My favourite Debbie Bliss baby pattern – cardigan with Fair Isle Yoke

Lovely Fair Isle cardigan (from Debbie Bliss: Baby Cashmerino, 2002)

I started this pattern trepidatiously as I wasn’t very happy with the first Fair Isle yoke pattern I tried (also by Debbie Bliss). But the picture in the book was alluring (see below) and the construction was different from before so I flung myself in with fingers, toes and everything else crossed.

Lovely Fair Isle cardigan (from Debbie Bliss: Baby Cashmerino, 2002)

And… I was so happy for the most lovely cardigan has resulted. It is such a clever pattern in so many ways and an absolute delight to produce. Most cunningly of all the Fair Isle band is just that – a band of pattern unhindered by decreasing which happens above and below the coloured strands and yet, with just one change to smaller needles in the middle row of the pattern, the whole yoke curves effortlessly round the shoulders and fits snuggly.  (You might notice that the picture from the knitting pattern shows the yoke stitches picked up in a way that shows the casting off stitches and mine doesn’t – both ways obviously work I just preferred not to have them showing.)

Baby modelling lovely Fair Isle cardigan (from Debbie Bliss: Baby Cashmerino, 2002)

Don’t you just love it when you follow a pattern doggedly and almost blindly, with no idea how the desired result is achieved and then boom you get to the end and it’s worked! Knitting alchemy!

Close up of yoke of brilliant Fair Isle cardigan (from Debbie Bliss: Baby Cashmerino, 2002)

I love this pattern so much and it has met with such approval that I’ve immediately started another one, making use of the fact that ANY Fair Isle pattern of 9 rows or less can be used as the decrease rows occur before and after these.  There’s also room for a simple 2 row band before the first decrease and after the last which gives the pattern more impact. I suspect the pattern could even be turned into a jumper – but then we decided a cardigan was so much easier for small babies. In spite of having more buttons than I shall ever use up in my life time (jars full of mother-of-pearl bought for me by daughter No 2 when working in Vietnam), I had come to London without any. A quick trip to Ray Stitch resulted in these lovely little pink buttons which probably work better, being less glossy and shouty, than mother-of-pearl.

Close up of back yoke of Fair Isle cardigan (from Debbie Bliss: Baby Cashmerino, 2002)

Meanwhile I am still looking enviously at Kate Davies’s book ‘Yoke’ which not only tells you about the origins of the different styles of yoke but also has patterns for 12 different stunning jumpers. I’m assured by my husband’s daughter-in-law that they’re not difficult to knit or to get the right fit as long as you get the measurements right.  But I don’t really want to knit one for an adult and I don’t think I could get my head round working out my own sizing for someone much smaller  unless or until I have made one for an adult first. Perhaps I’ll get in touch with Kate and ask her to do a range for babies.

Photograph from book showing Fair Isle cardigan (from Debbie Bliss: Baby Cashmerino, 2002)

I returned to Cheltenham just as the Literary Festival  was packing up and made a mental note to try not to be on nanny duty throughout its entire duration next year. Books have been very much on my mind during the last couple of years as possessions have surged from one part of the country to another and then off again. The family children’s library is now shelved in daughter No 1’s house, admittedly somewhat higgledy piggledy but fine tuning on that will come later. While away we’ve had a few more bookshelves made and this week I’ve been working my way through painting them, eager to have them finished and the rest of our books out of store.

Kate Davies invaluable book Yokes (Kate Davies Designs, 2014)

Part of me looks back to all the books we gave to charity (and the few we sold) with regret but another bit of me looks to the ones that remain with fingers itching to continue culling more of  those too. Coincidentally 2 articles in newspapers recently made me realise we had done the right thing. One described the months it took to go through the tangled mess of books in his late father’s rented Cotswold manor house. Another took us through the pain and indecision of reducing his dead father’s library to a manageable wallful (!) of shelving on which sat the books he wanted to keep. Both felt the burden of their fathers’ untidy largesse and were saddened by the guillotine they had to wield over the intellectual heritage of a close and loved relative.

