leant boards against all the low-level cupboards in an attempt to prevent the cat curling up amongst the crockery and bags of flour. Curiously, although he normally makes a beeline for any cupboard we have left open for a moment, he is showing complete indifference when faced with a room full of doorless cupboards.

I have to say, having completed about two thirds of the job to date, I’m finding the process very tedious. But I am persevering because the painted doors look amazing. I’ve bought just one new handle so far, to see if I like it with the painted finish, and the combination of fresh white paint and a satin handle is such an improvement that I can’t stop staring at it.

Door before painting

Door after painting

The paint levels off beautifully as it dries to give a surface that is almost flawless. If I can manage to keep up this quality of workmanship for the rest of the job I will be very happy. And judging by the impossibility of removing dried-on paint from the metal parts of the roller, the finish will be hardwearing.

(For the record, I have no connection with the makers or suppliers of this V33 Renovation Cupboards and Cabinets paint, I just think it’s a good DIY product.)

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The origin of “bra”?

I’m still knitting the little top for the new arrival due at the end of this month. I showed it to a French friend who immediately said, “It’s a brassière!”. That surprised me, until she explained that a brassière is a traditional style of crossover baby garment, much used in France. And I’d thought this pattern was a modern take on a kimono. Which all goes to show that there’s nothing new in this world. And I’m guessing that’s where we Anglophones get our name for brassières/bras from, because the first ones were presumably a cross-your-heart Playtex-style design.

Baby kimono with one sleeveAnyway, the first sleeve is done. I just need to knit the second one and then a band along the diagonal opening edges and the back neck. When I know what sex the baby is I’ll attach a loop and button on the appropriate side and probably a small press stud on the other side to keep the flap in place inside.

I think the stripes work. I had to alternate the Fair Isle-effect yarn with plain white because I only had one 50g ball of it, but actually it’s a good way of preventing any pooling with such a yarn. The body was knitted in one piece, bottom up, and the rows are of course much shorter after the armhole split, but breaking up the patterned yarn with white makes the difference less obvious.

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