Funny how you can forget things for a really long time and then, BAM! – out of the blue, a childhood memory comes back. I hadn’t thought about monkey bread for decades until I agreed to do some cooking with the Year 1 children at my daughter’s school. As I cast about for a baking recipe that would be simple enough, and interesting enough, for a bunch of 5-6 year olds, I remembered making monkey bread with my mom.
Now, in the end, I didn’t make this with the children. First of all, when I made it with my mom, we made it the easy way with pre-packaged dough. As I so often find with American recipes, the shortcuts that help just aren’t readily available here (I’m looking at you Bisquick). And secondly, let’s face it – it’s super unhealthy. So, the school children got quick and healthy-ish banana muffins. And my kids got to make full-on monkey bread with me on New Years Day*.
So, for my European readers who have no idea what monkey bread is or how to make it, check out the from-scratch version by James Martin. It’s pull apart bread, all cinnamon-sugary and sticky. <drool>
It was pretty darned successful, and tasted pretty much the way I remembered. And also – super messy to make. But delicious. You’ve been warned.
* That’s the Western New Year, not the Chinese New Year mentioned in the title. The Year of the Monkey will end on Friday 27 January.
Since having kids I’m increasingly in the position of having way more in my pattern and fabric stash than I can possibly get through. I’m trying not to buy new things, but it’s tricky when the Knitting and Stitching show comes round each year and it’s just minutes from my house.
These trousers, however, are a triumph of sewing from the stash, as the pattern and fabric have been knocking about for ages. They weren’t originally intended for each other either. The fabric was purchased in Ipoh, Malaysia, probably about 10 years ago. It was intended for a suit, but when I tried to make said suit, I realised the pattern was for a slimmer version of me, so it just wasn’t going to work. It’s a lovely, drapey synthetic that washes well – perfect for a pair of work trousers.
I have had the Sewaholic Thurlow pattern for maybe 3-4 years. It has all the things I like in trousers – a slight boot cut, back welts, proper pockets. And it’s a nicely constructed pattern too. My only issue was that it sits a little low. But all in all, I’m pretty happy with these.
I made a muslin, which was a good move, as I ended up adding to the crotch curve to correct for a bit of tightness in the back. Otherwise, no adjustments were needed, not even to the length which is usually an issue for me. These took about 6 weeks to complete, doing 5-10 minutes a day when I could. Not sure I’ll make them again, but am happy to finally have this fabric out of the stash and into the closet.
When I was a teenager, I discovered a lovely green and blue plaid woolen dress in my mother’s closet. She’d made it when younger and said she was so sick of it by the time she finished making it (with all the pattern matching, etc to be done), that she didn’t wear it much. She was happy for me to have it and I wore it ALL THE TIME. I still have it, even though I haven’t been able to fit into it in decades, and though it’s a bit worse for wear, I still love it.
Back seam along invisible zipper
Perhaps this dress has a similar fate. It was finished sometime in 2014. I wore it once before becoming pregnant again, and so it languished in the closet until I returned to work earlier this year. This is my first ever attempt at matching plaids and, while Butterick 4386 isn’t the most complex pattern I could have chosen, it was still challenge enough to get everything lined up. In the end, I’m very pleased with the matching – the back on each side of the zipper lines up very well and the pockets are spot on. It’s an accomplished make, from fine medium weight wool fabric.
But it’s not a firm favourite in the wardrobe rotation yet, for two reasons. The first is easy to fix: I need to find better accompaniments – from the shoes to the tights and the shirt underneath. Currently, I’m stuck with white. And that brings me to reason number two – when I wear this with white tights, I feel like Alice in Wonderland has grown up and become a librarian. Maybe I’ve been in Britain so long I’ve internalised the distaste for white tights (even without fully understanding it). Or perhaps I just feel I can’t quite get away with white tights at my age. In any case, until I find a better complete ensemble, I think this lovely dress may stay closet-bound. Maybe my daughters will discover and rescue it in 10-15 years.
My daughter, like so many children her age, loves Frozen. So I really thought that a sweater with snowflakes on it would be right up her street. I was pleased when she came home, saw the finished product and said “I love this”. This love, however, did not translate into a desire to wear. This little item has stayed firmly in the drawer, despite numerous attempts to get her to wear it. To which she always says “Um, no”. Hence the name – because I have accepted there is a snowflake’s chance in hell that she’ll ever wear this thing. I have since taken it to nursery, to sit in her ‘extra clothes’ box, in the hopes that when she gets all her other clothes wet or covered mud and paint, she might actually wear it. If not, I’ll be once again pinning my hopes on her younger sister.
