Spring is everywhere out there, and it is beautiful. But the only little flower we really have eyes for at the moment is the one blossoming right here in front of us. Nearly three months: it seems an eternity and an instance all at once. I don’t want to forget a single second.
I am having so much fun knitting and stitching for this little one. I’m having so much fun saying “my girls” and “my boys”. I almost can’t get my head around the fact that I now have daughters – plural! Eleven years between them, but I can see so much of her big sister in little M. These girls are so feminine and dainty, and yet so strong and determined. I see that stubborn chin again, and blue eyes that seem to be looking inside you.
Little by little the quilt is coming together. When the baby is finally in her crib at night I snatch a bit of time and work on it whilst watching re-runs of ‘Fresh Fields’ on ITV Player (the 80s fashions, hammed-up acting and innocence of the whole thing really appeal to me right now. Pure escapism!) I am so enjoying those mindless (mindful?) rows upon rows of running stitch that I may have to make a cushion to match once the quilt is finished. There are a lot of leftover patches. I don’t know what happened there.
I had to get M’s Camilla sweater knitted and on her before she grew out of it. That pattern is so fun to knit; I’m sure there will be more of these. I love the yellow of the yarn. Lately I seem to be picking out that colour all over the place. Do you think it’s a Spring thing? I want to make this dress to go with the sweater. And a hundred other things. Like dolls and dolls clothes (I’m going to have a go at this). How cute is that book? My new bedtime / middle-of-the-night-whilst-feeding read, along with ‘Emily of New Moon’ which I am reading for the first time. I haven’t totally got into that one, although maybe I’ve just been reading too slowly. My favourite way to read is cover to cover as fast as possible. I used to spend whole days reading. Bundled up in bed, or on a lounge chair in the garden; only moving when hunger or thirst demanded and returning as soon as possible. It seems like another life, another me. I do remember I was sometimes bored. I never am now.
One day, one stitch, one word at a time.
This time around I am writing in this baby journal. Small moments recorded, slotted in between Nikki McClure’s beautiful paper cut illustrations. The pictures themselves soothe me. They are calm, meditative, peaceful; the things I am in my best moments, and long to be in my worst.
The little knitted dress began ages ago as a gift but was never finished. I nearly got rid of it countless times, but never quite could, and now I am so glad I didn’t. Now it will be for my own baby girl. (I used this pattern as a starting point but am making it a dress rather than a blouse). When I think about all the sewing and knitting I am going to get to do for her as she grows I get a bit overexcited. My family don’t get it, but they humour me. They’re nice that way.
Miss M has a dainty little head that isn’t quite big enough for the bonnet I knitted for her the evening before she arrived. I love this pattern so much, I can see myself making many more. Babies and bonnets? Surely one of the best combinations out there.
Here’s another attempt at pulling the crazy threads of our life right now together: a painting we will all contribute to. It’s about home, family, our dreams for the future. I want something solid that I can look at and remember who we all were in February 2015. I.A and I both drew clapboard houses next to each other in the woods. I hope that means that I.A wants to live close to me when he grows up. R drew lots of crazy lines very deliberately. I don’t know what those mean.
This girl. I find words slip through my fingers. Best just to sit beside her, as R does, one hand on her tiny head; protecting her, holding on to her in case she should slip away like a dream. E asks, “is she real?” It is what we are all thinking. What I thought in the moment of her birth as she was lifted up out of the water and my shaking hands held her close against me. Time stops when you meet your baby. Everything stops. For that instant, you get to know the incredible blessing of just simply being. Myself, I want to hold onto that, to stretch that absorbing in now out for as long as I can. Around me life forges ahead in that way it has, and I am whispering “no …. not yet”. In spite of weariness the night time hours with my tiny girl are precious. They are snatched from time; in the quiet as she nurses and opens and closes her hands, we are stealing time and claiming it as ours.
