Completed: The love of my life

george-1Please let me introduce you to George, my last and greatest project of 2012. I should really say ours!

george-8

George was ‘completed’ at 6.02am on Saturday 22nd December at the Whittington hospital in London. His full name is George Thomas Bradfield and he was a sturdy 8 pounds and five ounces. He is just six days old today and he’s already stolen our hearts.

george-9

George was ten days late when a check up scan revealed my amniotic fluid had decreased dramatically.  A previous induction date set for the day before Christmas Eve was brought forward and I was admitted on the spot on the 21st instead. My waters were artificially broken (ouch ouch bloody ouch) and I was left to start labour naturally rather than using a prostaglandin gel to induce. My contractions started at around 4.30 that afternoon. Unfortunately my hopes of labouring in the birth centre were impossible since once they start interventions in your labour you go straight into the labour ward. No birthing pool for me. But gas and air helped…

labour

I laboured for about 5 hours with the contractions getting stronger and longer -averaging about 3 to 4 every ten minutes. But I just wasn’t dilating quickly enough – I was still at 2 centimetres at the end of the 5 hours.

The decision was made to give me a drip to bring up the force of the contractions and induce labour. An epidural was advised (I’d been using a birthing ball, gas and air and the sweet sounds of Marvin Gaye to get me to this point). I quote the midwife here: “you would have to be insane not to take an epidural before being induced my love”. Zoiks!

Epidural and drip duly administered at 10.30pm, I settled down for a long night of contractions and (by this time) old school west coast rap. By 5.30 am there was good news and bad news. I’d got up to 7 cms dilated – let’s hear it for the cervix – but I’d had about 4 bouts of really heavy scary bleeding (later confirmed as placental abruption). The docs decided to take it to the c section and literally within minutes I was holding Matt’s hands, looking into his eyes and whispering  ‘I love you’ (you know, just in case) as the surgeons got stuck in.

george-7

In what seemed like seconds there was a peculiar tugging sensation and then a cry! A baby’s cry. Jesus, words simply can’t express how you feel at this point. You can hear your child but you can’t see it yet and you don’t even know what sex it is. It’s delicious, thrilling, scary and amazing. Matt was asked to peek over and announce the sex and George officially entered the world. We got straight into skin to skin good times and headed up to the post natal ward to recover for the next couple of days.

george-5

There’s still so much more to tell about how we were discharged on Christmas Eve and readmitted on Christmas Day but that’s for another post I think. I hope you don’t mind me sharing all of this. It just feels so natural to tell it and important to mark it. We’re now at home having been released yesterday and we’re delighted to be here. We feel like a real little proper family and it’s wonderful. I couldn’t recommend it more!

george-4

I’m having an enforced baby moon which is basically two weeks of bed rest whilst my scar heals. It’s extremely painful occasionally and I need to speak to the midwife about it or at least get better painkillers. But I have everything else I need to hand. Crochet of course! Coronation Street on catch up, a family sized box of Maltesers and thousands of nappies. Oh yes…and this little charmer. Lush!

george-2As a footnote, but an important one, I just wanted to say what an amazing health system we have in this country. I’m a big advocate of the NHS and the people who work in it, and I felt important, cared for and supported throughout the whole process. From the midwives and their students who looked after us (Edna, Malin, Lorna and Alex) to the anesthetist who topped up my epidural before the surgery to the lovely breast feeding counsellor Dawn who lay on the floor to show me how to feed in bed rather than mess up my cot. Each and every one – totally brilliant. Makes me proud.

Why crocheting preserves your sanity…

I am playing the waiting game. It’s physically arduous, mentally exhausting and very very dull. I am now overdue by a week. But I have crochet to keep me on just the right side of crazy.

Crocheted baby bootees

This is my second pair of baby bootees, made from scraps of wool from the baby blanket, using a pattern from Cute and Easy Crocheted Baby Clothes. They took maybe two hours each at the most to knock up, with lots of breaks.

bootee-2I thought I’d hang them on the tree in anticipation of the new arrival. Check out this adorable little ornament my sister sent me too. What a keepsake. Thanks sis!

