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. 

Sunday 24 November 2013

Blink and it's Gone

Well this week was fast. Really fast. So fast paced and so intense that I just had no time to knit. None. I have had to work every available opportunity.

It was therefore very happily that I realised I needed to take some pictures for some work I'm doing and would have to knit. Sure, I could have just snapped pictures of knitting tools solo but it's so much nicer in projects right? Then I reasoned that if I was knitting up swatches, I might as well be casting on real projects for the next few months.


It seemed perfectly reasonable to me. So with the Playful One dispatched with the Giant I set about knitting and snapping. Sending the little one out was kind of essential given her penchant for my skeins. This is what happens otherwise.....

Yup. Note the blur of rapid movement!

Like mother like daughter right?

I'll fill you in on all the casting on and off I achieved very soon. Right now I need to run. Again. This coming week is looking even more frantic.


Monday 18 November 2013

Finish or Frenzy?

I'm in something of a dilemma with my knitting. Thanks to a high number of WIPs recently, I've been flitting between different stages of knitting and nibbling at things here and there. The result is the near end of a couple of projects and nothing suitable for just cruising on when circumstances demand I just plain knit or not at all.

This leaves me with a dilemma: face the satisfaction of finishing or cast on maniacally to ensure I have plenty to work on? The finishing will be satisfying yet inevitably fiddly but the cast on requires winding yarn, finding needles and bags. Not to mention settling into the rhythm of a whole new project.

I'm also not blessed with a great deal of time at the moment. I have deadlines rapidly approaching and blocking anything just seems like a step too far quite frankly. One of the projects I want to cast on involves frogging an entire sweater!!!!

Quite the dilemma.

A little progress check to help me take stock:

- Tiny Tread socks: one sock complete, another needing a heel and possibly another scrap of yarn (I ran out, shocking).

- Girl Crush Sweater: cast off. Needs blocking and ends woven in. See above for thoughts on blocking.

- Knit Night: just needs eyelet border but it involves a purl row of P2TOG and YOs on singles yarn. Not to be completed in the half dark while settling a fractious babe.

- Pyrite socks of Juno awesome: stalled due to not quite automatic enough knitting down the foot.

- New and very bright yellow hat: lace detail that thrills me but again, needs some lighting and a little more than my half attention.

Best get cracking on SOMETHING I guess!

Saturday 16 November 2013

Christmas Card Fund

Every year I decide on a charity that I feel really deserves some support and I donate the money I would spend on cards and stamps. Rather than a Round Robin or scribbled cliche, I pledge to call more often or send a card at random during the year. I like the random act of kindness kind of moment more than ploughing through my address book with a sense of deadline.

I started this a few years ago after my dad's work decided to do the same. I thought what a good idea to donate annually and at Christmas there are many in need. I've devoted time to causes before or organised donation/ collection drives but with the little one, that seems near impossible this year.

Last year was a year for Refuge and the year before was Women's Aid. This year will be Mind. Here is why I value Mind, in their own words:

Every year, one in four of us will experience a mental health problem.
But hundreds of thousands of people are still struggling to get the support they need. Still unable to access the services that could change their life. Still facing prejudice and misunderstanding.
Mind believes no one should have to face a mental health problem alone. We’ll listen, give you support and advice, and fight your corner. And we’ll push for a better deal and respect for everyone experiencing a mental health problem.

I have seen first hand the amazing work Mind do and this year they feel particularly important as I grieve for a friend whose battle with her own unhappiness was lost recently. She was loved and in love and yet she is gone, leaving a hole that can never be filled for her friends and family. 

The festive season is notoriously hard for so many people. This is my way of helping in every way I can and remembering a friend whose laughter I can still here now as we scared away seagulls at 5am on a very cold beach one morning.

Sunday 10 November 2013

Episode 43: Progress

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'm keeping it kicking with another slightly chaotic podcast with no scheduling whatsoever just to see how I'll work things around my hectic working life and child care. I'm already plotting guests and such though so stay tuned yes? 

Let me know if you'd like a Carol Feller -along in the Ravelry Group. I can sweeten the deal with some prizes ;)

Off the Needles
Afterthought Heel Socks in  Trailing Clouds 'Mind The Gap' colourway. 
Aviatrix Hat by Justine Turner in Malabrigo Rios in Purpuras colourway. 

On 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
Knit Night by Louise Zass-Bangham using Fyberspates Twizzle Silk.
Julissa by Vanessa Smith in Miss Bab's Yowza! Whatta Skein! in the colourway 'Catherine'.
Pyrite by Carol Feller from her new and fab Among Stones Collection that I featured for part of the blog tour in Juno Fibre Arts Buffy Toughie in the 'Wanderer' Colourway. 

Playfully Parenting
In this first edition of a new segment I talk about babywearing and recommend the following websites:
Sling Guide
South London Sling Library (stay tuned for a feature about the lovely owner of this library on the blog soon)
T.I.C.K.S for safe babywearing
YouTube tutorialchannel that I could follow without catapulting Playful Baby across the living room. 

Fly, Fly, Fly by Adrina Thorpe, available on Noise Trade
Beautiful by Land of Deborah, available on Noise Trade

Saturday 9 November 2013

GaGa for Theatre

One of the areas I studied at University was theatre and I'm a bit partial to something a bit interesting and a bit different when it comes to performance. I love a good musical, don't get me wrong but I'm really passionate about interesting stage design, attitude to audience or something particularly transporting. It makes it quite hard for me to sit still and watch children's theatre as it can often be very (very, very) cheesy.

Last week, a friend invited us to go and see a show put on by the GaGa Theatre Company at our local cinema. When it said 'catchy tunes' I groaned inwardly but was hopeful at seeing the word's 'multi sensory' as this implied an understanding of how to really engage with a very young audience. We weren't disappointed.

We went to see the showing of 'Up and Down', a performance based on the wonderful children's book by Oliver Jeffers. It's a tale of friendship between a little boy and a penguin who dreams of flying. I love the book and was delighted to see it brought to life with the use of actors, projections and carefully thought out props. The music was wonderfully composed by Julian Butler and the Playful Babe sat entranced, body popping throughout.

The performance was as true to the illustrations and spirit of the book as I've ever seen and didn't feel a need to narrate to its' young audience, leaving them the joy of discovering the tale through live action, animations and music. That's a rare find and I was so impressed that the creators understood that discovering the tale for yourself is half the fun of performance and story telling.

Also, the whole thing was hosted to be as convenient as possible: 45 minutes in length, buggy parking and no annoying tat on sale that you inevitably end up buying to avoid temper tantrums. There was even an email sent afterwards of really thoughtful follow up activities and links to download the music for free (which we have and danced to daily).

The best part? My intrepid explorer was enthralled. I didn't have to walk her around or retrieve her from 15 rows back where she'd crawled off to find her own adventure. She pointed and whooped and clucked contentedly throughout. A big thumbs up for us. We'll be attending again!

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