Wednesday, 30 October 2013

For All Daughters (but especially mine)

This wonderful poem appeared on my timeline a little while ago and as I prepare for the Playful Baby's first birthday, I have been re reading it constantly. If you want to learn more, please visit the Mighty Girls website, a must for mother's of strong daughters everywhere. 

"For My Daugher" is written by Sarah McMane, a poet and English teacher in upstate New York with a two-year old daughter. Clementine Paddleford, who is quoted in the poem, was an American food writer and journalist active in the early 20th century.


By Sarah McMane
“Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be.” – Clementine Paddleford

Never wear only pink
Never play the princess when you can
be the queen:
rule the kingdom,
swing a scepter,
wear a crown of gold.
Don’t dance in glass slippers,
crystal carving up your toes --
be a barefoot Amazon instead,
for those shoes will surely shatter on your feet.
when you can strut in crimson red,
sweat in heather grey, and
shimmer in sky blue,
claim the golden sun upon your hair.
Colors are for everyone,
boys and girls, men and women --
be a verdant garden, the landscape of Versailles,
not a pale primrose blindly pushed aside.

Tramp muddy through the house 
Chase green dragons and one-eyed zombies,
fierce and fiery toothy monsters,
not merely lazy butterflies,
sweet and slow on summer days.
For you can tame the most brutish beasts
with your wily wits and charm,
and lizard scales feel just as smooth
as gossamer insect wings.
a purple tutu and cowboy boots.
Have a tea party in your overalls.
Build a fort of birch branches,
a zoo of Legos, a rocketship of
Queen Anne chairs and coverlets,
first stop on the moon.

Don a baseball cap, dance with Daddy,
Dream of dinosaurs and baby dolls,
bold brontosaurus and bookish Belle,
not Barbie on the runway or
Disney damsels in distress --
you are much too strong to play
the simpering waif.
paint your toenails, climb a cottonwood.
Learn to speak with both your mind and heart.
For the ground beneath will hold you, dear --
know that you are free.
And never grow a wishbone, daughter,
where your backbone ought to be.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Among Stones

Welcome to the last stop on the Among Stones Blog Tour! I've been eagerly waiting to write this review up since Carol sent through my copy a few months ago. Having interviewed Carol Feller, the designer behind the label 'Stolen Stitches' some time ago on the podcast, I have a great fondness for her work. She creates with a passion and commitment to quality knitting patterns and knitwear and is really rather lovely to boot. 

As my part in this tour, I have been secretly working on a project both inspired by a theme of Carol's work as well as an actual pattern. I'll explain as we get going....

The Collection:
Among Stones contains nine patterns - four women’s sweaters, one child sweater, a beaded scarf, a shawl, socks (in adult and child sizes), and a hat and mitten set - all photographed in locations in Ireland and Scotland. In the designer’s words: 

“This book is filled with some of my favourite kinds of knits: simple, interesting, wearable. All 
photographed in some of my favourite kinds of places: secret, beautiful, tranquil. I hope you 
enjoy them as much as I do.”

The Inspiration:
Carol's work is often photographed in wonderful locations that have a special meaning to her so I started thinking about my own knitting stories that I've not yet shared here on the blog. The most obvious was that Carol lives not far from much of my maternal side of the family in Southern Ireland and I recognise much of the landscape in which she creates. 

(c) Buffy Toughie in 'Messenger'
However, an experience this Summer kept springing to mind that I wanted to share. I had the pleasure of visiting Asti, the founder and master dyer at Juno Fibre Arts this summer while staying with very close friends. The combination of a wonderful afternoon talking about knitting and dyeing with Asti, in the company of a close friend and the Playful Baby clucking along happily is an extremely pleasurable one for me and I wanted to knit something that reminded me of my own personal knitting geography. I chose Buffy Toughie, one of Asti's wonderful sock bases to work with. I'll be talking in a little more detail about this visit and yarn in my next podcast but Carol's commitment to sharing her favourite places through her knitting was such an inspiration that I couldn't resist adding this element to my post. It's something I think I would like to do more of in the future: commemorating and marking the special stories we create thanks to our knitting community. I owe a big thank you to Carol for making me smile every time I reach for my project. 

(c) Buffy Toughie in 'Messenger'
The pattern:
Such a variegated yarn demanded a very particular pattern and luckily, with Carol, you're in safe hands. I chose Pyrite, a sock that is worked from the top down in a subtle slip stitch pattern, It's an ideal way to smoothly blend a variegated yarn or just add a little textural interest to your sock. I've tried a few slip stitch sock patterns now to break up a variegated and either found them lacking in enough rhythm to memorise or just bored me to tears. Somehow, Carol has got it just right with this pattern. I just want to sit and work on it all the time, (time however, is quite a barrier these days). 

