Thursday, 3 April 2014

Maternity Clothes - Part 1

One of my little gripes when I was pregnant for the very first time was not knowing what I needed in the way of maternity clothes.  I knew I'd need them of course - but I had no idea what size I'd grow to be and what size I should be buying.  I had no idea when I'd need them and how much use I'd get out of them - but I knew for certain that I didn't want to spend more money than I needed to!

If you are finding yourself in this position, then this series of articles are for you!  In it I go through my experience with maternity clothes in the hope that it will help you make the best decision.  There are many different experiences with maternity clothes - when your baby is due and what the weather will be like when you are growing will have a big impact on your choices.  If you have anything else you think would be of help to other women out there then please feel free to share your Splendid knowledge at the end of this article.

Maternity Bras (~8 weeks)

By 8 weeks I was already favoring bras softer bras with less padding and therefore a bit more room over those without.  I was still making do with what I had but knew it wouldn't last for long.  But I was very unsure about what to do.  Exactly how big would I become? Maternity bras are expensive right?  Do I really want to have to buy several different sizes of maternity bras? I couldn't help but think that second time mums are lucky they know exactly what is going to happen!

What put me into action was my 8 week appointment with my obstetrician.  She told me it was now time to stop wearing underwire bras to prevent mastitis.  All my bras had underwire so that meant it was time to go shopping.  She also told me it was never too early to get a maternity fitting.  Up until then I thought maternity bras were just for breast feeding women and assumed I'd just get some under-wire free bras in bigger sizes until the baby was born.

To be honest - a bra fitting put me off.  They are only offered in stores where the bras are expensive and I'd never had one in my life.  I didn't particularly feel like starting now.  I was also still in the "I don't really feel pregnant and I'm not yet past the 12 week safe mark" stage.  So I avoided that route and went to my local Kmart to see what their options were.  To my great surprise I found that they had wireless maternity bras for between $8 and $10.  Bargain!  At that price I was happy to get a few and happy to come back if I needed a larger size in the future.   I tried on an array of sizes.  I found one that fit perfectly now - and then tried the next two cup sizes up as well.  2 cup sizes up felt like an apron and so I knew that wasn't an option for now. 1 cup size up felt fine so I went with that with the logic being that I would have a bit more growing room. Even if I didn't grow any more, I had read that when your milk comes in you do grow even more so I figured that cup size could potentially be perfect for then.

Once I got the bras home and washed and wore them, I found that they were perhaps a bit too big and creased a little bit underneath, but they still felt supportive and not too big.  These maternity bras reminded me a bit of teenage bras - triangular shaped with little structure so they are more forgiving than your normal under-wire structured bra that either fits or doesn't.  So you do have a bit more freedom in choosing sizes and getting away with one that is "too big".

Maternity Work Pants (~13 weeks)

One of the things that shocked me the most was how early I thought I started to show.  I thought that everyone at work MUST know that I was pregnant.  It turned out that they didn't - I had a desk job and most of the time my figure was tucked away behind a computer.  But I knew I was changing.  I knew only the fat pants were fitting and getting tight even though I wasn't yet 12 weeks.  I very much thought that you wouldn't show at all before 12 weeks with your first pregnancy - and even then you would have a bit of leeway in not needing to tell anyone until some time after that.  But in my experience, by 13 weeks, my fat work pants had thrown in the towel!  On the weekend of my 13th week, I wore my work pants out as I wanted something a little more dressier than stretchy gym pants.  All my other dressy pants had already stopped fitting.  But even my fat work pants were feeling tight and constrictive.  I straight away said that this was no good and headed straight to the nearest variety store to buy a pair of maternity work pants.  

At the beginning of April I was right on the season changeover period.  I'd been monitoring the shops in the weeks leading up and they still had Summer stock only.  But I was in luck - there were now long work pants.  I tried a couple of pairs on and it was clear which size I needed to purchase.  If I needed a larger pair in the future that would have to wait.  The relief was fantastic.  The maternity pants felt soooo comfortable that I told everyone they should be wearing them normally!  And for $25 it was well worth the investment!

Maternity tops (~17 weeks)

What you realize quickly is that stretch fabric is your new best friend.  Items made out of stretchy material will still be doing the job for you when you have already put non-stretch shirts and pants to the back of your wardrobe.  But by 17 weeks I started to find that my baby bump - even though it was comfy - was starting to show under my normal t-shirts. So if you aren't a fan of the bare belly look, then you will be needing to look for maternity tops from around now to give you the extra length to get over your baby bump. 

