Category Archives: In the family way

Introducing Elfbaby… the hat!

Five years ago I conceived a hat for my beloved Elfbaby. It would – of course – be a pixie-style hat, with a long point. It would have a garter stitch chevron border, to show off handpainted yarn and to allow plenty of stretch for growing heads. I planned to publish a pattern.

Elfbaby the first

Claudia modelling the Pumuckl border, in Cariad Newgale

I failed to do this.

I don’t really remember why. Normally it’s the photos that hold me back (I do have something of a track record with failing to publish patterns) but evidently, we had pics. All I can say is… baby. And business. I wasn’t at my most productive.

Since then, I’ve had another baby, had another go at the pattern (adding two different border options, because pretty!), and churned out a whole stinking heap of these hats – for samples, for gifts, for my kids, who love them but keep on losing them! Sometimes, tragically, before I manage to take a photo. As was the case with Max’s first Elfhat, which – in light denim-coloured Clan – was such a fine hat, a stranger stopped me  in the centre of Zurich to gush that it was a “Kunstwerk”. Oh well. I just made more; it was a great chance to test the different sizes.

Elf the second
Max modelling the Pixi border, in Lang Jawoll Magic

At this point pictures definitely were holding me up. I had a lovely sample of the Pippi border, worked in an intense purple yarn that Claudia loved, but it was impossible to photograph. And finding a chance to get my photographer and child models and myself together and in a suitable mood for a productive shoot was not so easy either. (Given that this whole group could also be described simply as “my family”, you wouldn’t think it would be so hard, but it was.)

Elf the Elder
Claudia modelling the Pippi border, in Claudia Handpainted Fingering

Enter lovely Lorna, a Twitter friend whose photos I’d particularly admired for ages. When she volunteered to test knit the pattern, I begged her to also contribute some pictures, which she generously did.

Elf the newest
Ronan modelling the Pixi border, in Regia My First Regia

Thank goodness for Lorna. With the help of her and her adorable baby – plus a few extra months in which I knit another passel of hats and had to keep giving them away, but finally managed to achieve a photographable Pippi sample – I finally have a pattern. It’s the first I’m offering for sale. It’s only five years late. I hope you like it.

PS. Enter the code ONLY5YEARS at Ravelry checkout to enjoy 50% off the price until the end of August!
ETA: Patricia pointed out in the comments that this code doesn’t work using the “buy now” button above – I’m sorry. However, if you want to buy and don’t have a Ravelry account, please email me; I’ll be happy to refund €2 on any full-price purchases while the promotion lasts.

Vive la difference?

As Max grows, there are a whole new set of comparisons to draw   against Claudia. The one giving us grey hairs right now is that, while she was a demanding infant but super-sweet, biddable, careful toddler, he’s… not. Well, sweet, yes, absolutely; he is still King of Cuddles, cheerful and affectionate and utterly delicious. But biddable? Careful? Ha. No, he’s the kid who wants what he wants, and will move heaven and earth (or at least a whole lot of furniture) to get it, without paying any heed to risks or warnings.

“Oh,” people love to comment, “he’s a BOY. Now you see the difference.”

You reckon? Hm. Okay. You may have a point. After all… he’s obsessed with anything with wheels. (Motorbikes get him particularly excited.) Also balls. Tractors! Machinery! BOY STUFF!

Then again…

He’s also way more into dolls and stuffed animals than Claudia was at this age. And less into building blocks.

He’s better at playing by himself. And while I’ve always been told boys would require a whole lot more time running around outside than girls, I simply haven’t seen any difference compared with Claudia at this age.

And the biddable thing? Well, my friend Pip has twins. E was a placid infant, while B was a shark baby, like Claudia: got to keep moving. Very demanding. Only started to enjoy life once he got mobile – like Claudia. But then became a super-sweet, eager to please toddler, whereas E would just do what E wanted to do, regardless.

They’re both boys. And for that matter, they’re twins. You can’t explain the difference away by gender, nor by first child/second child syndrome. They’re individuals, with individual personalities. It’s as simple as that. I’d really love it if people would apply that pretty obvious insight to my kids, also.