(c) Joseph Feller
As I would expect from Carol, there are multiple sizing options, clear instructions and explanations of techniques where necessary. There are multiple pictures of the project too so I have a clear idea of what my final socks will look like. Carol is an experienced pattern writer now having published two previous books, (Contemporary Irish Knits and Scrumptious Knits) as well as being widely published in books and magazines, such as Twist Collective, Interweave Knits,  and Knitty among others. She has also taught at numerous international events and for so there is something reassuring about Carol's pattern writing. There's no hidden surprises and you can navigate around the patterns and pattern notes easily do to the intuitive layout. 

I will be knitting many more of these socks!

To find out more about Carol and her wonderful new publication, tune into the next podcast where I'll be talking about the other 8 patterns or visit Carol's website to pick up your copy.  Carol can also be found on Twitter (@stolenstitches), and Facebook

A heartfelt thank you to Carol for letting me review the book, the inspiration and the many socks I will be knitting. 

Amongst Stones
RRP: €17, £15, US$22
ISBN:978-0-9571212-2-5 (print) 978-0-9571212-3-2 (digital) 
Direct Customers: Order from 
US Wholesale: Deep South Fibers
Europe Wholesale: Contact

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Episode 42: So.... How Are You?

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:

I experiment with a short podcast this time just to see how I'll work things around my hectic working life and child care. Hold onto your hats for further offerings....

I review Coopknits new publication 'Coopknits Socks'. Details can be found on her website or on Ravelry. 

Off the Needles
Perfected Fume my own hat pattern using scraps of fingering and sport weight yarns. Pattern to follow.
Charade Socks by Sandra Park in Nerd Girl Yarns 'Shimma' in the 'sexy' colourway.
Plume by Lisa Mutch in The Uncommon Thread in The Uncommon Thread Posh Fingering in the 'Nimbostratus' Colourway and Silky Merino Fingering in 'Cerulean' Colourway.
Frogged Dryad and instead cast on Setzer using The Uncommon Thread Lush Worsted in 'Bois' colourway.
Sock Yarn Sweater by Hannah Fettig in September Yarns Merino Silk Fingering, Amber colourway.

Munch, Burp, Schlurp
I make a call to ice cream makers to lead me into sin.

Fly, Fly, Fly by Adrina Thorpe, available on Noise Trade
Water Landing by Amy Speace, available via Noise Trade
Contact me at:

Friday, 18 October 2013

Scrappy Challenge For a Fabulous Cause

We'd all like to do more to help out others whether it's fundraising, donating hours of our time or making something that helps to make someone else's life that little bit better. I received an invite to a group recently that I thought was so thoughtful and ideal for time poor knitters that I wanted to share it here. 

The ever so talented Dani from Lioness Arts is leading the charge on creating a Handdyed Beekeepers Quilt to raise money for Great Ormond Street and MSF. Some of you will recognise MSF as the charity supported strongly by the knitting community for years thanks to strong advocate, the Yarn Harlot. Meanwhile, over 150,000 children are treated at Great Ormond Street Hospital every year and it does fantastic research into groundbreaking medical treatment that transforms lives of children around the world who present with complicated medical needs. I've seen the support they give families first hand and believe me, they are everyday heroes each and every person who works there (and attends). 

The plan is to create a double bed sized Hand-dyed Beekeepers quilt. The entire quilt will measure approximately 7ft x 6ft and will be made up of about 750 hexipuffs! Once enough hexipuffs have been collected Dani will join them all together and there will be a Live Prize Draw (at a venue to be confirmed). In the meantime you can donate to the challenge and at the same time enter the raffle for the quilt by donating to the dedicated Virgin Giving page!

For more information and to lend your support, please visit the group page here and get involved! Blog and tweet about it too- let's get this fundraiser heard about because knitters are amazing and have achieved wonderful things to help people in the past. I know we can do it again. 

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Bach to Baby Beats Rainy Day Blues

It's been a while since I posted some music on here which is a shame as our house is always filled with music. Since birth, the Playful Baby has shown a strong response to music. She stilled to listen at first then would sit in deep concentration as she got older and now throws her hands in the air or asks an inquisitive 'do?' to a new instrument.

It's hard to find things suited to our needs when you have a feisty little one who does not appreciate sitting still in a circle or having to give back musical instruments she's barely began to explore. We've found one class which is pitched just right and often go to listen to piano playing at our local train station but on Friday we attended our first Bach to Baby. It was, in a word, perfect.

