Twisted Boulevard out in UK

Twisted Boulevard (featuring ME) now available from Amazon UK. (As far as I know this is the only UK online retailer; although your local indie bookshop ought to be able to order it in for you.)

(I still haven’t seen my contributor copy, but looking forward to reading it when I do.)

In other news, I have had a lovely weekend up in Manchester. Leon was particularly fond of this train, where by “particularly fond of” I mean “refused to get off until it stopped running for the day”. After that there were ducks, and vegan curry; an excellent day all round.

This week: lots of writing to be done. Story to edit for another forthcoming anthology; novel to work on; Linux Voice article to finish.

Garlic and snails

Busy times over here, with Leon starting to walk and lots of summer fun stuff happening.

I’ve harvested my garlic, and for the first time ever got a really decent crop (14 bulbs) which look like they’ll be very usable. Unfortunately I left it a week too late and the stalks are too dry to be plaited and hung to dry, so the bulbs are drying on a plate in the kitchen and being turned occasionally. I planted these garlics from a bulb (sold for eating) from the Co-op rather than buying proper seed garlic and they’re my best ever, and I’m not quite sure what to think! I’m debating whether I should save a bulb for next year (usually discouraged I think if you’ve planted supermarket seed?), buy another Co-op bulb next year, or buy a ‘proper’ one.

Depressingly, though, my grape vine has died altogether. It got heavily munched by snails/slugs, but when I wrote to the nursery they thought it would recover. Sadly not. I am probably going to try again next year, but in the meantime I need a plan of action for dealing with the slimey beasties.

I’ve also started work on my Permaculture Diploma, which is exciting. I’m using the Back Garden Project as one of my designs, so have been pulling posts together from that and writing up my analysis more formally. Other projects on the horizon include a mini greenhouse for the back garden, a plan for the balcony and the front porch, and very excitingly, a plan for my friends’ new allotment.

I’ve also been writing about mastitis with an older baby over at Natural Parents Network, for World Breastfeeding Week.

Up-cycled baby T-shirt

I have a stack of old T-shirts in my fabric box waiting to be turned into baby shirts (ones that are no longer fit for adult use but have enough good fabric in them to be worth chopping up), and this week made my first attempt, with an old Belle and Sebastian shirt. Lots of pictures after the cut.

Continue reading “Up-cycled baby T-shirt”

Knitting merrily along

I’ve just realised that while I blog occasionally about sewing, I virtually never blog about knitting, despite the fact that I always have at least one (usually more) projects on the go.

Leon, from behind, wearing mitred baby jacket and playing with something at a table

Leon wearing his jacket

Recently finished projects:

  • a mitred baby jacket for Leon’s Christmas, which used up lots of ends of sock yarn*;
  • a couple of spa cloths for my Mum’s Christmas;
  • [SECRET] (another Christmas present that still hasn’t reached its intended recipient);
  • and these socks for me, for the second time. (Pro tip: do not put your non-superwash expensive-handdyed-yarn socks into the washing machine with everything else. I now own a very nice pair of felted booties, suitable for Leon in a couple of years.)
My feet propped against a dark wood wardrobe, wearing blue knitted socks

My feet, this morning, with Jeeves Socks: The Return

The only thing I actually have on the needles right now is another [SECRET], but I’m about to cast on for a sock knit-a-long, about to start this gorgeous shawl for my sister-out-law for her wedding in December, and have a bag full of skeins of yarn to knit some samples (so I can decide on a yarn substitution) for the cardigan I want to knit for myself. Perhaps I’ll leave that last until I’ve finished at least one of the others…

Also, I am fed up of winding skeins into balls, and am about to splash out cash on a ballwinder, thus freeing up valuable time for knitting rather than winding (and untangling, which is what always happens when I DIY).

* Particularly good as I am attempting to destash**.
** Since deciding to destash, a further 7 skeins/balls/cones of yarn have mysteriously*** arrived in the stash.
*** I bought them.

Snowy plants

Four or five inches of snow on my raised beds earlier this week, but looks like the beans, peas, & garlic at least are trucking along under there. I got my tiny garden apprentice to help me take a look under the snow, although he did try to pull up one of the beans when we located them (they’re quite firmly rooted, so it didn’t work). Garlic shoots are visible in the bed in the background.

Then he tried eating the snow, face-first, before climbing right into the bed to play snow-plough.

Last week, before it snowed, we spent half an hour out in the garden with Leon pottering around investigating things (and, um, eating dirt) while I dug in the first half of the wooden edging for the western bed, along the fence. I’ve used a couple of nice solid 2″x4″ lengths of wood from the scrap pile, as I wanted something that will be easily visible when weeding or cutting the grass. I’ll add a photo next time I’m out there. The bed edges are looking good, but more enjoyable was the sense of pottering round the garden with Leon, undertaking our own projects alongside each other. More of that when the growing season starts, I hope.