Baby Daddy's Clothes (anytime!)

Jump on "The Boyfriend" look craze and raid your husband or partner's wardrobe.  This can be done ANY time.  Men have a lot of stretch material items in their closets - super comfy and big enough to get around your bump.  Ideal for lounging around in on the weekends or when you run out of your limited supply of maternity clothes.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Preparing for Birth and Children with Free Online Subjects

Open Universities is well known in Australia for providing distance education.  May years ago they provided content via the television in the early hours of the morning on the public broadcast channels.  But with the age of the internet their delivery mechanism has modernized to use the internet.

As a promotional tool, they have free classes in many topics that you can enroll in.  It is on a separate website called Open2Study.  If you are planning, or already have a Splendid Family, then two of their free classes will be of particular interest to you.

The "Midwifery" class from the Open2Study website


The "Early Childhood Education" class from the Open2Study website

Despite being based in Australia, there is no restriction on who can enroll.  I've enrolled in both of these classes myself to get a heads-up on giving birth and the development of children and the other students come from all over the world - India, China, USA, Colombia are a few countries that students are from studying these classes.

The "Early Childhood Education" class website from Open2Study


The classes started on the 17th of February, 2014 but you can still enroll.  They include videos covering content, pop quizzes and assessment at the end of each module that is a multiple choice quiz.  You can watch the videos at your own pace and the course finishes up on the 18th of March, 2014.  No doubt new classes will start after those dates if you miss out on the classes this time.

You can't get any credit for the classes, but my experience of them so far is that they are very professional. And if you were toying with the idea of doing some more study, its a great way to dip your toes back into study if your memories of study are distant and you are a bit nervous - it doesn't cost a thing and failure to complete a class or pass wont go on your academic record!

To enroll in these or other classes, go to https://www.open2study.com/

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Doctor Who Scarf Inspired Sweater

Doctor Who inspired items seem to be quite popular so I'm really excited to share with you my latest Doctor Who inspired item - the Doctor Who Scarf Inspired Sweater!

Doctor Who Scarf Inspired Sweater
It is always a slippery slope - once you start knitting or crocheting something you start getting ideas for what you could do with that left-over yarn.  Then before you know it you are buying extra yarn in order to make all those projects!  And this is exactly where the Doctor Who Scarf Inspired Sweater has come from! After having made a replica Doctor Who scarf  for the resident Whovian in My Splendid Family, and then some cushions for the couch out of the leftovers (see the lovely cushions below or read more about them at http://www.mysplendidfamily.com/2013/07/dr-who-scarf-inspired-cushion-cover.html) a sweater was the next request.

Cushions inspired by the Doctor Who Scarf  - http://www.mysplendidfamily.com/2013/07/dr-who-scarf-inspired-cushion-cover.html
If you would like to make your own Doctor Who Scarf Inspired Sweater, I've put the instructions below. As with the cushions, the choice of yarn is all thanks to wittylittleknitter.com.  The scarf pattern is from season 12 and I chosen a section of the scarf that I think showcases all the colours in proportions nice for a sweater.  I have used Vanna's Choice as the yarn as I was making sure wool allergies would not stop the sweater from being worn but wittylittleknitter.com has other options for yarn you may wish to consider.  I've chosen a free Lion Brand pattern called "Custom Classic Pullover" that is plain pattern available in large sizes (up to 3XL - many patterns don't include sizes above XL) and has a V-neck as my Whovian is not a fan of sweaters that are tight around the neck. You will need to register with lion brand for access to the pattern.

