New Year, New Site

Happy 2017! You’ve probably arrived here from my old site at WordPress.com. I know that my old blog has been quite dead for some time, and since I’ve been experimenting with self-hosted WordPress for my other site about Audiobook Reviews, I decided to move my crafting blog here too. I had this domain for several years, and was not doing anything useful with it (I played with Drupal years ago but the site is mainly broken now). With my other blog I discovered the flexibility self-hosted WordPress gives versus WordPress.com, so I decided to move ElenaKnits, and maybe add a couple of ads to try to cover a bit of the host service. If you find them too intrusive, please let me know.

I am not a Xmas person or prone to making new year’s resolutions, but during my holidays I had the possibility to rest and come back with a fresh mind. I am not making promises, but I’ll try to share here what I’ve been making in the past months and what I will be making in the future. Plus other aspects of my daily life like BIRDS (I can’t imagine my life without them).

Again, I don’t usually do this kind of things but I couldn’t resist to the Best 9 of Instagram:

2017 was a year with a mix of things. We moved to this apartment in January, lost Daisy in July and then gave a home to Jane. My blogging and sewing stopped for a while, until I had to make things again, because I need it like I need to breath. I switched from crazy prints dresses and started making more useful garments, things that I needed and wear almost everyday. I tried to reduce my stash this year and avoid buying fabric. I almost succeeded here. I also took a break from knitting due to gauge issues and my stupid atopic skin. I’m back on the game, but taking things slowly.

I hope I will share this and much more here, but don’t expect very carefully taken photoshoots. I’ll get most of the pic from Instagram, since it seems to be the only way for me to document things nowadays.

I hope you enjoy the ride!

 

Falling behind

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The other day one of my acquaintances in Facebook brought this article to my attention:

To anyone who thinks they are falling behind in life

And it was a revelation. I wanted to update this blog with sewing news since the summer, but… life happened. First we lost Daisy, then Jane joined the flock. Life was busy, and I found it so hard to recover from our loss. Around summer things also changed at work. The workload had progressively decreased, so our team was absorbed by another division. Now we’re completely swamped, and some of my colleagues would like to look for another job but just can’t because they feel burned out. I had a chat with the other girl in the team and she confessed that she wants to cry sometimes. And I felt, in a way, relieved. Because I’ve been feeling exactly the same for several weeks. I’m the only one from the team in Spain, which means I can work from home most of the time. And this is the almost only thing keeping me in this job. With how tired I’ve been feeling in the last years I don’t think I could cope with going to the office, more than an hour commute, getting up at 6 or 7, and managing to cook my food for work. Because I’m still limited, and I’ve accepted that I will always be.

That I haven’t written a post about sewing during these months doesn’t mean that I haven’t sewn. My sewing has evolved, and instead of making what I’d like to wear in an imaginary lifestyle, I’m making garments that I really need. This has meant a change from wovens with crazy prints to mostly knits, and in plain colors quite often.

Another thing which has dragged me down are pictures. I used to take my DSLR and tripod at noon on Saturdays or Sundays to take pictures for the blog. But it was a hassle. The light is bad anyway now during autumn and winter.

But you know, I’ve never really stopped sharing on Instagram. I think the immediate nature of it helped me to avoid procrastinating. so  I’ll try to do the same here. I just don’t have the energy for more now. This will not be one of those beautiful blogs with sparkly photographs of somebody with a life you will envy. This will be my window to the world, and I will do with it just what I can at the moment. If it has to be crappy phone pictures, let it be.

You’ve probably noticed that my book reviews have disappeared. When I started reviewing audiobooks I envisioned it as a little part of this blog, but soon it took over and the book reviews completely swallowed the rest, so I decided to move them to my own domain. I’ve had it for ages, so I figured it was about time to put it to a good use:

http://lomeraniel.com/audiobookreviews

Why I’m not (officially) participating in Me Made May (MMM)

The answer is easy: because I’m already wearing me made clothes everyday and for me MMM is an exercise to try and wear handmade clothes and find the gaps in one’s wardrobe. Then you have to add the hassle of taking daily pics and feeling guilty about repeating clothes. I don’t do parties, I don’t have to go to an office everyday. I just work from home and do my routinely grocery shopping, go to pilates class twice a week, and to the vet from time to time. I love sewing vintage dresses, but that’s not what I’m wearing on a daily basis and I have made peace with it a long time ago. I have already found and filled the gaps in my wardrobe. What else do I need?