The idea is to provide classical concerts for babies, toddlers AND adults. I love this. As a mum I find myself in the land of farm animals and astronauts on an almost daily basis but something as stimulating as Mozart is a rare treat. The performance is broken up into different sections, with a little vignette about what to expect in between. It was helpful in keeping the babies amused by changing the pace but also a delight to be learning something. 

We attended a concert locally, there's different venues and a regular turn over of musicians so its worth keeping an eye on their calendar. On this occasion we saw Andrew Brownell on piano and he was typical of the high caliber of musicians that perform. While prestigious and engaging, what I loved was that he remained completely calm and relaxed despite babies crawling round the piano and possibly the rowdiest audience he's ever played for. Watching a world class classical performer play twinkle twinkle was really quite sweet and utterly refreshing that it wasn't deemed beneath him. 

It's not often you get to watch someone play with such passion and skill in such an intimate setting either. I took the Playful Baby right up to the grand piano to gaze in to its cavernous insides and watch the strings go to work. While she learned about sound and pitch, I mused that I could see every micro expression on Andrew's face: all his passion and commitment to his years of studying music. It made it all the more special. 

There will be more mornings like this as it's a great way to bring music into both our lives and there's lots to choose from on the website. I especially like the fact that there's delicious cookies and Monmouth coffee for mummies to start off and plenty of time to explore and move round the venue both during and around the performance times, I could nurse and change little one easily and had I brought the pram, parked it with ease. I really approve of the loyalty card which means you get a free concert after enough attendance- that's a very nice touch.

A definite thumbs up from both of us. 

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Best Laid Plans

While writing a new blog post, I realised that I never hit publish on this one! So today I will, despite being out of date because I took pictures and everything! 

It's been that kind of month where I keep making silly mistakes like this.

So I wrote a little while about my knitting intentions. I queued, I read up on notes, I organised stash and needles. Did I cast on anything I'd originally intended?


In my obsession with using up stash (and thus getting the count down on Ravelry entries- one of my favourite games), I cast on some mini socks with the Trailing Clouds leftovers. Stripy mini socks are just so cute. I have NO idea if I will have enough but I figure with this colourway I could just add some scrap and it would just add to the big colour adventure right?

The pattern I'm using is from 'Tiny Treads' by Joeli. This book is chock full of mini people patterns for mini feet that I just think are great. What I particularly like is that you base your knitting on the gauge you're getting but the maths isn't confusing unlike lots of other similarly written patterns. If you're in the habit of swatching you could even check if you were going to run out of sock yarn or not. Did I swatch? Ahem......

I also cast on Knit Night which I DID intend to do. Ha! This is part of the KAL I'm helping to host in the Fyberspates group and I'm really enjoying. I haven't joined in or participated in a KAL in ages and I doubt I'll get this finished but the knitting is soothing enough that I'm not stressed by it and the yarn?

Twizzle Silk by Fyberspates


I've never worked with singles before and I wasn't sure if I would enjoy them. It does slightly take away the autopilot nature of the knitting as the finer feel to the yarn means I have to look at my knitting more often than I normally would in garter stitch but when you're looking at something this lovely, who cares right?

I have new baby knitting plans but I'll talk about those when I actually cast on or figure out which direction they're going in- I'm designing on the fly again. Oh and this?

I'll talk more about this soon....

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Soup By Request

Chilly? Tired? Feeling like you need something to fill you tummy with veggie goodness? I can heartily recommend this soup. We devoured this soup all week and even Playful Baby, who is currently teething, could be persuaded to partake is some bread dipping and soup devouring. 

When I popped a picture onto Instagram, I started a small soup related frenzy. It seems we're all currently feeling the cold. So, as promised, here is the recipe. 

'Request a Soup', Soup:

2 onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 sticks of celery, chopped
5-6 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
500 ml low salt stock (low salt for baby friendly, go wild for adult friendly)
75g red lentils
Handful of coriander, chopped


1.Chop onions and celery, smash cloves of garlic, and peel and chop carrots.
2. Sauté for about 10 mins in good oil (we use cold pressed rapeseed)
3. Add 500 ml stock and 75g lentils and leave to bubble gently for about 15 mins
4. Add fresh coriander and buzz with food processor or hand blender till its consistency you like (I like the Coriander to be broken up into the soup, you can sprinkle it on top)


~ Season as you wish for adults
~ Chilli, cumin and dried coriander are good additions

~ Serving this with cheese straws might be a new baby favourite round here. 

