Monday, 30 December 2013

The Bit Inbetween

As the last mince pies are being nibbled on and I'm pondering why mulled wine is so irresistible, I just wanted to pop in to wish you all well and thank you for reading the blog this year. I'll be recording a holiday episode over this next week and then thinking about 2014 and all that it might bring. I've been tinkering around with my info pages as I plan to return a little more to regular scheduling (which means organising sponsors for the New Year) and work bookings (which means learning to juggle further still).

For us, this year's festivities have been about remembering the joy of Christmas when lights and wrapping paper and so many people bring the sweetest of smiles and the greatest of pleasures. Watching Christmas through the Playful One's eyes has been a delight. I'm so looking forward to watching the magic of Christmas unfold for her over the coming years.

More soon!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

A Little Stocking Filler

Just in time for Christmas I received a lovely email from Clare Devine, the designer behind Sock Anatomy which I mentioned in the previous podcast. She would like to offer a discount code to all Playful listeners and readers. How festively generous!

'Flexor', (c) Clare Devine
To claim 20% off the cover price, enter the code 'aplayfulday1' when making your purchase on Ravelry. The code is valid through till 14th January 2014. 

'Planum', (c) Clare Devine

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, 22 December 2013

A Song For Boo

Christmas is about coming together and thinking of friends and family and something happened several weeks ago that made me realise how important it is to nurture our relationships. We lost a beautiful person and I've not really found the words yet to express the way this saddened me. Somebody did and they've created a song, with all proceeds going to Diabetes UK, a charity very important to Boo and her family as she struggled to come to terms with her condition.

If you can find it in your hearts to buy the song, I for one would be very grateful as would her family who I know will find this particular holiday a very raw and painful one. The song was written by her former guitar teacher and his songwriting partner in her memory. 

It is a very beautiful song and I will always think of that Autumn day, staring at the stained-glass in Guildford Cathedral while surrounded by the many friends and family that came to show Boo how much we loved her. It hurt to listen to but it also gladdened my heart that her spirit lives on in all the many, many, many people she inspired. You can purchase the song through iTunes and download it here. If you make one holiday donation this year, I would be so grateful if it were this one. 

I wish everyone reading this the most warm wishes this holiday season and I hope 2014 brings many wonderful things into your life. 

Thank you 

Friday, 20 December 2013

Episode 45: Almost There

A Playful Day is kindly sponsored by NorthboundKnitting, uniquely hand dyed yarn, spinning fibre and modern knitting designs. Please show your support for our playful friend by clicking on the link above.

A Playful Day is proudly sponsored by Candy Skein, hand dyed yarns sweet enough to eat! Please support our playful friend by supporting the banner above.

Show notes:
There will be a Carol Feller -along in the Ravelry Group kicking off on Christmas EVE with some prizes from Carol, InnerYarnZen and Juno Fibre Arts. The thread is here and there will be an extra prize in the chatty thread just for playing along. 

I recommend Sock Anatomy by Clare Devine. 

Off the Needles
Tube Socks using up leftovers Malabrigo Rios in Purpuras colourway. 

On the Needles
Nangou by Melanie Berg using Wollmeise 100% Superwash Merino in the Cassis colourway and The Uncommon Thread Posh Fingering in the Plata colourway
Evernia by Tori Gurbisz Fyberspates Vivacious DK in 'Sunshine' colourway.

Future Knitting
Knit Night by Louise Zass-Bangham
Julissa by Vanessa Smith
Pyrite Socks by Carol Feller 
I debated between a Rosamund Sweater and Twenty Ten Sweater for my next cast on. 

Holiday with the Stars
Stacie and Steph from the Must Stash video podcast guest star in this festive segment.