When I’m at home I need to be comfortable, and I don’t wear my knitted garments because, in case you didn’t know, I’m going to tell you that birds nails felt wool like felting needles, that and the occasional bird dropping I may get on me. I admire Tasha for trying to dress glamorous at home, but that just doesn’t work for me. And not just due to the birds. I need to cook all my meals due to my autoimmune disorder, and then I need to clean up afterwards. Just don’t blame me if I’m wearing my two Carolyn pajama bottoms in heavy rotation.

And off course one of my four Barrie Briefs (planning more):

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Then I change clothes when going out, but it’s always to the regular things like the grocery store, the pilates studio, the vet and mundane places like these. If it’s cold you will see me wearing of my knitted sweaters. In the past I would also wear one of my me made pants, but after losing weight they don’t fit anymore, I’ll need to make new ones.

When the weather is a bit less cold I often wear my Ziggi Biker Jacket:

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And when the weather finally warms up I’ll be wearing one of my four Lady Skater Dresses, and I’m planning two more as soon as I have the time, since they are ultra comfortable:

Then I can also wear a blouse for a special occasion, and that’s it, really!

My wardrobe may seem boring, but I’m a practical person and I don’t need tons of different clothes; apart from the fact that my life is mostly at home with the birds and the occasional going out to run some errands. I’ll save you the boredom and I’ll save me the hassle, and I’ll just keep on wearing and making what I want, and enjoying other sewists pictures participating in Me Made May.

Grieving

It’s been a while since I wrote something here, and also the same for visiting your blogs, my dear readers. I have a good excuse, something that has prevented me from knitting or sewing, and I can say that not even a single stitch has been produced since then. On May 27th, due to a neighbor and a plumber, Gerry escaped through the bathroom window. He was inside his cage when the plumber was at home, but then I was asked to go to the neighbor upstairs to request him to flush, and then it all happened. Gerry escaped from his cage, crossed the stupid curtain that we installed in the living room and went to the bathroom looking for me. He found two strangers and left.

I was able to see him perched on the window of another neighbor, but when I tried to get there he got scared and flew away. A couple of hours later I heard him on a tree on the square in front of our place so I asked some neighbors in the building closest to the tree if I could go upstairs. I could see him there, overexcited about all the images and sounds. He screamed at me a couple of times and flew away over a high building. That was the last I saw from him.

We walked the streets with birds sound, played birds sounds on our terrace for more than a week and put papers on the street. It was kind of hard because the street cleaners remove them almost everyday, but we at least try. There were a couple of false alarms, but Gerry did not appear.

I can’t express with words how all this made me feel. It still hurts in a way I didn’t experiment for a very long time. It may sound very strong, but I felt like I was losing a child. My child. My beloved child. He was already with us when I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. I couldn’t go out a lot but I didn’t care because he was with me. I usually work from home, so we spent all day together. I spent more hours with Gerry than with my own boyfriend. He was wild in his own way, but he allowed me in his little world in a way that he didn’t allow anybody else. He was a mommy’s boy, my mommy’s boy. And now he’s lost. And time goes by, and I’m losing hope.

The first think I wanted, of course, was for him to come back. The second was losing my memory, because continuing with my life remembering all those moments together was unbearable.

There are a couple of parks in Madrid where escaped parrots live, but I can’t know if he made it there. They are about 2 km from my home. I also don’t know if somebody caught him of if he got inside an apartment through an open window (it’s very warm here). I don’t know anything, and the uncertainty is killing me.

I guess I can only expect to heal from this but for now I can’t imagine how I’m going to do it. The first week I couldn’t stop crying, and I didn’t sleep a night without waking up with a racing heart at least three or four times. I was prepared to share at least 15 years with him, but that is not happening.

My baby is gone, and I don’t know how to cope with it. Who’s going to scratch his head in the way he likes?

I can’t even bear to watch pictures of him, so I won’t share any in this post.

The house felt too empty that we decided to adopt two baby lovebirds. We need to feed them several times a day and they keep us busy (and sane, I hope), but they can’t replace my Gerry, because Gerry was my baby, my love; and we shared so many things that I couldn’t even start to write them down. Every day there was an anecdote that made the day special. We had a special connection, and now I’m lost.

So if you don’t see me commenting on your blogs, please excuse me, I am not even able to function normally, and I can’t knit or sew because I miss my sewing buddy. Even nowadays I surprise myself from time to time with some cry bursts. We installed a door where the stupid curtain used to be. But it’s too late. Too late for me, too late for him.

How to mend a broken heart?

Thoughts on Me-Made-May

I was yesterday reading the last post from Lauren and I felt like she was speaking out loud what I think almost everyday when I’m going to take the picture of my daily outfit. I was bugged because it seems I’m always wearing a uniform: my Angela Wolf Bootcut Jeans paired with whatever I feel like wearing that day. We haven’t had very warm days to wear my Lady Skater Dresses, and I fell out of love for my Thurlows. They are lovely pants, but they are not ME.