As the scarf is knitted in a different stitch to the sweater, and as I had to use smaller needles than the ones I used for the scarf in order to achieve the right guage, I measured the sections on the Doctor Who scarf I made and have translated those measurements into the number of rows of stocking stitch that you will find in the instructions below.  I measured the scarf when it was lying on a flat surface and sitting naturally and not stretched out.  The scarf is very stretchy so it is difficult to be exact, but due to the nature of the scarf you will never get a perfect match - the minute you put the scarf on the dimensions change due to the weight of the scarf pulling on itself.  But with this approach to measuring the different sections should be fairly consistent relative to each other.
  • Pattern - http://www.lionbrand.com/patterns/60057.html?noImages=
  • Needles - 3.mm circular (for the neck) and straight needles.  I found I could just squeeze all the stitches on needles that were 35 cm in length.  I'm not a big fan of circular needles so that was my preferred way of working - but you could get away with just the circular needles if you enjoy using them.
  • Vanna’ Choice Yarn in the following colours and quantities (see my note below on yarn choice) for size 2XL and under.
    • Beige – 3 balls
    • Olive – 2 balls
    • Charcoal – 2 balls
    • Toffee – 2 balls
    • Brick – 1 ball
    • Burgundy – 1 balls
    • Mustard – 1 ball
The following is a list of the number of rows that you should knit in each colour for a 2XL sweater.  You will need to follow the pattern and use this as a guide as to when to change colours.  Smaller sweaters may not exhaust this listing and larger sweaters should continue on with olive until they have finished the pattern as the olive colour in the scarf continues further than it does in this sweater.

  1. Charcoal - Cast on then 4 rows
  2. Beige - 6 rows
  3. Toffee - 31 rows (6 rib, 25 stocking stitch)
  4. Burgundy - 7 rows
  5. Brick - 14 rows
  6. Mustard - 5 rows
  7. Charcoal - 10 rows
  8. Olive - 17 rows
  9. Burgundy - 5 rows
  10. Beige - 44 rows
  11. Brick - 6 rows
  12. Charcoal - 14 rows
  13. Mustard - 6 rows
  14. Olive -33 rows then cast off
Then for the neck band ..
  1. Beige - Pick and knit then 3 rows
  2. Charcoal - 4 rows then cast off

Sunday, 19 January 2014

All Yarn is Not Created Equal

Not too long ago, the crochet/knitting pattern you would have used would have come from a magazine from your country - or from some books sold alongside the yarn at your favorite yarn store - or from a book from a bookstore in your country.  All of these sources would have quoted locally available yarns - and chances are you would have purchased that exact same yarn.

These days with the internet and online purchasing of books and patterns, you are constantly thrown into the situation where the pattern you have found uses a yarn that isn't a local yarn.  There are a few things you can do in this situation.  If you believe the yarn is crucial to the success of your project (due to colour or texture), then you can order the yarn from overseas.  For example, in My Splendid Family we have a huge Doctor Who fan that wanted a scarf made like the one that his favorite Doctor Who actor wore. I found some instructions for the scarf that included several options for overseas yarns that had been matched as closely as possible to the original scarf from the 70s.  The scarf used some very quintessential 70s colours that I knew would be near impossible to match with local yarns.  So to me, any extra overseas postage costs were worth it as all the hard work had been done.  If you do this, you may want to think about ordering an extra ball than required - if you run out of yarn, the postage costs of $20 may make that last ball of yarn very expensive!  It may be cheaper to buy up just in case and have some yarn that you will no doubt come up with a use for one day!

In cases where you don't believe yarn is crucial for success, then a local yarn can do just as well.  The problem you run into here is that each part of the world likes to describe yarn differently.  So if your pattern specifies DK yarn, you would need to translate this into 8-ply yarn if you live in the UK and then find that yarn in your stash or at your favorite yarn store.  And of course knitting a gauge swatch will help fine tune any problems that may arise from your choice of a different yarn.

The characteristics of the yarn can affect the size of your project.  Here are two booties made with 8-ply acrylic yarn.  The one on the left used standard yarn and the one on the right used "soft" acrylic yarn.

Simple right?  Wrong!  Over the weekend I started to crochet my first pair of booties.  I happened to have some white 8-ply acrylic yarn in my stash which the pattern called for.  Not knowing the sex of the baby, it seemed like a reasonable thing to use - at least for a practice run even though instinct said it was probably a bit too scratchy for a baby item.  What I didn't expect was how big the bootie  would turn out!  I seriously thought I had gone wrong somewhere!  But not at all!  The next time I was at the shops, I bought the "soft" 8-ply version of white acrylic from the exact same brand.  I made up a bootie in the soft acrylic and the resulting size difference was simply amazing.  The soft acrylic seemed to want to meld together much more than the standard acrylic - the soft acrylic holes were much smaller than the standard acrylic holes.  And the soft acrylic has a nice sheen whereas the standard acrylic has none at all.  The soft acrylic gave the finished product a slightly glossy appearance whereas the standard acrylic product had a matt finish.  The soft acrylic was also more difficult to work with as the individual strands that make up the yarn were more prone to separating.