Fly, Fly, Fly by Adrina Thorpe, available on Noise Trade
Present Face by Garfunkel and Oates, available on their website

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Christmas Crafting for EVERYONE

A few weeks ago I noticed the Playful One was no longer impressed by certain textures and will do her best to avoid any contact with some. A plastic dinosaur toy that she was gifted for her birthday produces the most deepest of shudders and when we attended a messy play session recently she skirted suspiciously round all the wet and mess and sat playing happily with the Duplo, casting a wary eye in the direction of the cornflour from time to time. A well meaning play supporter tried to coax her over and she instantly burst into tears. 

This was somewhat disappointing as getting good and messy is often half the fun of play and learning but I remembered working in various settings around this time of year where some children just did not want to play. At all. Either the glitter freaked them out (seriously, it just sticks, I totally understand this reaction) or the noise and expectation is all a bit much. I invariably was the one who volunteered to sit in the dark with the little ones who just wept when we went to the panto or to see Santa. I kinda got it. It's all this huge pressure to DO and ENJOY, right?

So I thought quite a bit about how to present some of the activities I had come up with for little one to start the tradition of holiday making. I wanted to make some gift tags and maybe some ornaments for our closest loved ones and a little souvenir for future years to come. However, the last thing I wanted was for her to scream in horror at the touch of glitter paint or just lose it mid hand print. 

We started slow and I let her explore the tools I thought she might enjoy working with in the paint. Some were more of a success than others but with no mess and paint in the way, she was quite content to at least try and touch everything in front of her. The scrubby was her least favourite and the green top to the sponge was also only brushed gingerly. 

Next we tried a little mark making, just to get the idea with some chubby crayons. I had no expectation for her to hold or grasp anything and we took it in turns to hold them and watch the colours as I brushed them onto the paper. This caused much whooping and chatter as she spotted the colours on the page forming and instantly, we were creating!

Then I stuck down some paper, added a little paint, a few tools and waited. It was all up to her. No pressure and no expectation. As she pointed inquisitively, I demonstrated a few moves that made some paint smear which, after much deliberating, she joined in with. Slowly but surely we produced a few pieces of art and no tears or shudders were produced. 

Supplies! (note the bowl and cloth ready for wiping!)
I had clean up stuff and everything we needed ready to go so when she started to look like she'd had enough I quickly wiped down and handed back the crayons to play with one more time while I finished cleaning up and hung the paintings up to dry. We sat chattering and looking at our masterpieces and it gave me lots of opportunity to practice some signs with her which she's also highly motivated by right now. The whole social aspect of the session was a big positive as far as she was concerned. I'm really hoping this leaks into other areas and next time the play supporter tries to lure her over to the paints, she doesn't cry but is a little curious. 

A success!

Monday, 16 December 2013

Head to Toe: Kids' Knits Accessories

Sometimes I think I need a tin foil hat. 

No really, hear me out! I was pondering cowls for mini people the other day. I have a good success rate with knitting baby hats for new arrivals and I often want to make a sibling gift to say 'Hey, you have a new job to do and you rock'. Trouble is, most parents admit that their little ones tend to rip off any hat made for them and scarves just aren't practical for clambering and streaking around. My answer was cowls and I needed some patterns. 

'Mallard', (c) Katya Frankel
Just as I was thinking this, Head to Toe' by Katya Frankel dropped into my Ravelry inbox. Uncanny right? This fab  collection includes 8 hats, 7 scarves/cowls, 4 gloves patterns and 5 sock/ slipper designs. The patterns are sized from toddler and work for both boys and girls which is a big plus and I think makes the book greater value for money. All designs have a contemporary and practical feel to them so rather than being loaded down with cute ruffles and such, these should raise few complaints or provide an obstacle for running, jumping and generally being a kid. It's nice to have the novelty factor in knits but these are often subject to whimsy and easily discarded so a trusted hat or gloves is a must quite frankly. 

'Bowburn', (c) Katya Frankel
There's good sizing information in the book and comments about ease and where it should be applied. The photography is great: clear and detailed but full of fun and mischief too. I thought the models were so beautifully captured as well as wrapped in gorgeous knitwear!

