Life With Yarn

On the needles

Christmas knitting is really getting going here this week. I cast on some socks for Eloise using the Dainty Anklets from Wendy B Johnson – I’m omitting the knitted on picot edging though. Both girls have been wearing socks to bed the last few nights so these will be for them to wear in bed. I’m using Rico Design Superba Poems which is in rainbow stripes (except green, don’t know why). I’m not being precious with the stripes, so Eloise’s first sock runs purple, orange, yellow, blue, purple whereas her second sock is so far pink, purple, pink so they don’t looked matched but she won’t care in the slightest. The yarn is ok, it reminds me of Noro Kureyon sock with the long repeats and the yarn is a little uneven at times with some rather thin bits. I know Noro can be quite divisive – it has big fans because of the colours but plenty of people who swear to never use it because of the bits in it and the thick/thin nature of the yarn. I quite like Noro – I love the colours and I love how it softens up with washing. The main problem I have with the Rico Superba is the splitting – it’s a single ply and is not tightly spun in places which means it’s splitting on me quite often. 

The pattern, on the other hand, is lovely – as Wendy B Johnson’s patterns are – plus with them being for Eloise, they are knitting up superquick. I’ve completed 1 sock and just turned the heel on the second so that’ll be finished in the next day or so.

I also cast on some Seamless Saloma slippers by Megan Williams (of the Stockinette Zombies podcast) in Cascade 220 in black for Duncan as part of his Christmas present. This is a great free pattern on Ravelry and what I love is that the finished object looks not like a slipper at all – you’ll see next week, as these are flying off the needles as well (handily because I don’t get a lot of knitting time when Duncan isn’t around at the moment).

Final new cast on of the week are some Barbie clothes for Zoe for Christmas. So far, just a skirt, but I’ve got patterns for a couple of dresses, tops and trousers as well so hopefully Barbie will have a better wardrobe come December 25th.

I still have Shipwreck on the needles but I doubt it’ll get much love before Christmas now.

Off the needles

My Austin hoodie is finally finished (well, apart from the ends being woven in). No pics just in case my sister is reading, but you can click on the link and see a couple of shots. They’re not great because the sweater is blocking and I can’t model it because it won’t fit me. The pattern was a little unclear at times but I do like it and I would make it again – although would probably make some more mods, including some sort of fastening. I used some undyed merino/silk blend that I bought on Ebay, so nothing named, but I loved it – I’ve have 2 skeins left and will probably get some more and dye up for a top for me. What I loved was how the yarn plumped up nicely when blocked so the whole thing looked more substantial. I did manage to finish it in time for the end of November and the end of NaKniSweMo – I definitely would still be knitting on it without that motivation

It just fell into my bag

It has been a bad week for my debit card this week, but I’d prefer to think of it as supporting small businesses. From Violet Green I picked up some Exmoor Bluefaced sock yarn for some socks for Duncan for Christmas which is a kind of grey/brown colour, quite paler than I expected – which is always the problem with yarn shopping online, the colour may not be quite the same on your monitor as it really is. Even this photo makes it look more grey than it is, but I could not get the colour right in any shot I took.

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As I was ordering from Violet Green, I also added some sock yarn for me in a lovely blue colour and some undyed sock yarn as well.

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I also picked up some sock yarn from Ring a Rosie a couple of weeks ago which I managed to photograph this week:

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I also had a major accident at the Posh Yarn update this weekend but as they’ve not arrived yet, they really can’t be counted in this week’s post. That was, however, my last spend before Christmas now – I have lots of gift knitting to finish and a sample due later this month – I’m currently waiting for the yarn to arrive – and lots of sweater quantities to be getting on with in the meantime.

Where’s my bookmark?

I’ve not had a lot of time for reading recently – I’m edging into slightly panicked Christmas mode now – but recently, I’ve read Buffy & Philosophy: Fear & trembling in Sunnydale which is a collection of essays examining Buffy the Vampire Slayer in terms of philosophy. It was a really interesting read, but made me want to sit down with some episodes and watch them again. Right now I’m reading Letters from London by Julian Barnes which is a collection of 15 essays he wrote for New Yorker magazine between 1990 and 1995. Many of them have a political focus and as it’s a time when I wasn’t all that interested in politics (or anything beyond music and my own life, I was 13 – 18 when they were written), it’s been an educational read for me.