This would look better if I blocked it or ironed it, but since no one is going to wear it, what’s the point?
The pattern is the NORD vest (available to buy from Ravelry) and it knit up just fine. I did use this as a reason to learn to properly strand 2 colours of knitting and got pretty good at having wool wrapped in both hands. One hand/colour then knits continental and the other knits English (see this page on Carolyn Knits for a good example and explanation). And I think the finished product is nice – if only someone would wear it!
Kwik Sew 3113 is adorable and I couldn’t resist the challenge of making a ‘jean jacket’ for my pre-schooler. And I had just enough blue-green baby cord to make it work.
This is the first Kwik Sew pattern I’ve ever used, but I’m smitten. There were some very clever construction details, such as the in-seam pockets, and it was very clean and neat to put together. With the fake flat-felled seams, I didn’t need to finish many seam allowances at all, meaning this was a pretty quick make, all things considered.
More accuracy in cutting and construction would have given me a cleaner edge on the internal collar, but I got round this by binding the inner edge with cream bias binding. Not ideal, and still not as neat at the edges as I would like, but not too bad. I finished with some lovely floral printed wooden buttons, which just happened to match quite nicely.
My big mistake was lack of attention on the cuffs. As I was nearing the end, I was getting cocky and/or tired, and didn’t pay attention to which side the buttonhole (sewn and cut before adding the cuff to the sleeve) should go on. So I put the wrong cuff on the wrong sleeve and didn’t notice until all the top stitching had been done. I could have unpicked and tried again, but I couldn’t be bothered. So the button closes to the inside, to make the sleeve and cuff lie straight. On the plus side, the lovely button shows if you wear the sleeves open and folded up once.
I thought my daughter would love this when it was finished. Alas, she didn’t give it a second look and I had to cajole her into wearing it once for a fitting issue. She’s definitely not a baby that I can dress up in whatever I want any more! Never mind – perhaps her little sister will want it in a few years’ time.
For the birth of my second daughter, I intended to make a second baby blanket*. The idea was to make the Retro Baby Blanket and I purchased some great, hard wearing Red Heart wool (which I raved about for my West Wing shawl) to complete it. They had some fantastic bright neon colours that I thought would work great for a happy and bright baby blanket. But then I felt the Retro blanket might be too much, with all those bright colours and I noticed the designer, Little Doolally on Ravelry, had all kinds of nifty blankets to choose from. So we ended up with the Winifred Baby Blanket.
And what can I say except I absolutely love it? The wool is great, I love the colours, the pattern was easy but creates a beautiful pattern (and the ‘wrong’ side is just as cool as the right side, although different). It even ends with a lovely picot border. My only complaint is that weaving in all those ends was BORING. I did try a technique to crochet them into the start of the next row, which was mildly successful although tended to create some lumpy ends. But that’s it. It’s awesome.
* Our first daughter got the first baby blanket, which is lovely but not as cool as this one. Sorry honey!
I loved the pattern on the Oslo shawl and the challenge that the colourwork seemed to pose. Only when I started did I realise that that beautiful patterned colours are exceedingly easy to create. All the better, to be honest, as I only learned the easy way to carry colours towards the end of the project – mostly I was dropping one colour and picking up another every few stitches when required, which was time consuming. I was also wrapping strands, to avoid gaps, without realising that it was unnecessary if I was carrying the colours across the back of the work (stranding) instead of using discrete bobbins of colour (intarsia). Just goes to show there is still room to learn, even if you’ve been knitting for over a decade.
The wool is from Red Heart, a brand I hadn’t heard of until the last Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace. LoveKnitting.com had a big display and a special deal on Red Heart wool, so I stocked up for several projects. It’s lovely, easy stuff. Not the luxe and difficult to care for kind of lovely. Just the workhorse, sturdy but soft, affordable everyday kind of lovely – which I actually prefer in most cases.
I decided I wanted a bigger shawl, something that would properly cover my shoulders and upper back. So after consulting with the designer (who was lovely and helpful in her responses), I added 2 additional repeats of the main pattern. I calculated that this wouldn’t cause major problems for the border pattern and it didn’t. But I neglected to review and revise one section, meaning one part of the end pattern isn’t quite right on the increases around the point. It’s certainly something I could have fixed. But it’s also something I can live with.
So why the West Wing shawl? This project was started when I went on maternity leave and finished in the weeks just following the birth of my second daughter. I had several weeks of maternity leave prior to her birth, which I used wisely by knitting and binge watching The West Wing. I miss that program – but at least I have a nice shawl to keep me warm.