The irony is that as I try with all my might to hold back the tide, my now three year old is asserting that he is not a baby. And indeed he is not. Taller, chattier, more convinced than ever of the correctness of his own strongly held views. And, as of yesterday, without his long baby curls. This day comes around with each of them, and I dread and delight in it in equal measure. He saw his curls on the floor and gave a nanosecond to mourning their passing before moving on with his life. I am trying to do the same. And he does look cute.
Something happens to me when the end of a pregnancy draws close: I go from reluctantly-busy-but-would-far-rather-be-sitting-and-knitting-woman (or preferably asleep), to crazy-nesting-woman, overnight. Suddenly every corner has to be vacuumed, furniture has to be rearranged immediately, I cannot possibly countenance going to bed until every cushion is in its place and every pile of goodness-knows-what has been gone through and dealt with and returned to its rightful station. And I’m not even that big of a tidier normally. I like order, but mainly so that we can be creative in our home. I just feel that no-one really functions at their best without a feeling of space around them and some light coming through the windows.
But in those final days of pregnancy my brain, already quite full enough with mothering and homemaking and homeschooling and all those yarn and fabric plans that make life extra fun, goes into overdrive. This is productive, for sure, but it is also a little scary. My husband gives me funny looks and mentally adds up how many hours of sleep he is likely to get if the baby comes tonight. Children leap onto beds and sofas as the hoover sweeps beneath their feet, and miraculously find the impetus to finally put away that pile of lego heads before it gets sucked into oblivion. Just one more baby cardigan speeds onto the needles and a hat is simultaneously begun. Honestly, not all of this activity actually results in finished products. And it’s not that I believe that newborn babies expect all that much – quite the contrary (thank goodness!). But I think what it represents is a little bit of control in the face of what is, let’s face it, one of the most out-of-our-control events the human mind can contemplate.
Here are some finished crafty pieces from the past weeks:
I scrapped R’s stocking completely (it was still unfinished and, I realised, was just going nowhere as it was), and stitched him a new one. Inspired by his love of birds, and feeding my increasing love of hand embroidery with its peaceful meditative rhythm (perfect for those days when it gets dark at 4pm and the rain is beating against the windows), this one will – I hope – stand up to many Christmas mornings to come (it survived its first, so I’m hopeful):
It makes me smile to see how my taste has changed over the years. E’s stocking, the first I made eleven years ago (how is that possible? Oh, time …), is second from the left, and it’s been years since I made anything purple, knitted, sewn or otherwise. As I look around my house now there isn’t a hint of purple to be found. But back then, that was what I chose for my girl. The second stocking, on the far right, is so crazy busy it makes my eyes hurt now! And I hadn’t yet figured out how to attached the quilted front and back pieces together without either: binding (used in the first one), or overstitching (as featured in the second). By the time my third child was born I had that down, and all the colour was making way for a more vintage, gingham look (far left). But if you look closely (don’t!) you can see puckering around the foot because I hadn’t had much experience with clipping out v’s for shaping. It will be interesting to see where I am in just under a year’s time as I think about a stocking for this fifth baby.
Did I mention that we are looking forward to the arrival of our fifth little one in January? A Winter baby, so there is certainly knitting to be done. I’m not sure there are many things more precious than making things for the baby you are waiting to meet. But how have I ended up with only three months left to make those things in? Where on earth have the last six months gone? Slow down, time, please do. These days are to be savoured …
My children have all arrived early, but if this one decides to buck the trend we may just have a February baby. What better excuse did I need to have a go at E. Z’s February Baby Sweater? This one is full of mistakes (don’t look too closely!) but it is warm and squishy, and certainly big enough. The proportions are interesting! But do babies really care? Hardly. That’s one of the things that make them so much fun to knit for.