On the needles

I’m getting to the end of my Austin Hoodie – just a few more increases on the hood before the short rows and grafting. It’ll need another block before it’s finished properly, but it is looking good. I’ve made some intentional mods – I haven’t done the ribbed cuff but instead did the woven stitch on the cuff which I really like. There are also unintentional mods where I thought the pattern meant one thing but actually it didn’t – so on the back ribbing section, I’ve done the garter stitch edging around the armholes because the pattern started by saying to do that one one side but not the other, so I at least made them even but I’m not sure it was really necessary. 

I also cast on a new project this week – the Shipwreck Shawl by Knitting Harpy. This has been in my Ravelry queue for a long time and after finishing my Mandala back in October, and tracking down the perfect yarn (at Woolfest) and beads, I am now ready to start it. I’m not planning on this being a quick knit. The first bit is – I’m into section 5 of 7 which sounds impressive but I’ve really only done 28 rounds so far and the final section is massive. But the final section also involves stringing beads onto yarn (will probably take a couple of days at least) and endless knit 2 together, yarn over to create the netting – this isn’t tricky but I know it will be mind numbing.

Off the needles

First up, something I finished a couple of weeks ago now – my Aniron

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This is a not great pic, but it is a pic of me in the top. I really love how it’s turned out and will be wearing it a fair bit I imagine.

This week I also finished knitting my Foundling Mitts by Julia Temiseva:

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These are fab, I’ve been wearing them loads already – for early morning typing, driving, etc. Actually, this blog has meant they were completely finished straight away – the knitting was easy enough but the bottom of the cuffs are buttoned and the button fastening calls for a crocheted loop. I don’t do crochet – I can just about manage a basic chain but the last time I had to crochet on an edge was for a dress I made for Zoe – the Beatrice dress. I struggled with the crochet so much that I did one bit and then put it aside and when it picked it up 18 months later it, of course, didn’t fit Zoe at all. I ended up doing a quick garter stitch edging and then sold it. So for me to manage to cast off the mitts, sew on a button and do the crochet chain in one evening is quite an accomplishment. I don’t know why I struggle with crochet so much, it may be that I need to sit down and just get on with learning it but, to be honest, there’s so much that I want to knit, that I really don’t see where the time would come from right now – I’d much rather be knitting. This, by the way, is also why my spinning is so slow – I want to learn how to spin lovely yarn but I also want to knit all the things.

Stalking

I’m still really on a sweater/top/cardigan kick – the Austin hoodie will be my 3rd clothing FO since the start of October. This makes me wonder if I could complete 12 in 12 months. If I continue like this, I could however there is also a good chance that once the warm weather returns, I could well never want to knit another sweater. But, for now, I’m going to try it – I want to make the Tink Tank next but what I really need to do is gift knits for my family. My girls want bed socks and I usually also knit my husband socks. In addition, on the (very long) list Zoe wrote to Santa, she included Barbie clothes, so I thought I could knit a few. I usually knit gifts for others (little things rather than requested jumpers/cardigans, etc) but I don’t think I’ll be doing that this year.

Christmas planning

Christmas is pretty much sneaking up on me, as much as a fixed date that is known can sneak up on someone. I keep thinking it’s ages away and then someone reminds that it’s not – a month today and it’ll be in full swing. We still need to buy lots of gifts, or even just have an idea for some people, so that will be on our to-do list next weekend when payday arrives. Our tree will go up next Sunday – I love spending a couple of hours doing this as a family. We don’t have a co-ordinated tree; our decorations are haphazard, randomly coloured and some are homemade (some by me, some by my girls) and I truly love this. Our first Christmas card arrived as I am writing this so it really isn’t long until I can legitimately put the Christmas cds in the car and play them constantly.