'Rainton', (c) Katya Frankel
There's also a great mix of patterns for different levels. In my experience of working in a yarn shop, many people come to knitting through children's knits. Whether it's an expectant mum or a relative wanting to surprise a niece or nephew, I was often approached about patterns that were good to gift and easy to make. As your knitting level progressed, you wouldn't be turning away from these knits either as there's all sorts from cables to fair isle and good support for both in the form of written instructions as well as charted. 

'Cannonfire', (c) Katya Frankel
A big thumbs up round here. Stay tuned to see what I'll be casting on. I suspect I'll be using this collection a lot! Get your copy either directly from Cooperative Press or on Ravelry here. A big thanks to both Katya and Cooperative Press for letting me review such a packed book of really well thought out knits. 

Friday, 13 December 2013

Feller Along A Holiday KAL

The people of the Playful Ravelry Group have spoken and they want a totally indulgent KAL and who am I to disagree? So grab your pattern, get to stash diving or better yet, BUYING and make sure you have enough eggnog and mince pies to join us in our festive cast on! We will be knitting up any pattern by Carol Feller for this indulgent KAL. 

Cast on will be on Christmas Eve (24th December 2013) and we will run this through till 31st January 2014 for those who want to work up more than one project or a garment to give you just over a month. 

Carol Feller has very kindly agreed to a discount for any pattern used in this KAL. Use code CAROL15 for a single use code with 15% off! She is also donating a wonderful prize of an ecopy of Among Stones, her most recent (and rather lovely) publication that I reviewed previously

In the spirit of Holiday giving I will also be adding lots of prizes for this one as it's been a while since we did a big giveaway and hey, it's the holidays! I will also be offering a skein of Juno Fibre Arts Buffy Toughie which many of you will be very excited about after covetting the Carol Feller Pyrite socks of been knitting in Buffy Toughie 'Wanderer' colourway. 

Also, I'll be giving away a new to me indie who happens to also be a lovely playful group member. I'm so pleased to see people starting out and with this lady's eye for colour, I'm doubly pleased. Inneryarnzen will be donating 1 full skein and one companion skein of her 100% Merino fingering base,in the colour Birchwood and Tipton Reservoir. Look out for this yarnie in 2014- I'll be chatting about her some more on the podcast very soon!

The rules and ways to enter are in the thread here in the Ravelry group where the chatter is already under way. I’ll hit the random number generator to pick a couple of winners.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Baby Friendly Flapjacks

Ok I will admit that this one started purely selfishly. I ADORE flapjacks and ate them by the bucket ton when I needed to boost my milk supply while nursing little one through illness. (Oats boost milk supply, isn't that amazing and so very, very fortunate?) I found a few recipes online for ones to share with the Playful One but somehow they just didn't hit the spot.

So I present some really yummy, squidgy but still crumbly flapjacks. They are sweet from all the dried fruit and you get a whole heap of calcium and fat due to the Almond Butter. Check for allergies before you introduce these though- citrus and nuts should be treated with caution and I'd probably wait a couple of months into weaning as these stick somewhat to the mouth when forced in by the fistful (the baby, not me, honest).

Baby Friendly Flapjacks
2-3 Medium Ripe bananas
1 1/2 Cup of dried fruit (chopped)
1 tsp Almond Essence
2 Cups of Oats
3 tbsp Butter (we use goat's as it seems gentler on her tummy)
2 tbsp Oil (rapeseed is preferable)
2 tbsp Almond Butter (no salt etc added)

1. Mash the bananas in a mixing bowl.
2. Add in the chopped fruit and mix (we used dates, figs and sultanas).
3. Brown the butter in a saucepan, combine with the oil and add to the mixture.
4. Mix in the oats and almond essence and leave to absorb for about 5 minutes
5. Spoon the mixture into a baking tin (we use a cake tin and cut it up like pizza slices after) and bake on 175 degrees C for about 25 minutes or until it's browning nicely.
6. Leave to cool before devouring.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Episode 44: Holiday Hosts

A Playful Day is kindly sponsored by NorthboundKnitting, uniquely hand dyed yarn, spinning fibre and modern knitting designs. Please show your support for our playful friend by clicking on the link above.