We’ve had a period of far-from-normality around here. Hospital visits and operations and new jobs and birthdays and generally being stretched out so thin that we have been in just-getting-through mode for what feels like far too long. But such is life; you do what you have to do. I’m hoping, however, that I can take some little steps in these three months to breathe more deeply and gently put back in place some of the things that make our little family world ours. Which for me means more time outside (and less in front of DVDs!), more reading aloud, more making. Generally slowing down.
With a blessed break in the rain this week, today I decided to shuffle things around a bit and find a corner outside for a mud pie kitchen for my little (and not so little) ones. It resulted in hours of play. And all the mess was outside! And what is more, the space freed up by the pieces of furniture we put out there has given us a little more of that most precious of commodities inside: space. Aaaaahh. Exhale.
Lately I’ve been feeling nostalgic for something, and it’s funny because it’s something I already have. Connection to the landscape I grew up in. Pathways I have trodden time after time after time. Places where I remember how I lay in the grass over there when I was ten and wrote a poem about the sounds I could hear, and how my friend and I turned the roots of that tree into a house for our flower fairy dolls. It’s just that when my life gets too crowded I lose touch with the simplicity of just being here beneath the branches and the sky and that being enough. Sometimes it takes me too long to remember just how long it has been since I sat and looked at that view. Or really listened to anything beyond my own thoughts.
I used to play in this stream. And now my children get to. When I was a teenager thinking I would obviously move miles and miles away from here and obviously spend all my time doing wild and exciting things, I think a tiny part of me wondered if that really was the best future for me. And lately, when my heart has been fragile and my mind has been struggling against worry and fear, I’ve felt so glad that I ended up back here. That I still get to dip my toes in that clear water and hear the bees and the distant lawnmowers, and be me, here, right now, still growing and changing but still part of all this all the same. I think God knew I still needed these blossoms and kissing gates. That my children did too.
Lately I’ve been spending as many stolen moments as I can right here. Catching up on much needed rest, on a few favourite reads, on the pleasure of enjoying a mango ice lolly in the dappled shade with the swing seat gently swaying and the birds the only thing to break the silence. Bliss.
I spent all of Sunday morning there. I’d hit a wall; my body was saying “you have got to stop!”. And this time, with the help of my dear husband, I did stop. We all know that parenthood is exhausting even as it is enjoyable, that a happy rested mother equals a happy family. But even so, with the best will in the world it isn’t easy to take time out. There are so many needs calling out for your time and attention. But as I get older I think perhaps I’m finally learning something about pausing to look after myself, and about slowing down when I can. Remembering to breathe deeply; take the opportunity for a walk whenever it can be taken – with or without the pushchair; eat foods that nourish and drink enough water; nap from time to time … you know the drill. It’s simple, but so often as women we let caring for ourselves slide further and further down the list.
Of course, after a while it’s nice to have a little company. I love being alone, but I don’t for a second want to be alone all the time! And two year olds do say the most excellent things. I reckon there’s room on here for two. Just as long as no-one tries to steal my ice lolly.
I’ve been meaning to get around to sharing this one with you for a couple of weeks now. It followed the same process as so many others: enthusiastic start; slow stretch; standstill; big kick up the (my) backside and stern talking to (self and garment); reluctantly pick up needles; suddenly find rhythm and then speed to the end. And pull over head of recipient before they have a chance to protest.
I’m especially happy about this one because I have finally managed to pull together the threads of my years of pattern/Elizabeth Zimmerman reading and figure out how to knit a bottom-up, in the round, hooded sweater without a pattern. And – the most exciting and surprising thing – make it actually fit someone. True, the arms are rather long in proportion to the body. But as a fellow knitter said to me when she saw it: “you can just knit a bit more onto the body later!” Now that’s my kind of thinking.
Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Knitting Without Tears is my best recommendation for getting your head around making a sweater without a pattern, that and a bit of good old fashioned recklessness. I mean, the beauty of knitting is that you can always unpick it and start again. I’m all for bending/breaking the rules when it comes to crafting. If you like it, that’s all that matters. Happy making! x