Travel busy bag for a 10 month old

We travel by train quite a bit, and Leon is getting beyond the age where just waving my keys in front of him will distract him. Today I constructed a travel busy bag for him, with ideas from a couple of places online.

I made two quilted texture cards: one pieced from differently-textured scraps from my scrap box, the other from a curtain sample. One of them has buttons on one side, and a zip and a suspender clasp (it was kicking around in the bottom of my bits box & I thought he’d like it) on the other. The second has little scraps of fabric of different types sewn onto it, secured only at one end so they all flap like little tags.

Two quilted 'cards' with bits sewn onto them

The other side of the 'cards', one with buttons, one with fabric tags

My new headphones have a carrying bag, but I won’t use it, so I used it to hold a bunch of twisted metallic pipecleaners, and a small string of beads, in, for taking in & out & playing with. (Though he’ll need help with the bag.)

I threaded beads onto another pipecleaner, and a metal spring and split ring I found in my bits bag onto a second one.

Busy bag pieces all spread out

(The pencilcase to hold it all also came from my box of bits. The carabiner clasp visible there I ditched in the end.) I also tucked in a couple of bits of card, one for folding/playing with, and one with the names of a handful of nursery rhymes & songs written on, for those moments when my brain goes blank.

Small zippered bag, with pen-holders on the front

All zipped up and ready to go! When Leon’s a bit older, I could tuck a couple more bits of paper in, and a couple of pencils into the front pen-holder part. (And, of course, swap out a bunch of the activities for something else.) You can’t see in that photo, but there’s a piece of ribbon attached to the zipper, and most of the activities have a ribbon loop on them, so I can tie the ribbon through the loop while Leon’s playing with them, and hopefully spend less time fishing under the seat for something he’s dropped.

It was fun to make, came entirely of bits and bobs I had lying around, and didn’t take that long. Now we need to go somewhere to test it out!

From skirt to (baby) trousers

Another round of decluttering recently unearthed a skirt that I made for myself many years ago, but have never actually worn. After seeing two posts about upcycled baby trousers, one from a T-shirt and one from trousers, I thought I’d see if my skirt could become a pair of trousers for Leon.

I used an existing pair of cotton trousers to cut a pattern. As with the above posts, I cut them with the side seams on the existing side seam of the skirt, and the bottom hem on the skirt’s hem. No need to repeat work already done.

Baby trousers look very long from crotch to waistband, especially if (as here) you need to fit them over a cloth nappy.

denim material on desk, one leg of trousers cut and being used as pattern for second leg
First leg being used to cut out second leg.

Next, I pinned and sewed the front and back seams, and the crotch seam.

Pieces of trousers pinned together along front and back seam, ready to sew

Front and back seam sewn, trousers pinned together to sew crotch seam

They looked pretty good already at this stage. The beaded decoration was already on the old skirt (I’ll take it off if Leon gets too interested in it as I’m not sure how secure it is.)

Trousers turned right-way-out, waistband still unfinished. Dark stretchy denim with beaded decoration on front left leg

I pinned and sewed a waistband, with plenty of room to feed some elastic through.

Trousers inside out again, inch-thick waistband pinned ready to sew, with white pin marking for centre front

Note pin marking the place at the front of the trousers where I was going to leave a gap for the elastic to be fed in through.

Waistband of trousers, right way out, gathered with elastic threaded through, unfinished at front

Waistband sewn and elastic threaded through on a safety pin and pinned to what I thought was the right length.

Elasticated trousers aren’t that much of a fashion statement, but they’re the easiest to get on over a baby bottom, having as they do no fastenings to do up while the baby is trying to crawl away from you. I checked the tightness of the elastic on Leon, then cut the elastic, took a few stitches to hold the ends together, and hand-sewed the gap in the waistband shut.

Sleeping baby on bed, wearing new dark denim trousers and white/blue/green stripy top
Sleeping baby, new trousers!

I’m pleased with that bit of upcycling, which took maybe half an hour all in, and may be repeating it with a pair of worn-out trousers currently lurking in the fabric box.

Adventures in Parenting: food from the garden

It’s taken a looong time this year (possibly because of June’s dreadful weather), but finally I am regularly harvesting food from the garden*. Carrots (my first ever really decent carrot crop!), courgettes, little cherry tomatoes, chard, and the last of the garlic.