 

On the needles

Shortly after writing my last post, I found out about NaKniSweMo – National Knit a Sweater Month – which works along the same lines as NaNoWriMo – National Write a Novel in a Month – only instead of writing 50,000 words, it involves knitting 50,000 stitches which is an average adult sized sweater. As I needed pushing with my Austin Hoodie by Connie Chang Chinchio, I sat down and worked out the stitch count – approximately 55,000 which definitely qualifies. By moving the deadline to November 30th rather than mid December, I feel rather more inclined to get cracking on it and I’ve gone great guns on it since then. When I posted last time, I had done most of the stocking stitch portion of the body and had briefly paused for a new needle. By Thursday, I had finished the body and the cardigan was blocking (it needs to block before you add the sleeves): 

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Then, over the weekend, I’ve added one sleeve as well and started the short row shaping for the second sleeve. I’m definitely ahead for the month so hopefully this will be back blocking by next week – although I still have the hood to go and judging by the comments on many projects on Ravelry, this could be tricky because it’s not particularly clear or intuitive.

Also on the needles, I cast on the Foundling Mitts by Julia Temiseva which feature in What (Else) Would Madame Defarge Knit? published by Cooperative Press. It’s the first pattern I’ve cast on from the collection and I’m working them in Sublime Yarns Extra Fine Merino DK which is 100% merino wool. These are very quick – I finished the left hand last night and I should be finished the right one within a couple of days. These are going to be very useful over the coming months as when I’m not knitting, I spend a lot of time typing on the laptop, especially early in the morning, and my hands get a little chilly at times.

Off the needles

I finished my Aniron but I’m lacking in photos at the moment because the lighting has not been great and it’s pretty hard to take a photo of yourself wearing a top. It is, however, beautiful, and fits fantastically so I am very happy with it. I do have one photo though from last week’s off the needles – the simple cowl for Duncan’s walk to work:

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It just fell into my bag

I have been excessively good this week and bought nothing – although, to be fair, this is not for lack of trying. I had hoped to pick up some 4ply from Posh Yarns in their Saturday update. However, I was not quick enough and lost out, although this is not heartbreaking because it’s not like I need more yarn, it was just pretty.

So, no purchases, but I have been trying out my two new needles which I bought last week. I used my HiyaHiya sharps for a large portion of the Austin Hoodie and loved them – which definitely surprised me because I’ve struggled with metal needles in the past. I love the tips on these and knitting definitely seemed a little easier with them. For the sleeves, I switched to the Chiagoo circulars instead and whilst I don’t love the tips on these, I do love the join between the needle and the cable and I love the sturdiness of the cable. So if I could find a needle that had that cable and join but was as sharp as the HiyaHiya Sharp, that would definitely be my perfect needle. I think for now, I shall be sticking to the Knit Pro Symphonies for DPNs and long straight needles (should I ever use those again!) and most likely HiyaHiyas for circulars. I’m still not sold on getting interchangeables because of the lack of very small sizes, but we shall see.

On the needles

I’m still working on Aniron, although I’m definitely nearing the end. It’s a lovely pattern and the Louisa Harding’s Grace is knitting up really nicely – so soft and smooth, I’m very much looking forward to wearing it in the coming weeks.

This week, I also cast on the Austin Hoodie cardigan by Connie Chang Chinchio which is a Christmas present for one my sisters. I’m working this is in Yarn Undyed 75% Merino, 25% silk 4ply yarn. This is something I picked up from ebay a couple of months ago with this project in mind. My sister wanted a cream/natural coloured cardigan although there should be at least a skein of this left in my stash afterwards which I shall dye up at some point. It’s a nice yarn, smooth and easy to work with. I’m not massively far into it, still in the seemingly endless stocking stitch section. However, I had to take a break from it for a couple of days because of a needle breaking.

That’s all I’ve been working on this week – 2 large projects which has meant I definitely feel the need for a small project to be cast on soon.

 

Off the needles

I cast on and finished a manly cowl for my husband for the cold mornings. I frogged the black one I cast on last week because working with black yarn in not great lighting is quite tricky plus I had a feeling that it would take quite a while. So instead I used the leftover bulky yarn from the Owls sweater I made last month and whipped up a stocking stitch cowl with ribbed edges in a couple of days. I’m quite happy with this – stash busting and also happy husband has to be a win-win.

 

It just fell in my bag!