Baby's first Christmas

I’ve also picked out the colours and started work on my next granny square blanket. I’m using Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino yarn in Teal, Clotted Cream, Light Blue and Mink. Don’t you just love the sounds of those colours?

New granny square patternI’m using the Cornflower pattern from Granny Squares and adding an extra round of treble crochets to increase the size, as well as using a 4.5 hook instead of a 3.00. The overall effect is chunky and cosy, just right for a blankie.

Today I’ve got an appointment with my consultant and hopefully getting a ‘sweep’ which might move things along a bit more. Wish me luck!

Completed: Granny square baby blanket

Granny square baby blanket - finished!

Granny square baby blanket – finished!

I simply can’t believe I’ve managed to finish this before the baby arrives. This blanket has been a year and a half in the making you guys! It didn’t even start life as a baby blanket, just as a bunch of granny squares in pretty colours that allowed me to practice my new-found crochet skills, taught to me by my chum Bridie on a summer crafternoon.

Square and edging detail

Square and edging detail

It’s the simplest of granny square patterns ( I’ve included it at the end for anyone who’s just starting out too) but it uses the softest most gorgeous extra fine merino wool by MillaMia Sweden. At around £5 to £5.50 a ball, this blanket was not cheap to make! I’d estimate around 30 balls were used, making the materials alone an astonishing £150 or thereabouts (thankfully spread out over the course of a year)! Altogether 192 granny squares make up the finished blanket. I used approximately three more balls (plus a bit more grey) for the edging.

More edging detail

More edging detail

The edging was created by doing one round of double crochet in that lovely dusty pink to even off the sides and then one round of treble crochet in the same colour; then a round of treble crochet in ‘snow’, then the same in grey with a further final round of treble crochet clusters (seven into one stitch, miss two stitches, slipstitch, miss two stitches, repeat) to give that lovely scalloped edge.

See how big it is?

See how big it is?

This blanket has travelled the world with me too. It’s been to Ireland, to Paris, to Santorini, to Thailand and even to Laos!

On holiday in Laos and on the Eurostar to Paris

On holiday in Laos and on the Eurostar to Paris

I’d guess maybe upwards of 150 hours have been spent on it. It’s been a conversation starter, an anxiety reliever, a chilly afternoon warmer-upper and, when I discovered I was pregnant, it became a potential heirloom. A best friend and comforter for our son or daughter that will hopefully travel through their life with them.

It’s big enough to be doubled over as a sturdy cot or pram blanket but it also covers a single bed and is large enough to wrap up a overdue pregnant woman! Witness!

Overdue pregnant woman wrapped

Overdue pregnant woman – wrapped

I love this blanket so much. I’m almost heart broken to have finally finished it.

But I can’t wait to start a new one! I’m thinking a 400 square granny blanket to keep me and the husband warm in our dotage. It’ll probably take that long…

Here’s the granny square pattern. These are the same instructions I used to teach Mela how to crochet a granny square and she’s making great progress so hopefully they’ll work for you.

Handmade Style – questions update

So I’ve been going through all your suggestions for new questions to ask in the Handmade Style series. Blimey you are a nosey lot. I love it. You’re just like me. Given half the chance and an empty house you’d be rifling through drawers, rummaging through cupboards and pillaging the fridge (or is that just me?).

Anyway – loads of brill suggestions, some of which I’ve incorporated into the questions I send out to the lovely ladies who agree to be interrogated. However, as much as it guts me to say this, I can’t include them all. Because a) I want to keep the questions based around style rather than veering into sewing habits and b) I don’t want to overwhelm the willing participant with a zillion questions even though I RLYRLY want to know the answers.

So… I’ve included a new question about what comes first – fabric or pattern – in the creative process, which a lot of you were interested in. I’ve also amended the designer inspiration question to ask about high street stores that inspire handmade style (not all of us follow designers of course) and I’ve added a further question on forthcoming projects which was a genius suggestion. Finally, I added a question that came up a lot: whether our fave bloggers sew on a whim or to fill vital gaps in their wardrobe. I suspect it’s a mixture of both for most but I’d love to hear how people describe their decision-making process, don’t you?