Especially because, as Terrence Real, who’s a couples’ therapist, says, when you take the whole range of human capabilities and qualities, and you say one half is masculine, and one half is feminine, and only boys can be masculine, and only girls can be feminine, then everybody loses, because you’re asking everyone to cut off and deny a part of their humanity.

(from this great interview with Judy Y Chu, who has studied boys’ behaviour in the early school years)

6 things. Yes, 6. Don’t get used to it.

1. I startled a deer on my run this morning. Which, considering that I really don’t go far for my run (today’s was about a 6.5km loop, but the thing is, it starts pretty much from my door – I don’t have to get myself to the forest to start running, I just run there), basically means we have deer in our back garden. Admittedly there are a bunch of other houses in that garden too. It’s a big garden. We’re very accommodating.

2. Elfling clearly misses having a (real) garden – even the hanky-sized bit of grass we used to call our own. She keeps asking things like, why don’t we have a mower? Because we don’t have any grass to mow. “But we could use the neighbours’ garden!” Ah. Ahaha. Please don’t offer, they might say yes.

3. With daddy at work this afternoon/evening, I took the kids on a little summer outing all by myself. Just a little bus ride to a castle, no big deal.


I researched it myself, figured out the public transport, spoke to people in German and everything. Go me! Only, poor little Dude got pretty stressed out at certain points, which did spoil the party a bit. Never mind: Elfling still got to go on her first ever pony ride. In a circle. Around and around. I’d say “what’s the point” but it’s basically a live action carousel, and she loves the carousel, so. There was also chocolate ice cream and a turquoise balloon, meaning all in all, she’d find it pretty hard to imagine a better day.


4. If Elfling tells you she’s tired, understand two things. (a) She is VERY tired indeed. (b) She is highly amused, and sharing the joke. “I’m tired! I’m sleepy!” Roars of laughter.

5. As of yesterday, we have a bedroom! WE HAVE A BEDROOM! Um, okay, so obviously we have technically had a bedroom all along. Did not suddenly achieve overnight extension. However, we now have a bedroom, with actual furniture, that we can sleep in. AND store clothing in! (Or will once the cupboard shelves and drawers are installed…) This is monumental and marvellous – as is my glorious super-king-size bed. It’s glorious even though it’s not very glorious at all, being a chipboard item from Ikea. I really didn’t expect that. I have a deepseated resistance to chipboard stuff, and while I respect and appreciate Ikea’s solid wood stuff, I find the whole notion of a chipboard bed… disturbing. Yet here we are. Not because it was cheap, but because it has Storage. Four huge drawers under the bed, and cunningest of all, shelves tucked into the headboard, thus obviating the need for nightstands, and saving both money and space. Turns out my fervent belief that one’s Bed is a sacred thing and should be solid and beautiful can be twisted into a fervent belief in the sacred beauty of Storage.

6. However. Having a bedroom has a dark side. The pre-bedroom was the dumping zone for all the stuff we couldn’t/wouldn’t deal with, and apparently, fostered the dangerous delusion that we were actually getting somewhere. Now, all that stuff has been stirred up and moved out of the bedroom into the study, and… it’s not pretty.

I feel like we’ve been sitting around the table strewn with plates picked almost clean, enjoying the post-feasting peace, and then I turn around and… there it is. A gutted but still pretty damn mammoth elephant carcass still on the spit.

Damn elephant.

Damn bedroom.


5 Things, with fun stuff to do

1. I’ve always maintained that haberdashers and hardware shops are basically the same thing – stuff for making and fixing. I’m pleased to note that Swiss retailers are similarly inclined. Migros (supermarket) has sewing essentials in the DIY section, and Coop Bau & Hobby is like Homebase with added felting/beading/painting stuff. No actual haberdashery, it’s true. But I feel their hearts are in the right place.

2. Dude loves having his nappy changed. I may have mentioned before how the changing table is at times his favourite place to relax. Now, new twist: he is highly amused by having his T-shirt taken off, giggling not just while I remove it, but even in anticipation. Adorable little freak.

3. Assembling joy! My Werkhaus organizer arrived yesterday and was unpacked today. Putting it together was a total treat and took me back to assembling little balsamwood doll furniture kits.