Simultaneously, L has started on solids, which is great fun. We’re doing baby-led weaning, so I’ve been putting slightly more effort into lunch (ie not just hummous sandwiches) then just giving L some of whatever I fancy eating. If possible, including at least a little of our back garden veg. Stir-fried chard, courgette, carrot, and a little garlic, with rice or rice noodles; a few halved cherry tomatoes or some rocket on the side; pasta with garden veggies in a tomato-y sauce; steamed veg with a baked potato.

L is a big fan of courgettes and carrots (most of it eventually ends up on the floor, and thence in the dog, but he grabs and sucks and gums with enthusiasm). The first time I gave him a cherry tomato, he pulled the most peculiar face and drummed his feet on the high chair, and I assumed he must not like it. But no; when it fell out and I put it back on the table, he grabbed with enthusiasm and shoved it straight back in, for another flapping-and-grimacing session. I guess tomatoes must be pretty intense (and home-grown fresh tomatoes even more so) after six months of breastmilk.

Seeing him starting to experiment with food has been fun; being able to share food that I grew with him has been fantastic.

It’s not that I want to be parenty-high-horse about it. L is also eating plenty of stuff I didn’t grow; and I don’t garden because I think it’s better for L, although I do want to reduce household food miles**, but because I love doing it. It’s one of the non-parent things I’ve tried to keep up while submerged in newborn parenting.

But I love growing food, and I love eating food I’ve grown, and I love being able to include L in that. Some of those plants I planted (or watered, or thinned) while carrying him in a sling over the last six months. I harvest them while he plays on the grass, and then we both eat them. It feels like the way I want my life to fit together, with the various parts of it feeding (ha!) into one another.

And then I blog about it, and the words join into the same pattern.

* There’s been salad all summer; but we haven’t eaten that much of it. I have to conclude that we just don’t eat much in the way of salad leaves, even nice ones, and intend to plant much less of that next year.
** Not that our tiny back garden meets more than a fraction of our food needs, although I’m trying to improve on that over time as I work out what’s best to grow.

Trike review: 4.5 months in

Some time ago, before L was born, we bought a Christiania cargo trike, which we used for the first time when he was about 5 wks old. How is it working out now he’s nearing 5 months?

It has been absolutely invaluable for middling-local trips: to the shops (a mile away), the library (ditto), the breastfeeding drop-in cafe (1.5 mi). All of these are walkable distances but a mile is a long way to go when you’re carrying a baby plus books/shopping, and have dodgy knees. It also makes the whole thing quicker, and it’s fantastic for putting lots of shopping in.

It’s also been great for going to swimming classes (about 3 miles), but for now that’s about the furthest we can go.

The main issue is bumpy roads. Understandably, L does not like the bumps (the trike doesn’t have suspension, and while his car seat is padded, it must still be a bit surprising to bump around in it), and it turns out that the roads round here are fairly bad. We now take bumps very slowly, and as long as he’s in a good mood, he copes with them.

Regardless of the bumps, though, his tolerance is limited. It definitely pays to feed him before setting off, and if he’s grumpy to start with or it’s late in the day, we’re more likely to have problems. I have done several roadside feeds, and walked home, pushing the trike, with L in the sling, a couple of times. (I’ve also cycled at walking-pace halfway along the Thames Path with a grizzling L in the sling, when he refused point blank to go back in and I got desperate and achey, on the way back from the Royal Festival Hall. I wouldn’t recommend this, but I don’t think it was seriously unsafe given the speed I was going at.) Having said that, he’s also fallen asleep in it a couple of times, and if put into it when already asleep, stays asleep quite reliably.

He prefers to have the hood down (so he can see whoever’s riding it), which is fine when it’s not raining, and even if only raining a little if I cover his legs with a blanket. It gets pretty hot in there with the hood down, too, which he doesn’t like. As a result, we leave the hood down unless it’s proper tipping it down.

From the point of view of the adult rider: it is still not a speed machine! And it’s moderately hard work. I’d like to get a better saddle, too. You get considerable attention when riding it, but almost all of it has been positive.

If you’re considering getting one, bear in mind that you do have to carry the baby when you get out. Not a problem for us as we use slings rather than a pushchair anyway, but I doubt you could get a pushchair in there (certainly not a suitable for < 6 months one). General conclusion: awesome and well worth the money, but we haven't been able to use it quite as much as I hoped in the early months (I was faintly hoping to be able to do the 8 mi down to my parents' house, rather than taking the train, for example, and right now that's not feasible). I am, however, hoping that L will tolerate it for longer as he gets older -- he's certainly getting steadily less bothered by the bumping around already. On the upside, I have a good excuse not to cycle a 35-kg bike + 7kg baby + carseat + misc bits and bobs any further than 3 miles down the road, which is perhaps a good way of building those cycling muscles back up.