But there were so many brill suggestions – it just shows that there are lots of opportunities for other sewing interview series – why not start one yourself? I’d love to see a series on sewing spaces as suggested by Vicki Kate – how awesome would that be? Heather Lou from Closet Case Files had a fantastic question on how our love of sewing translates into the rest of our lives e.g. baking, cooking, other crafts. I’d read a series based on that wouldn’t you? Sophie O intrigued me with her query on how women in temperate climates style up their outfits in real life. I think that’s a great question to ask around events such as Me Made May or Self Stitched September as we can see real life outfits in action then. Make it Give it had loads of ace questions around people’s journey into sewing and their motivations as well as delving into their guilty sewing secrets – now there’s two more great ideas for a new series right there.

So thank you very much for all your bright ideas and who knows – maybe someone will be inspired to create their own little nosey corner of the internet as a result?

Pregnancy update: We are overdue my friends, by about four days. This baby seems to be very happy inside where it’s warm and dry I think!

And the winners are…

Thank you everyone who entered in the giveaway to win the Elisalex dress or the Charlotte skirt from By Hand London. Wow – how popular was that? You guys really like this new indie pattern company don’t you? And with good reason too. So without further ado here are the winners, randomly selected by the husband…

Charlotte skirt

The Charlotte skirt was won by Pillows A-La-Mode who wanted to make one for each of her seven daughters-in-law. Blimey Pillows – that’s some undertaking! No excuses now…

Elisalex dress

The Elisalex dress was won by Hazel Mason who says she can never get enough vintage-style patterns.

If you guys could drop me an email with your postal addresses to stitchandwitter@gmail.com, I’ll get these patterns out to you as soon as possible.

Thanks again to By Hand London for generously providing the prizes – can’t wait to see versions of these fabulous patterns popping up. Psst – have you seen Rachel’s Charlotte skirt? Gorgeous!

My Handmade Style: Paunnet

From vintage chic to clean modern shapes, how do these seamstresses create and communicate their own unique style in their projects? What and who inspires them, from film and music to everyday life. And what’s their dream outfit?

Sigh. Who doesn’t love Anna from Paunnet‘s gorgeous makes, her beautiful blog photography and amazing attention to detail (plus her hilarious rundowns of Burda patterns every once in a while)? I caught up with her to find out more about her unique handmade style…

Anna from Paunnet

Anna, your makes are always absolutely stunning with the most gorgeous and judicious use of fabrics and pattern combinations. But how would you describe your particular handmade style? 

Thank you so much, Joanne! I find it very hard to define my own style, but the first word that comes to my mind is definitely girly. Until about three years ago, I lived in jeans and rarely wore skirts. One day, I decided to transition into a more feminine look and I challenged myself not to wear jeans or trousers for a week. I never turned back! Now I’m filling my wardrobe with skirts and dresses, I have much more fun with my outfits, I wear colours a lot more and I like to add a retro touch to my look whenever I can.

Where do you find your style inspiration and how do you channel that into your me-made wardrobe?

My inspiration can come from anywhere: sometimes a particular fabric “speaks” to me, a specific pattern starts the spark, other times I decide I just have to replicate something I’ve seen in a designer’s collection. I rarely lack inspiration to sew something new for me and I’m constantly sketching and taking notes before I forget, since I get distracted quite easily. The downside of this is that I don’t have the time to make everything I’d like, and it can get frustrating at times, because you have to pick your projects very carefully.

Who are your style icons and why?

I don’t think I have a proper style icon, I really like to look around and pick what I like here and there, sometimes from people who have very different styles. I use Pinterest a lot to collect outfits I like and people you can see in my boards are celebrities like Dita von Tease and Emma Stone, but most of my inspiration comes from my favourite style bloggers, such as calivintage, The Clothes Horse, Yesterday’s Sweetheart, Iris loves Fashion.

Are there any particular designers that you use for inspiration?

The inspiration folder on my computer is filled with images from the collections of Orla Kiely, Dear Creatures, Lazzari, Sessùn, tba. They all channel the girly vibe with a retro twist that I love so much.