I really should stay away from the Posh Yarn update each week, but the colours are just so, so gorgeous that it’s hard to. I have managed to refrain from looking at it until Monday morning so if there’s anything I like left, then it was destined to be mine, clearly (plus the free postage on Monday definitely helps). This way also ensures a slight brightening to Monday mornings – and Wednesdays when it arrives at my house. So this Monday, I bought this:

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This is Olivia Lace in the colourway ‘A breath of wind like a gentle sigh’ and it is (of course) destined to be a laceweight cardigan at some point. If I actually manage to knit everything I’ve bought into everything I’ve planned, then I’m going to be spending a lot of time in laceweight cardigans next spring and summer.

I also picked up a copy of Knitscene Winter 2013 from WHSmiths this week. I don’t tend to buy a lot of knitting magazines and when I do, they are generally American ones. I rarely find anything really appealing in many magazines but especially UK ones. I’d much rather spend ages browsing patterns on Ravelry and seeing how other people have made it so I can get ideas for yarn, colours, modifications, et cetera. I picked up this particular issue because of the interview with Ruth Garcia Alcantud, the feature on tubular cast-ons and the number of sweater and cardigan patterns they have. I haven’t had much chance to do more than flick through yet though so nothing has been added to the (never-ending) queue yet.

The final bit of shopping I did this week was for new needles. As I said, my needle broke whilst working on the Austin Hoodie – the cable came away from the needle on my Knit Pro Symphonie circular which was very disappointing because I have really liked using this needle. When I started knitting again, I didn’t have lots of money or any real knowledge of anything (this was before I discovered Ravelry) and so I bought a cheap selection of bamboo circular needles on Ebay from China. I think I got 15 different sizes but I’ve probably used 6 or 7 at most. Until I knit Owls which calls for a 6.5mm needle, 5mm was the largest needle size I’d ever used. I tend to use the smaller needles for socks and laceweight items. These have lasted remarkably well considering their cheapness. But my now more experienced eyes and fingers can definitely tell the difference between them and the branded needles I’ve since used. 

So when my Knit Pro broke, I began contemplating interchangeable needles and spent a good couple of hours browsing the many different options. But the problem I came up against with pretty much every set was the sizes – most starter sets (pretty much all I can afford right now) include needles towards the larger end of my scale so if I bought one of these sets, I’d also need to buy extra needles to make it worthwhile and few of them go down as small as I use. So I decided that the best thing to do for now was to buy a new fixed circular and I used the opportunity to try something different. In the end I bought a Chiagoo Red and a HiyaHiya Sharp, both from Meadow Yarn who I would highly recommend for their speedy delivery and excellent service.

I admit I was slightly hesitant to buy either of these because I’ve used bamboo and wood for so long and much prefer them. I find the needle tips stickier so the yarn doesn’t go sliding off – very useful when you work with yarns containing silk for example, or you have to keep putting the knitting down to attend to small children. Both new needles are stainless steel but also well recommended, particularly the HiyaHiyas so I took this as a chance to do a bit of market research.

So far I’ve only used the HiyaHiyas and my fears of slippy needles, losing stitches and just generally working with steel needles anyway have been very unfounded. The join is smooth so the work just glides over it and the needle tips are not as slippy as feared – no dropped stitches yet! I also seemed to have picked up speed this week although whether that’s the needles or the desire to get through the stocking stitch section of this cardigan I don’t know.

I shall be trying the Chiagoo needle in the next week when I finish off my Aniron so I’m hoping they will be another good experience. 

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I recently took A Stitch in Time: Heirloom Knitting Skills by Rita Taylor out of the library. It was published earlier this year and is priced at £14.99. I’ve become very interested in the history of knitting recently and was looking for more information about the history of knitting and stitch patterns used.

After the introduction, the book is divided into sections focussing on different types of stitches and provides a little historical introduction to each section. There are also 12 patterns included which use some of the stitches in the book. The 6 sections are: textured stitches, twisted stitches, raised stitches, cable stitches, lace stitches and colourwork. The patterns are both written and charted.

There were some stitch patterns that I really liked and hadn’t really seen anywhere else before. However, some of the stitch patterns were worked in very dark wool – the lace and textured stitches in particular – and this made it a little tricky to get a really good idea for some of the stitches.