Elfling took one look at this and went to get her Lego.*Image

Fun for the whole family!


I like this item a lot. My “desk” is actually a dining table (Ikea Norden, I’m very fond of it, beautiful glossy pale wood – ignore the yellow light in this pic) and therefore drawer-less. This little thing does pretty much everything I want from drawers plus pen holder plus letter stand plus in-trays, in a lot less space. Admittedly, it would be great aesthetically (and psychologically) to have an unimpeded desk surface – but until I get rich and have a big studio with a big desk and manylots drawers, this is the awesomest.

4. Elfling likes to make up songs. Today she was prancing around singing to Max, very cheerfully, “We can visit our friends any time we like! Yes we can visit our friends any time we like! Except when they go awa-ay… and that is sa-ad… That is very sa-ad… The only people we know in Switzerland are Grosspapi and Grosi, yayay! Yay Grosspapi and Grosi!… Mama is the best person to look after us… but sometimes she has to go ou-out…”
Enough with the guilt trips, kid. (Ten and a half weeks to kindergarten.)

5. There was much awesomeness in the milk box** today. Turns out, being insufferably whiny about my tragically difficult move to this unbearably awful country didn’t get me slapped, it got me a present! Wow. Lovely Juliet sent me a care package with – get this – The Knitter, plus some Tosh Sock and Loft! She really knows how to spoil a person. Thank you so much, Juliet.


Nope. I’m not sharing.

* Yes, that’s a Lego Friends set and no, I haven’t changed my opinion. It was a birthday present.
** Swiss letterbox includes a “milk box” compartment underneath, for bulky items (like, say, milk, not that I think we can actually still get milk deliveries – I kind of miss that, we got lovely proper milk bottles in London).

Creative endeavours

It’s been a big week for me. Two projects have come to fruition… one, a small but I think rather lovely pattern has finally been published. So I finally get to show off the fabulous photos of my fabulous daughter.

IMG_5089 IMG_5039 IMG_5187


No false modesty here. Come on, she’s clearly awesome.

Also awesome: project number 2.

Introducing Maximilian Luc, born late on 11 January in a great rush, and taking it easy ever since.

I’d love to write much, much more, but this project is more of an ongoing thing and (funnily enough) taking up even more of my time since launch, so… later?

Break it to me gently, doc

I recently became aware of something that had really never occurred to me: there are times when it is almost as important to break good news gently, carefully, tactfully as it is for bad news.

Item 1: this great post from mimismartypants.

Item 2: my own phone call recently to a hospital department to check on some test results. Doesn’t matter what the test was, everything’s fine so yay, but I had been really worried about the whole thing for a few weeks. So I phone at the designated hour and give my details.

“Yes,” says the very efficient person on the other end, “the results are here and are normal.” Done and dusted.

And you know… that really wasn’t enough. It’s not that I needed any other information. It’s not that I needed cosseting and handholding. But with my head having been full of the “what ifs” for so long, it needed a bit of room to be made to receive the good news. It took a bit of work to make the logical connections: “normal” = good, so it’s a negative result, so I can be happy now? Is that okay? Are you sure?

I thought it was just me being silly, except when I reported the conversation to Armin, and he had much the same reaction as me. “Normal” wasn’t enough. It should be; it’s perfectly clear and unambiguous and logical; but we needed a bit more than that. Armin in fact, because he is Armin, felt quite strongly that Somebody Should Be Told that that’s not how to do things.

I’m not about to go Telling Somebody. But for the record, this, I think, is how it should be done:

“Yes,” says very efficient person, “the results are here and I’m happy to tell you that they are normal.”

Just a few extra words. So simple. But that little emotional cue would make all the difference.

It’s a weird thing to learn.


Just found, via this article on the campaign. I heart these women so much.

(If you’re thinking I’m mostly just blogging links these days, you’re right, and if you think it would be way more interesting if I took time to actually comment and add my own view on the linkage, you’re right again. But when I save things up “until I have time to write a proper post”, well, posts don’t happen. So quick links is what you get. Enjoy!)