Dear Creatures

Dear Creatures

If you had to select one self-stitched garment that really encapsulates your style – what would it be and why?

I’d say it’s my Apple Print Banksia dress: first of all, it’s a dress, the type of garment I sew and wear most. It features a peter pan collar, a cutesy print, it has pockets and it makes me happy just to look at it. A close, second place goes to my more recent Belladone dress. I love them equally :D

Paunnet's Apple Print Banksia Dress

Paunnet’s Apple Print Banksia Dress

Belladone dress

Belladone dress

Do you ever take risks and experiment with your look? What’s worked and what hasn’t?

I like to experiment with my hair and makeup, I’m not afraid to try new things and change it up often. I recently started to cut my own hair, which is quite scary at the beginning, but so empowering!

As far as clothes are concerned, I’m quite settled in my style, I’ve started to understand what works for me and what doesn’t, but I still like to try new things once in a while. This summer, I tried the high/low hem trend that was incredibly popular: in one case, it backfired. The second time around, instead, it went wonderfully!

Black and blue Roxanne dress

Black and blue Roxanne dress

There are certain looks some of us just can’t pull off… do you have a style bugbear?

Being quite short and curvy, I’ve always envied tall, slender girls who can wear oversized tops and skinny trousers and look amazing and effortless. I slowly and painfully learnt that this type of silhouette doesn’t work on me… anything that doesn’t give me definition at the waist and that doesn’t detract attention from my hips and derrière, I’d better avoid.

What would be your dream outfit, existing or otherwise?

I have a huge girl crush on an Italian style blogger, Ale of Rosaspina Vintage. I’d gladly steal anything from her closet, but if I ever get married, her wedding dress is the closest thing to perfection that I’ve ever imagined.

What other sewing bloggers would you recommend for great individual style?

When I’m asked to recommend other sewing blogs, three names always come to my mind: Nette, Mokosha and Mathilde. They are very different from each other, but I love each one of their individual styles. I also adore Roisin and Magali, every post of theirs is a treat for the eyes!

Thanks Anna! I love that you just decided one day to change your style, and did it so effortlessly! Oh and what a treasure trove of online stores and blogs to look through. That’s the afternoon gone then…

By gum – it’s a By Hand London giveaway!

I’ve long been a fan of Elisalex from Stitch Me Softly‘s style. Just check out her interview on this very blog for more details. A little bit boho, a little bit inner city and a lot of glam combines into one very unique look. And I know I’m not the only fan out there.

So when Elisalex announced months ago that she was launching By Hand London – a new independent pattern company – with her chum Charlotte, my heart soared. I couldn’t wait to see what they came up with and with the release of their first two patterns I couldn’t be more pleased.The Elisalex dress and the Charlotte skirt are sassy, sexy and sophisticated. I cannot WAIT to use these patterns post baby bump!

But that’s not all. By Hand London have not only very generously sent me a couple of patterns to try out next year (thanks guys – you rock), I also have another two to give away here! How exciting! Let’s take a closer look at each pattern.

Elisalex dress

The Elisalex dress features three variations of a princess-seamed bodice and box-pleated tulip skirt. It’s fully lined with a cinched in waist for extra definition. The instructions come in a separate booklet, are clear and concise with extra tips and golden rules scattered throughout and feature very clear graphics and a space for your own notes. It’s a multi sized pattern from size 2/6 (US/UK) to a 16/20.

Charlotte skirt

The Charlotte skirt is an absolute darling of a pencil skirt, featuring an optional peplum or hem ruffle (or both if you feel like being a touch dramatic). It’s marked as suitable for beginners. Even better, By Hand London will be starting a sewalong for the skirt in the New Year so your first make of 2013 couldn’t be easier! Again, it’s a multi sized pattern from size 2/6 (US/UK) to a 16/20.

To be in with a chance of winning one of these beautiful patterns, simply comment below letting me know which one you’d like to get your hands on and more importantly – why. The giveaway is open to international peeps and closes midday Sunday 9th December 2012 GMT. The two winners will be selected at random and announced here on the blog soon after (as long as we are not interrupted by an early visit from the stork!). Good luck!