I work from home most of the days (like 99% of the year), and I just go out for a bit during my lunch break to go to the grocery store. Two evenings a week I also go to pilates class. And that, friends, is what I dress for. As you know I have a lovebird, and even though it doesn’t happen often, it’s not rare that some droppings may fall “accidentally” on me, so at home I’m just wearing whatever t-shirt I find in my drawer and some sweat pants or pajama bottoms. No fancy housedresses for me, I just hate the cooking smell on my clothes for going out.

And apart from that, I don’t have a very fancy life. I may go to the occasional Swing Party (let’s be honest, I haven’t done that in months), and during the pollen season I avoid going outside too much. I’ve always been more practical than anything with my clothes, and I am a bit of a rebel about dressing up. Whenever I see pictures in FB of my old classmates from school, I see woman close to their 40s. It’s the age we are, even you though can’t see it because I always looked younger and I always dressed like a teenager. I tried to dress up like the age I am but it just doesn’t feel me. I like sewing to make clothes I love to wear again and again, clothes that fit me better than RTW and are ultra comfortable to wear. I don’t want a closet full of handmade clothes that I don’t love nor wear. I LOVE my handmade jeans, and I wear them with pride as much as I want. If you get bored of my MMM pictures, just think that I’m not changing anything of what I’m doing the rest of the year: wearing handmade clothes that I love.

It’s just that I found a bit stressful the thought of trying to wear a completely different outfit everyday, and my mind is in more important things right now, like trying to heal and have a normal-lish life.

Inspiration

I started writing this post in June of 2013, and then abandoned it. Thanks to Michelle and the Gilmore Girls KAL I decided to revive it.

I arrived late to many shows that I ended up enjoying a lot, like Desperate Housewives, the Gilmore Girls, Firefly , Downton Abbey and Broadchurch (ok, not so late for Broadchurch, I started watching it just after season 1 was over). Normally I don’t really pay attention to garments in shows but I’m acquiring more and more an experienced eye on the subject.

This cardigan appears at the end of season 4 and on episode 7 of season 5 if I remember well. I like the detail of the cables and the soft pink color. I’m not very convinced though about the general shape. It doesn’t have buttons, and the fronts hang at the sides in an unflattering way. It looks like it has some mohair or angora. I looked for a similar pattern in Ravelry and I found none. I’d love to design something like that one day but with an improved shape (and I need buttons on my cardigans).

On episode 4 of season 6, Rory is wearing a stunning dress for the baptism of Sookie’s children. It doesn’t seem like a difficult pattern: princess seams and a half circle skirt with gathers at the back. I like the detail of the black piping.

Coming back to the cardigan, I am not very sure of its construction. It seems to have raglan sleeves and the back has asymmetric cables. About the front I can’t say a lot since I think we don’t get a good view of it.

Update: I think this pattern could be modified to make something like it.

Denim killed my sewing machine

My progress on my jeans was slow but more or less steady. Last week I didn’t have a lot of time for sewing because Koen’s sister was here visiting, but I could still get some short random moments to stitch here and there.

I used part of my lunch break yesterday to start with the back of the jeans and then something terrible happened. I was having difficulties with the topstitching thread but I could sort it out more or less any time it happened. It was always the tension, and I needed to jump it to 7 or 8 to have good looking stitches. But at some point I couldn’t make them look right. And then I started having issues with regular thread and even regular fabric. I tried denim again and my machine was making terrible noises.

My guess is that one of the issues was the upper tension discs, and I removed the parts of the cover that I could and tried to clean them. After several times doing this the stitches improved a bit but I still got loose stitches randomly, and from time to time, the machine is making weird noises again when using denim.

I’ve checked my records and next month my machine will turn 2 years old. I was hoping that I could fix this myself but if there’s something else apart from lint on the discs, then I’d need a professional to take a look at it. It’s the first time my machine breaks and I hate it, since sewing is one of the few things that I could keep doing nowadays.

Slow January

Just twenty days have passed since the month started but it feels to me like a month and a half at least. After the Christmas frenzy and all the doctor appointments before that (including a gastroscopy that never happened), these days it seems that I just work, sew, knit and watch TV shows. Also, if I measure time by finished garments, it also feels longer than two thirds of a month. In my to-do list I tend to aim for four garments a month, but usually finish one or two, sometimes three; and in 20 days I’ve finished four garments, I have another blouse almost finished (but ran out of interfacing), and I’ve cut a pair Margot pajamas. Yes, the calendar is lying to me and these two thirds of January are in fact more than a month.