Overall, I really liked the history parts of the book but I felt a lot of the stitch patterns could be found elsewhere – such as in Barbara Walker’s books. The exception to these were some of the gansey patterns. I liked that the patterns included ideas for alternative stitch patterns.

I’m not sure I’d buy this brand new but certainly if I saw a 2nd hand copy at a reasonable price, I’d pick it up to add to my knitting library.

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The clocks have done back, the evenings are darker and the mornings that bit colder so my knitting is all about the upcoming festivities and keeping warm. 

On the needles

Aniron is still on my needles this week and had a bit of love – I’ve joined the shoulders and joined under the arms so I’m now working my way down the body. It’s quite a straightforward knit but it’s heading to the backburner so I can get on with some gift knitting.

My only other cast on – which I have literally just cast on before writing this post – is a straightforward cowl for my husband. The mornings have a slight chill to them at the moment, but nowhere near enough to justify a scarf, so he likes the idea of a cowl. I’m using some left over Debbie Bliss Rialto 4ply in black and just doing a rib edged stocking stitch cowl. Hopefully I won’t lose my mind with so much stocking stitch!

 

Off the needles

I finished my Ceres cowl earlier this week. It’s a lot bigger than the original pattern – it’s even bigger than I intended but I didn’t want to be left with yarn that would just sit there because it wasn’t enough for a new project but I couldn’t get any more of it. 

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The yarn has some lovely colours in it and one side of the cowl really works with the variegated yarn and breaks it up nicely. Strangely, and without any planning on my part, the other half has pooled into stripes. I like both effects so will be wearing it a lot over the coming weeks and months.

Today I also finished my Starry socks, which are my own design. I admit they had been languishing over the week and I hadn’t really planned to finish them this week, but one of my podcasts had been running a Socktober knit a long and so I decided to get them done to enter that. I completed the 2nd sock in a day and a half of knitting which I’m very happy with. The pattern is currently with some testers and I’m hoping to have it up for sale by mid November.

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It just fell into my bag!

No yarn shopping this week, I’ve been too busy working and having fun over the half term holidays. I do have a pic of last week’s yarn, although not the greatest shot:

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This is Miranda Lace in ‘Floorboards Creak in an empty house’. The photo shows blues and greens but there’s more greys, purples and maybe browns in it. It’s lovely anyway and destined to be a laceweight cardigan at some point, maybe when winter has passed and it starts to get a bit warmer.

 

Christmas planning

I know some people don’t like to think about Christmas until December, but I am not one of those people and I make no apologies for it. As far as I’m concerned, once Zoe’s birthday is over and done with in September, I can crack on with Christmas. This week I’ve been trying to come up with ideas for the many presents I need to buy. I also plan to cast on another cardigan – the Austin hoodie as mentioned before – for one of my sisters. I wound the yarn this week for it, a lovely undyed merino and silk mix. I had hoped to finish my Aniron first but a 4ply weight cardigan will not be quick and deadline trumps selfishness at this time of year. I’d rather wait on knitting for me and do the gifts early rather than still be knitting on Christmas eve like a crazy lady with fingers that hurt a lot. Other planned gifts include socks for my husband, possibly bed socks for the girls. Zoe has also shown a bit of interest in her Barbie doll for the first time in months and would like more clothes for her, so I am going to try and do some of those as well. I think that might be it for the knitted gifts. I plan to do some baking related gifts as well for people but those are very much unplanned right now. Our cake is baked though and I’ll be doing the Christmas pudding in November. Christmas works well in our house – I do the majority of the prep in the months before but my husband cooks dinner on the day which means I get to relax a little bit then. 

On the needles

I’ve been busy this week, taking advantage of some down time in my ‘normal’ work to get cracking with the knitting. I’ve cast on 2 new things and have been dividing my time unevenly between them and my cast on from last week. First up are my Starry socks which are my own design. I did a version of these over the summer but wasn’t entirely happy with them so I’ve modified the pattern a bit and am now in the process of recruiting test knitters (so if anyone is interested in testing knitting for me, please get in touch). I’ve finished one sock and have started the toe on the other.