A Playful Day is proudly sponsored by Candy Skein, hand dyed yarns sweet enough to eat! Please support our playful friend by supporting the banner above.

Show notes:
There will be a Carol Feller -along in the Ravelry Group kicking off on Christmas EVE with some prizes ;)

Off the Needles
Top Down Basic Socks from 'Tiny Treads' by Joeli Caparco (check out her video cast here) in Trailing Clouds 'Mind The Gap' colourway
On the Needles
Nangou by Melanie Berg using Wollmeise 100% Superwash Merino in the Cassis colourway and The Uncommon Thread Posh Fingering in the Plata colourway using SIGNATURES! (holy moley)
Tube Socks using up leftovers Malabrigo Rios in the Purpuras Colourway using Twist Chiagoos.
Gwithian hat by ButtonsandBeeswax in Fyberspates Vivacious DK in 'Sunshine' colourway.

Holiday with the Stars
Kim from the fabulous Craftstash videocast is guest recording all about her Thanksgiving. 

Fly, Fly, Fly by Adrina Thorpe, available on Noise Trade
Inside my Head by Parkington Sisters, available on Noise Trade

Saturday, 7 December 2013

The Day Christmas Finally Came...

Well Christmas festivities finally began to get underway today and I was so relieved. It felt like I should be doing ALL the Christmas fun and frolic now that we have a little one and the pressure to just BE THAT MUM is enormous. My blog reader, Facebook timelines, Twitter feed and Instagram feed have just been filling up with images of babies meeting Father Christmas, making salt dough ornaments and all kinds of Christmas merriment. Us? We'd not even located the Christmas baubles let alone worked out if they're shatterproof when savaged by a small pudgy playful hand.

I stoppped looking at my phone midweek and just felt so much better for it. Do I need to make her a kitsch Christmas sweater, a stocking, a garland, an ornament, a scrap book of images that is perfectly annotated or rush around to every Santa's grotto in a ten mile radius? The thing is, she's 13 months and at the moment, it's all just wonderment and baffling to her so any small gesture is enormous to her and a mummy who can stand upright at the end of the day seems far more healthy to me. I want things to be nice and special but seeing as her current favourite thing to do is career round the kitchen with a mixing bowl on her head, I figure I've got a few years yet before I need to start the whirlwind with full gusto. I can just aim to get the mood and the magic will come, right?

So with deadlineageddon finally past I announced 'We are getting festive this weekend, dammit'. Such a perfect holiday sentiment no?

I made baby friendly mince pies using this recipe from River Cottage and store bought pastry because you know what? I don't have time in my life for pastry. I will. Just not now. I have limits.

We mulled wine and decorated with Ella swinging us through Christmas in the background.

We made a roast dinner for ultimate comfort afterwards.

Then we sank back and basked in the glory of Christmas finally arriving and I resolved that I would try hard not to succumb to the idea that the holiday season is about what I did to make it perfect rather than a holiday season that was full of love and warmth (and plenty of mulled wine- hurrah!). I felt amazingly snuggly and festive suddenly and I was surrounded by my loved ones and they all looked pretty chipper too.

Tomorrow we're going to the farmer's market to get some festive treats and let Playful Baby pet a sheep dressed as a reindeer. Yup. That's my version of queueing for hours in a shopping mall to see Father Christmas. I'm hoping little one never realises the difference...!!

Happy Holidays!

Friday, 6 December 2013

Tata Madiba

This morning I walked the Playful Baby through the places Nelson Mandela visited in Brixton and explained what a figure of hope he was both in his own country and across the world. There were many people there looking for a way to pay homage to one of the most influential people of our time. I explained that he stood for equality, for peace and against poverty. She clucked happily at the other people there and a woman stopped me to say how wonderful that I carried my child to a place of such importance. We talked about the legacy we leave behind and I said I hoped mine was a daughter who valued every person as an equal and strived to see the end to poverty and greed. His message lives on in more than just his generation. Rest in peace Tata.  