Are these sleeves long enough? I’m only 5months and this is supposed to be 9-12 months. (Fair Isle cardigan rom Debbie Bliss: Baby Cashmerino, 2002)

Sometimes it seems book’s physicality trumps their content.  I did once ask one of my children if they would have my craft books when I’m either no longer here or should I have to move to somewhere much smaller. Now I think, get rid of them, cut the bits you like out and put them in a scrapbook. You may never want to look at the knitwear book by Jamie and Jessie Seaton – now of Toast fame – and it does indeed seem remarkable that such ill fitting brightly decorated knits should have enchanted so many. I can’t yet get rid of Jocasta Innes’s Paint Magic, but that’s no reason why someone else shouldn’t (good pics for the scrapbook there). Few even know who Jocasta Innes was – especially when her fame has been eclipsed by her daughter Daisy Godwin who is riding high as the muse behind ITV’s series Victoria. Use them or lose them, to paraphrase the urging of rugby coaches. But from now on I must try harder to not buy so many…

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Glorious patchwork

Patchwork of squares and hexagns

Some people are never seen without pen or pencil in their hands – or if you’re the vicar it’s a whole assortment of writing implements both in hand and spilling out of an overful shirt pocket. For other people permanent attachment comes in the form of  a can of Diet Coke, a glass of wine or a cigarette (though less and less with the cigarette nowadays, thank goodness). My children are permanently attached to their mobile phones – to the extent that they have few clocks in their houses and 3 out of 4 wear no watch. With me my particular passion attaches me to a needle (or needles since I took up knitting) and I am frequently  quilted with a bosom full of pins as well. I expected no inheritance of this acquired characteristic so I have been delighted that at least 2 of my 4 children have come to enjoy needlework almost as much as I do (I suspect daughter No 1 may also quite like it too but it’s not a priority for her right now.)

Detail of patchwork of squares and hexagons

Daughter No 3 is making the patchwork shown here into a computer case for daughter No 2 (at present working in Erbil in Iraq and likely to stay there for sometime since the Kurd’s recent vote for independence has panicked the government into closing the airport until the 29th of December). Daughter No 2 is meanwhile working on a quilt for granddaughter No 1, her new niece but we have seen no pictures of this. Where quilts are concerned I’m a bit of a purist. I like to see them on beds or on walls. This smallish patchwork has hooked me – eyes and brain rove rapidly over it seeking connections among the chopped up patterns of fabrics held within a not always visible grid. I’d really prefer to see it on a wall, looking at it is so soothing, almost meditative. But as it’s not mine to give I’ll content myself with photographs.

Detail of patchwork of squares and hexagons

To celebrate the last day of daughter No 1’s maternity leave, four of us (daughters 1 & 3 and youngling No 2) went to Ottolenghi’s Islington eaterie for lunch (jewel bright salads, in fact something of edible patchwork delighting sight, smell, taste – and even touch if you’re  5 months old and curious with it).  The restaurant is very good about babies – there was already one horizontal in a pram as we entered and another came in just behind us. If you’re early and it’s not madly busy they’ll always find you an end of table where a pram or buggy  can be near but not causing an obstruction. Our baby was delighted with a new social milieu; she spent the meal upright, out of the buggy, busy about her self-appointed task of catching people’s eyes and flirting wherever possible. One woman, dining alone nearby was particularly smiley. I had taken out some hand sewing and as she left she chatted about the joy of making things. Her family were great makers too, in fact, she said, her daughter had a shop nearby selling wools and such like, we might have heard of it. Did we know Loop?! ! We asked her where she lived. “Manhattan … no, I mean Muswell Hill. I haven’t lived in Manhattan for  16 years!”  A brief and delightful encounter –  yeast in the bread of urban living.

Detail of patchwork of squares and hexagons

An old fashioned English patchwork done on papers, left over Liberty fabrics are mixed in with bits of her father’s old shirts, several Vietnamese fabrics and the odd piece of Japanese fabric from Berwick Street.

Slightly wonky photo of bound quilt

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