Friday, 4 October 2013

Currently Obsessing About

I've had quite a week. I think I mentioned that already so let's not dwell on it. I mention it because when I'm struggling to find time to knit and I'm stressed, there is always a new collection out that catches my eye and makes me want to KNIT ALL THE THINGS. That happened this week. Twice. 

First, while scrolling through my social media feed, I noticed this wonderful scarf kept showing up. It's like Autumn in a scarf isn't it? This scarf just IS autumn. 

Redcedar by Tincanknits (c) KnitSocial
So I dug around and lo! There's more yumminess. 


Britannia by Tincanknits (c) Knit Socil
The collection is another fab publication from Cooperative Press and is called Cascadia. It is, quite frankly, amazing. From the publishers, through designers, yarnies and out to even the photographer and curator, this book is awesome. When I read the blurb, I did a little happy dance and decided I need to just hermit up somewhere with this book and knit everything, in all the yarns, while looking at the pictures. I'll show you why:

"Natives to the region, Amanda Milne and Fiona McLean have imbued their knit-centric events company, Knit Social, with a warm and creative atmosphere that is wholly infectious. Now they share the warmth and creativity of their home with you in their first book, Cascadia. They have gathered from the region’s abundant design talent, to bring you gorgeous sweaters, shawls, hats, socks, and other fun-to-knit, beautiful-to-wear garments.
Contributing designers are Jane Richmond, Tin Can Knits, Emily Wessel, Alexa Ludeman, Megan Goodacre, Judy Marples, Holli Yeoh, Melissa Thomson, Amanda Kaffka, and Amanda Milne.
With breathtaking photography by Alexa Ludeman and foreword by Kim Werker."

It's like namedropping central and it's all people I think are so wonderfully talented. Yum. 

Just as I was settling down from this excitement, this project then caught my eye from The Simple Collection, also released by Tincanknits:
Rye by Tincanknits (c)

I seem to have fallen down a Tincanknits related rabbit hole. I might be some time. 

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Letting Go

It's just turned 1pm and so far today I have done the following: stripped guest bed, put on first load of laundry, prepared breakfast for family, dressed myself and little one, cleaned bathroom, cleaned up after breakfast, tried (& failed) to get little one down for a morning nap, unpacked delivered grocery shopping, put a second load of laundry on, finished off the soup I started last night, hung out laundry, put away clothes and toys, changed a light bulb, realised new light bulb is wrong size, sent a few emails, took little one on bus to get some fresh fruit and vegetables, made lunch, tidied up lunch, finally got her down for a nap, washed up everything and tidied kitchen, prepared dinner for tonight and lunch for tomorrow and got our bags ready for swim class once little one wakes. 

Why am I listing this?

Today a conversation, or theme has been following me and I wanted to write about it. I am not good at letting go when it comes to the house. I grew up in the kind of house where there was never a compromise on house work. Laundry was always attended to, things were clean and we rarely ran out of store cupboard things. Over the years I've worked hard to cut loose a little but the best improvement I've made in my perfectionism is admitting that when it comes to chores, I don't let go easily. In admitting this, I got better at managing it and believe it or not, that list is about half what it would have been ten years ago. 

Becoming a mother is a little similar. You have to admit that there's the person you want to be and then the reality of who you really are. For me, I wanted to be this calm, easy going zen like mother who let things like soup on the floor go and laughed in the face of routine. I'd thought I couldn't have children from the age of about 19. I'd been told it either wouldn't be possible to conceive, keep the baby or deliver safely. So in my mind, if I ever imagined being a mother, I would be the perfect mother because the sheer fact that I'd managed to have a baby would overrule any uptight behaviour. When I discovered that I was pregnant, that was the mother I wanted to be. 

Reality is a hard lesson and it's one I think so many women have to come to terms with in the first year of being a mum. I suspect it will be a lesson that I revisit over and over again at each knew phase of Playful Baby's life. Chatting to a friend today she said 'I really had to let go of my ideal image of motherhood though'. It struck a deep chord. 

I think we all put expectations on ourself as mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, partners and co workers. I think the difference between who we hoped to be and who we are can seem enormously vast. It's hard to navigate this chasm of difference when the fantasy seemed so appealing in the first place. 

Letting go doesn't mean giving up on that ideal. It just means I've stepped into the chasm where I can see both sides from where I stand. Hopefully I can take a little of each, mix it up and build a bridge between zen, chilled mum and the mum that drives herself so hard to have a clean house with fresh baked goods each day. 

It's now 1.30pm and I still have half a day left to tip the balance a little. Perhaps I'll sit here just a little longer, snuggled up in hand knits and ponder what fun route we'll take on the way to swimming. The emails and writing can wait till tomorrow. I need to sing, point at the ducks and laugh with mini one instead.