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” — Nelson Mandela

Journey Blog Tour

It seems fitting that I'm breaking my blog/recording silence to indulge in this particular blog post. Deadlineageddon very nearly sucked anything playful out of me this month and I feared I might never find my way back to here, my little corner of the internet where I get to talk about fun knitting things, recipes and occasionally muse about life in general. 

Welcome to my leg of the Journey Blog tour. 'Journey' is a collaboration of hand knits from Jane Richmond and Shannon Cook (of Love in the Mommyhood fame) and is inspired by the journey of self-discovery, independence and the path back to yourself. This really resonates with me right now and I felt an immediate affection for this book. In planning my post for the blog tour, I started a thought process that went something like this:

Oh! Self discovery....... a journey.... Vancouver Island.... I should knit something out of my holiday yarn that I bought when I visited the West Coast ...... I should share how I taught my friend to knit while we travelled near the island...... and tie it in and....

You get the idea. 

I was just running away with myself, thrilled to be thinking about knitting one of the wonderful patterns from this book till I sat and made myself re read the words Shannon and Jane start the book with. Before you even launch into the fabulous collection that includes two garment patterns, a shawl pattern, a sock pattern and two accessory patterns, there is foreword that shares the sentiment that drove the publication of this book. Shannon and Jane worked together on Jane's previous publication 'Island' which I was very lucky to review last year. That friendship has taken them both to unexpected places in their creative journeys as they worked worked together to make all their differences and shared interests into this wonderful publication put out by the publishing company they have now established. 

No publishing journey is easy and to do so as friends is incredible. The warmth from the friendship seems to ooze off the pages that are filled with stunning photography by Nicholas Kupiak  (he also did the photography for Island). It made me stop, think, and gather myself. Why would I add a deadline to this? The book is beautiful and makes me want to curl up with it and a mug of something warm and delicous and read it from cover-to-cover. Yep, even the knitting patterns because they are so thoughtfully written and laid out so you just know it's going to be a pleasure to create. 

Spate by Jane Rochmond, (c) Nicholas Kupiak
So instead of frantically casting on, I partook in some imaginary knitting. Wanna know what I made first? I made Spate, the wonderful textured fingerless mitts that Jane Richmond designed for the book. I worked them up in something yummy from my stash that's been marinating for a while and I was so thrilled to find a stitch pattern that showcased such subtle variegation. I knit these mitts to wear while I walked with my little girl and needed my fingers free to help feed the ducks, retie the strap on her shoe or pocket one of the many leaves she hands to me to look at as we walk along. In my journey of self discovery, it has been the balance of finding time to be the person I used to be and a mother. Working out how I reconcile the amount of time and commitment it takes to raise such a sturdy young thing with the knit addict whose every waking hour used to be spent with needles in hand or writing about knitting journeys, is a tricky one indeed. 

Antrorse by Shannon Cook, (c) Nicholas Kupiak
I then got really flamboyant and cast on Antrorse, Shannon's amazingly snuggly looking sweater design for the book. The clean and simple lines to this sweater are just wonderful but the pattern is repeated enough throughout the body of the sweater that it won't be dull to knit. There's also buttons and every good crafter has a beloved button box. I have buttons hoarded and collected from all over the world, from my mother's stash and even from the Giant's mother's stash. They are precious and perfect for browsing over on a rainy afternoon while you consider your choices. 

I WILL cast on from this book and I will sample some vintage stash to do so because Jane and Shannon have reminded me of the pleasure that can be found in knitting when you just slow down and stop to look at the pictures.

You can find other wonderful posts about Journey from other bloggers and podcasters:


A huge thank you to Shannon and Jane for inviting me to be part of the Journey tour. The fun doesn't stop with this post as there will be more details of the patterns on the podcast next week (yes, next week. I'm committed to that). To purchase your copy of Journey, please either visit Ravelry or Marian Rae Publications.