Baby knits

Today I’m sharing a couple of knitted projects that I’ve recently finished for our baby. Although I usually shy away from knitting clothes for babies, as they grow out of them so quickly, I couldn’t resist these lovely patterns. The first is a very cute jumper that I found on Ravelry. I couldn’t believe how easy it was! Simple garter stitch, knitted in a T-shape, with some casting off for the neckhole, and some more knitting in a reverse T-shape. You then simply fold it in half and sew it up. So great! I admit I have a thing for pom pom trim, so I added that to the hem to finish the jumper off, along with some heart-shaped elbow patches. SUPER CUTE.

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The second project was actually a request from Jim. Back in 2011, when on holiday in New York, we found an adorable child’s hat in the gift shop of the American Folk Art Museum. With thoughts of babies in the waaaay too distant future for us to even consider buying it, we left it in the shop. When we found out I was pregnant Jim immediately remembered it but alas, the shop no longer stocks it. So he set to work finding a similar pattern online. And he did! This actually only took me about a week to knit, and although it was slightly fiddly in places, it was pretty fun to make with all the different colours. It’s a great stash-buster, too. I really love how this hat turned out and can only imagine the cuteness when our baby is old enough to wear it! You can find the pattern for free here.

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Shop crush: Polka Dot Club

I’ve already talked about my love of discovering independent shops selling lovely baby wares, and next up on my new favourites list is Polka Dot Club, a dreamy venture run by a very talented lady named Jennifer Murphy, who clearly has a thing for old things.

A second-generation teddy bear maker, Jen takes toy-making seriously. As it says on the Polka Dot Club wesbite, “At the turn of the 20th century the finest teddy bears and stuffed animals were made with mohair, wool felt, and wood stuffing. Inspired by the longevity of its love worn predecessors, the PDC continues to use only natural fibers. We use mohair fur woven onto cotton backing, and improve on safety and feel with the inclusion of safety eyes and 100% cotton stuffing…These are bears that pay homage to the past but are wholly modern playthings for today. They are heirlooms for now and forever.”

After discovering Polka Dot Club on Instagram, I hot-footed it over to the website and immediately fell in love with their Big Bear, a gorgeous mohair two-tone panda with big eyes and a snazzy bow. We decided that this should be our baby’s first teddy, and within a few weeks he had arrived in our home. He is so handsome, in beige and black, with a pink PDC bow. He was bigger than I expected, and really so sturdy and well-made. I love the feel of the mohair, and know this little fella is going to get a lot of love and wear – and most importantly, last for many, many years of playtime. I love that Jen’s bears retain that lovely vintage feel, it’s such a charming (and rare) thing to find in new toys.

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As well as the adorable bears, Jen also makes bear head rattles, cuddle rabbits and even clothes for the smaller bears! Truly adorable. I’ll leave you with some of my favourites from the shop, and probably also a yearning to get yourself, or a loved one, a new (old) teddy. Sorry about that…

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Maternity style: 31 weeks

This week’s maternity outfit is brought to you by a delightfully girly hen do, which I went on over the weekend. You guys, we made floral crowns! I have been obsessed with floral crowns after doing research for our wedding, and making my own was loads of fun.

When I arrived home on Sunday and saw that it had snowed, I threw on this outfit and dragged Jim outside for a few pictures. I love the contrast between the pretty spring flowers in my hair and the melting snow. It reminds me that Spring will soon be on the way, along with our baby! I am seven months pregnant now, which is just…crazy. We are being very organised, though. We have a high chair (we opted for this one), and have been putting up shelves in the baby’s room – mainly to get all my craft books out of the way!

I’m still feeling really good at the moment, if more aware every day of my bump growing heavier. Although she’s growing fast, our baby is still quite the wriggler, entertaining us every evening with her rolls and kicks. I’ve started attending a birthing and relaxation class, which I think will be great at helping me stay calm as the weeks towards my due date tick away. Clothing is getting more tricky, which is why lately I’ve been leaning more towards dresses like this one, which are so easy and comfortable to wear with tights. I did recently treat myself to some wonderful polka dot print trousers, which I am looking forward to wearing in the Summer when galavanting around with Jim and the baby. Ahh, I do miss you, high-waisted trousers! See you soon, I hope.