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As well as working on these, I cast on Aniron by Luise O’Neill. For this, I’m using my newly acquired sale bargain of Louisa Harding’s Grace Handyed which is 50% merino, 50% silk. It is lovely to work with, so soft and handles being ripped out and reknit quite easily. This is handy because when I marked up the pattern for my size, I made a mistake and ended up knitting 8 rows before realising, so they had to be ripped back. I’m not very far into it – I’ve done the back shoulders and am now working on the upper back.

I’ve also cast on twice with Easy Knits Deeply Wicked which I bought at Woolfest in 2012. It’s been sat in my stash waiting for the right project and I decided upon a cowl. The first one I tried didn’t really suit the variegated nature of the colours so I finally chose Ceres Celebration cowl. I’ve made my slightly longer than the pattern calls for because as much as I’m currently loving cowls, I don’t like things too tight around my neck. This is a lovely, easy stitch pattern that really works with variegated yarn so I’m looking forward to finishing this and wearing it soon.

 

Off the needles

Only one thing off the needles this week, although it still needs a final finishing touch, but my Owls jumper by Kate Davies is finished. I can’t show pics in case my sister is reading this – she knows which pattern I’m doing but I want it to be a bit of a surprise. I still need to get buttons to sew on for the eyes but otherwise, it’s done. Once I had the new dpns, I finished it in 3 days – you’ve got to love bulky yarn for quick knitting. I’d definitely make this again – quick, no seaming, what could be better – and I’d definitely use the yarn, Rowan Cocoon again; it did shed quite a bit but it was lovely and soft and very wearable. I hope my sister likes it.

 

It just fell into my bag!

I’ve been a little too trigger happy with buying yarn in the last couple of weeks. Twice I’ve fallen for yarn in the Posh Yarn updates. The first two pics are actually from last week, I just hadn’t photographed them in time for last week’s post.Image

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The top picture is Posh Yarn Natasha Sock in ‘Last night I dreamed of our old house’ which is a gorgeous 50% camel/50% silk blend described as “dusky pink, sage, milky coffee, all with a silvery shimmer.” The bottom picture is Posh Yarn Harriet DK which is 100% wool in ‘You couldn’t possibly know’ which is a lovely dark blue. This is what I’m going to use to make the Tink Tank. I also bought some lace from this week’s update but it’s not photographed yet, so that’ll be in next week’s post – it’s an alpaca, cashmere, silk lace in a greyish colour and will be a cardigan at some point.

I also bought this:

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This is Trailing Clouds Mind the Gap self striping sock yarn. I’ve seen a couple of podcasters using this over the last month or so and so decided to get some. The colours are the colours of all the tube lines in London. These will be socks – possibly plain ones or I might just do a simple cable on them or something – with this yarn it is all about the stripes and too much of anything else will definitely detract from them.

Non-knitting related purchases have mainly been second hand books – I’m slowly gathering the Wallander series and found 4 very cheap last weekend, along with Nigel Slater’s first Kitchen Diaries. I should really be separated from my purse – I have more yarn than I can knit with right now (although not at what is known as SABLE quantities – stash acquired beyond life expectancy) and our bedroom floor is very close to disappearing under books – I think they may be the carpet of the room soon. It doesn’t help that my current read The Scramble for Africa by Thomas Pakenham is slow going – fascinating, educational and a great history of European involvement in Africa, but slow going nonetheless.

 

Family life

I realised the last time I did this, I forgot to mention the major excitement in our house last month – Zoe was awarded a Blue Peter badge. For those outside the UK or not familiar with it, Blue Peter is a show for 6-13 year olds which features a wide variety of things – crafts, recipes, presenter challenges, guests, et cetera, and they very much encourage the children to send in pictures, emails, questions, etc. I watched it as a child, as did my mother, and now Zoe does – she loves it and sent in her first picture in August – I photographed her drawing and emailed it in. We didn’t see it on the show but I explained that they get lots and lots of things and can’t show everything. I thought that was the end of it, so imagine our total surprise to receive the badge in the post one Saturday morning. I am, I admit, slightly jealous, I always wanted a badge myself, but of course I am also immensely proud that Zoe has one already.

 

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