Not much was lost with my false start of using standard acrylic - I ultimately wanted to use the soft acrylic anyway if only for the feel of it.  But it makes me wonder about how a larger and more costly project could fail in this way and how it could be prevented?


The characteristics of the yarn can affect the size of your project.  Here are two booties made with 8-ply acrylic yarn.  The one on the left used standard yarn and the one on the right used "soft" acrylic yarn.
Obviously using the exact same yarn as in the pattern is one way this can be prevented - but there don't see to be any clear answers if you a substituting a yarn.  In my case, I used exactly the same yarn brand - both acrylic, both 8ply.  You can't eliminate any more factors than that and yet they behave very differently.  The pattern did not specify "soft" - so experience and gut feeling are often your best allies in choosing a local replacement yarn.  And don't forget to let your fingers help you - some "baby" yarns are available in pastel baby colours but in standard acrylic without the soft texture!

Two samples of 8-ply yarn from the same brand of acrylic yarn.  The one on the left is a "soft" acrylic, whereas the one on the right is a standard acrylic.

How do you deal with this problem when substituting a yarn?  I'd love to hear about your experiences and any tips you may have!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Have yourserself a home-made Christmas ...

Christmas decorations don't have to come from a store.  You can make your own for hardly any cost and they can be so much more precious to you and your family than anything you could buy in a store.  And with a little bit of effort your decorations will look just as good as something you bought - if not better!

This year I have made some crochet Christmas ornaments for the Doctor Who fan in My Splendid Family.  I made six for the tree and all it cost me was $3!  I already had the white yarn, fiber-fill, and crochet hook lying around the place - I only needed to buy the blue yarn.  But even if I had to buy everything from scratch I estimate it would cost $15 in total.  That's still a great saving when you consider to buy something similar in the shops is $10 (plastic) - $20 (glass) for just one.  And of course you get to keep the leftover fiber-fill, hook, and yarn for other projects.  And trust me, once you have a supply of something in your hands you will start coming up with ideas on how you can use the rest of it!

Make your own Doctor Who Tardis Christmas Tree Ornaments!
The result is super cute and I think you will agree looks fantastic on the Christmas tree!  And our Doctor Who fan thought it was just the best thing ever!  For those of you who would like to make something similar I've included some instructions at the end of this article.  But if Doctor Who is not for you, then why not make something to do with what your Splendid Family loves?  Chances are there will be a free crochet or knitting pattern to make something cute from a favorite cartoon / computer game / book on a website like Ravelry.

If it wasn't intended to be a Christmas ornament, there is no reason why you can't add a loop and turn it into one!  Just create a loop out of a length of single crochet stitches and pull it through the top of your item with a crochet hook before you add stuffing and finish it off.  Just remember that smaller is better (and cuter!) for the Christmas tree - don't go for something that will be too big.

Best Wishes for a fantastic Christmas with your Splendid Family!

How to Make a Doctor Who Tardis Christmas Tree Ornament

If you want to make these for your own Christmas tree, you can download the basic pattern from here.

To make one just like mine do the following ...

  • Use 8-ply yarn in blue and white.
  • Ignore the instructions for the snowy top.  I think it looks fabulous in the picture, but I just couldn't recreate it myself and it looks like a lot of people have struggled to create something as good.  So my advice is don't do it - it looks fabulous on the Christmas tree even without it!
  • Use white yarn to cross stitch the windows on all sides of the Tardis and the notice on the front of the Tardis.  Stitch around the cross-stitched areas to create a nice defined shape.  
If you intend on decorating the Tardis in this way, you should alter the pattern to join each row with a slip stitch rather than crocheting in the round.  If you crochet in the round, your windows will not all be in a nice straight row right around the Tardis..  I crocheted the top of the Tardis in the round according to the instructions, but finalized the top pyramid shape with a slip-stitch and then completed all the rows of the body using a slip stitch
  • Crochet 20 single crochet stitches and make a simple knot in the ends over the stitches to create a nice big knot that will not pull through.  Pull the loop up through the top of the tardis with the help of your crochet hook.
  • Half stuff your Tardis with fiber-fill.  Crochet a square to form the bottom of the Tardis.  Sew 3/4 of the square onto the Tardis.  Finish filling the Tardis with fiber-fill and then fully sew the bottom square onto the Tards.
  • If you want to make it look a bit more Christmassy, consider adding a bit of tinsel, or holly, or ribbon or whatever else you can think of.




Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Amigurumi - Cute Crochet Toys

Have you heard of Amigurumi?  It is two Japanese words combined together to mean crocheted stuffed doll and you pronounce it Ah-me-goo-roo-me (glad to see my two years of high school Japanese are finally paying off!).  It’s a bit difficult to remember and almost impossible to type correctly into Google so maybe we will see a good nickname develop for in the next few years (please!).  And of course they have to be cute.  Think Hello Kitty and other cute Japanese cartoon creatures made out of crochet.  More often than not they are animals, but they don’t have to be.  Best of all, if anyone in your family has a favorite character, chances are there is a cute free pattern so you can delight them by making them one!

An amigurumi version of an adipose baby (a cute Doctor Who character).
Make your own using with this free pattern ...
http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/amigurumi-fat-baby

If you have never picked up a crochet hook before, I’d suggest you start on a simpler more traditional crochet project.  In my experience amigurumi is a bit fiddly - you don’t want to be learning your basic stitches on something that is fiddly.  Also free patterns on the internet often have mistakes and you need a little bit of experience with crochet to spot and correct these problems as you go.  Ideally you want a little bit of crochet experience including reading a pattern.  You also want to have a little bit of experience with sewing - nothing fancy – if you can do basic mending you are set.  Having said all of that, I was looking up the Internet to learn how to do some new crochet stitches and translate acronyms for my first amigurumi.  There really is no excuse for not tackling a project these days with the help of Google.  Go for it if you are really keen!!

In this post I have included pictures of my most recent amigurumi.  It is an Adipose baby from Doctor Who.  It is a free pattern that you can download from Ravelry (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/amigurumi-fat-baby) once you sign up to the website for free.  If you haven’t yet discovered Ravelry it is time you check it out (www.ravelry.com).  You can search for and download the free instructions to lots of crochet and knitting patterns.  Best of all you can see how the pattern has turned out for other people and the modifications they have made and find out if anyone experience any difficulty with the pattern.

Amigurumi versions of Daleks from Doctor Who.
Make your own using this free pattern ...
http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/dalek-egg-cosy

Arguably the most important and most difficult part of your amigurumi project will be adding a face.  Without even trying you can turn your amigurumi from a cute adorable thing into a scary angry looking monster!  Or if you make the mistake of allowing the natural crochet holes to control your embroidery, you can end up with a very unprofessional and ugly looking result that really brings your whole project down.  So be prepared to spend a bit of time getting the face just right.  And be prepared to start over a couple of times if it is not looking right.  I've included a picture of a partially complete embroidered mouth I tried for the adipose baby. In the show the character has a baby tooth showing that I wanted my version to have.  But the mouth ended up making the adipose baby look scary rather than cute!  So I removed it and started over again and copied the mouth used in the instructions.  I may have had more luck with a felt mouth - there is more wiggle room as you can reshape it by trimming it - embroidery is not so easy to change.

A mouth I experimented with that makes
the amigurumi look more scary than cute.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The "Throwaway" Bouquet

The "Throwing of the Bouquet" is a fun tradition that a lot of brides like to include as part of their wedding.  But some brides are reluctant to part with their beautiful bouquet after only a few hours.  The solution is to get a throw-away bouquet made.  This is often a smaller, simpler version of the bride's bouquet.  The bride can then take her own bouquet home and enjoy it for a bit longer, and the lucky catcher gets a nice memento to take home as well.

But before ordering a throw-away bouquet, have a think about whether you will be around to enjoy your bouquet.  If you and your new hubby will jet off on an amazing overseas honeymoon, chances are you won't be taking it with you, and when you get back it will no longer be at its best.  So consider saving the cost of a throw-away bouquet and really make the day of the lucky catcher!

TIP: If you are budget conscious, instead of stipulating the flowers that should be used, allow the florist to source flowers that are readily available and in season.  They can often re-create your vision using several different flower types - and ones you may not have even thought of.
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