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Wearing: vintage cardigan, Oxfam Originals | dress, Toast | boots, Sainsburys | lipstick, Topshop

A fresh crumb: banana bread

I was gifted Ruby Tandoh’s Crumb for Christmas, and it was a very welcome delight. During the winter I found myself in something of a baking rut, making the same few recipes again and again – which was fine, because it was the season for spicy gingerbread and yummy chocolate desserts! But it’s great to have a new source of inspiration. I was firmly on Team Ruby during Season 4 of ‘The Great British Bake Off’, and her first book is just as good as you might expect. So my new tactic for stymieing baking boredom is to work my way through my favourite recipes in Ruby’s book.

I’ve already made a list of what I want to bake, including soda bread, chocolate croissants, chocolate orange bourbons, butternut squash and mozzarella tarts, raspberry, whisky and oat cheesecake…be still my heart. But to begin the year, and for our first knitting session of 2015, I decided to start simple: with banana bread. As Ruby describes it, “Don’t be surprised if its sweet, deep banana scent draws you nose-first into the kitchen as it bakes”. She was right. Once it was done, I kept hoping it would taste as good as it smelled…and it really, really did.

Ruby’s recipe uses agave nectar and rum, but I didn’t have either of those, so I followed her suggestion for using caster sugar instead, and left out the rum. I think I may have overdone the loaf slightly, but that only gave it a nice crunchy crust, and any slightly darker areas were sweetened by the sugar glaze. This cake went down really well with my knitting pals, and what’s more, it was a breeze to put together. Easy, quick, delicious, heavenly-scented: definitely my kind of cake.

Banana bread
from Crumb by Rudy Tandoh

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Ingredients:
125g butter, softened
140g caster or light brown sugar
2 medium bananas, well mashed
2 tbsps rum or brandy (optional)
2 large eggs
190g plain flour
1½ tsps baking powder
1½ tsps ground cinnamon
4 cardamom pods, seeds only, crushed (optional)

For the glaze:
25ml water
100g icing sugar

– Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C. Grease and line a loaf tin with baking parchment.

– Cream the butter then stir in the sugar. Beat in the bananas and rum or brandy (if using), then the eggs and a couple of tablespoons of the flour. Don’t worry if it looks a little curdled at this stage. Combine the remaining flour with the baking powder, cinnamon and cardamom (if using) in a separate bowl, then add this to the wet mixture. Fold the ingredients together then stir lightly until fully combined.

– Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean (mine only needed around 30, so keep an eye on it). While the cake is in the oven, make the glaze: stir the water into the icing sugar, a teaspoonful at a time, until combined. Set aside.

– Once the cake is done, let it cool in its tin for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a plate or wire rack. Spoon the icing over the top of the cake while it’s still hot. The glaze will cover the top and run down the sides in thick rivulets, but will set to a cracked sugar glaze as the cake cools.

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Maternity style: 29 weeks

Happy 2015! I hope your Christmas was merry and bright, and the new year is treating you well so far. Our festive season was full of family, friends, food, and reflecting on how different next Christmas is going to be. My bump has grown again over the last few weeks, and I’m well and truly into the third trimester! My, time is flying. Our little one continues to move a LOT, picking bump party sessions at opportune moments such as midnight, 3am and 7am. Nice one, baby! As much as it keeps me awake, I love feeling her wriggling about and am grateful that she is so active. It also occurred to me lately that as much as we are excited about meeting our baby, I will miss carrying her around with me, my constant companion. I have been very lucky so far in that I’ve had a very easy pregnancy, and have enjoyed every minute of it.

Our Christmas decorations are down now, and we’ve entered 2015 determined to be organised. That has meant picking up our pram, washing baby clothes and even buying nappies! Our next job is sorting our spare room and getting everything neat for the baby – I will share a small nursery tour when we’re done.

This past weekend we took a walk in Erddig, our local National Trust property, and the setting for our our engagement photos (taken what seems like a lifetime ago now!). I finished knitting this cosy winter sweater just before Christmas, and teamed it with my comfiest maternity jeans and my favourite coat. Man, I love this coat. I spotted it in French Connection early last year, but the price tag put me off. Then I found it on eBay over the summer for a third of the price. Bargain! Although not strictly a maternity coat, its oversized style is perfect for accommodating my growing bump. Also, a splash of coral pink in the winter never hurt anyone.

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Wearing: coat, French Connection via eBay | blanket scarf, Accessorize | jumper, handknitted by me | jeans, Topshop | boots, Liberty for Doc Martens