I guess that playing the game of waiting and patience tends to slow things down. I haven’t had any doctor appointment since 2014 and I’m currently on new medicines that I need to test until the end of next month to see if they work. And in the meantime, nothing else. It’s so cold outside that we didn’t even think of going out, but I guess that when the warmer weather comes, I’ll feel the need to hurry this recovering process.

This month I’ve been watching the Christmas episode of Doctor Who, The Christmas episode of Call the Midwife, the Christmas episode of Downton Abbey, the beginning of Broadchurch series 2, Spaced, Ashes to Ashes series 2 and the occasional episodes of Castle, Modern Family and The Big Band Theory. We finished Scrubs, tried the last season and dropped it because it was not worth it.

And you, what’ve you been up to?

The Top 5 of 2014

I found about this last year, and once again I’m participating. I’m not very good at these things but looking back is always a good idea to be able to look forward.

Top 5 Hits

Luckily this year I can nominate my top 5 hits without having to dig too deep. I think I’m getting better at this and I’m learning to make my own style.

This is technically from the end of 2013 but as I’ve just made another one (not blogged yet), I count this as a success this year too.

This was a project that took forever but it was worth until the last stitch. I modified the armscye and added a quilted lining, and I can say that I’ve worn this to death. I’m taking a break now because the temperatures are too low but I foresee a lot of wear from February onwards.

My weight has changed this year and I’m not sure they fit me well right now, but I have made in total three pairs (two this year). Now that I know more about fitting I should try to make another pair but better. I think I’ll try Gertie’s trousers this year.

  • Lady Skater Dress

Unblogged due to my health issues, but I made my second this summer and I’ve cut a third. I just love this pattern, and after making a a couple of tweaks (narrowing upper part and sleeves, shortening bust, lengthening skirt) it’s become my to-go pattern to make knit dresses. I see many Lady Skater dresses and tshirts in the future.

After a long search for the perfect 40s blouse pattern, finally Gertie’s second book was a blessing. This was made with no mods and I already have fabric to make 6 more. This is going to be part of my signature style.

This is one of the very few knits accomplished this year, but I truly love this sweater and I’m wearing it while typing this.

Top 5 Misses

This bag was not a miss in itself. In fact I’ve used it quite a lot to transport my sewing tools to the shop where I used to have sewing classes, plus also for the very few trips I made this year. The problem here was the interfacing used for the bottom. It was good and sturdy but did not survive the washing machine. When the bag came out of the machine the interfacing had transformed into a little ball. As everything is enclosed, I don’t want to take it out but that means the bottom of the bag is not stiff anymore. Even like that it makes a wonderful travel bag.

I never ever wore this skirt. It’s was also probably because I went out very little this year due to my illness and I hate ironing. I think I’ll install horshair braid on this one and see what happens next spring and summer.

This blouse is just not my style. I made some Sewaholic patterns because they gorgeous and are designed for pear shaped women, which means that there’s in general less fitting to be done, but now I’m finally more selective and trying to sew and knit garments that match my style, even if that means more fitting issues. I have more experience, so that doesn’t scare me like before.

Top 5 Highlights

  • Koen

My boyfriend is my best blessing. He sticks with me and endures all that’s lately happening like a champion. He’s my rock and my partner in everything. I love you, Koen, you know that.

  • New apartment with a dedicated sewing space

We moved in August to another apartment. It’s much bigger than the previous one, and finally I could get a dedicated sewing space, which makes everything faster, neater and simply better. The picture above is just after installing the table. It has more things nowadays, but I’m with my family these days so I can’t take a picture right now.

  • A Serger

Koen surprised me on my birthday with this wonderful present. I’m still learning a lot about it but I succeeded at using it to overlock edges. The next step will be using it to sew knits. As soon as I get back home, I promise.

  • Gerry

Being home bound for so long can be hard on one’s moral but this little guy keeps me company and my spirits up. He’s funny, smart, cheeky and sweet (when he wants). Having a lovebird can be demanding sometimes, but they give you so much in return. My sewing and knitting are slower sometimes because of him, but I wouldn’t want to live without him.

Top 5 Reflections

Something that really took a big toll this year was my health (or the lack of it). I could have sewn more, knitted more and enjoyed life more in general if it was not because of this. I had little issues before, but in April I started to feel that there was something clearly wrong with me. It took me months and numerous doctor visits until I got referred to the mast cells specialists in August. By that time my weight dropped to 44 kg and I was desperately hungry and lost. I can’t still see the end of this but at least I know I’m in good hands. But the other side that nobody sees is that since August I’m eating everyday the same. My diet is reduced to five foods and I only drink water (and my morning tea). I’ve learned to appreciate the good things I have and the good people who stood beside me (Koen, you’re my rock), but I’ve also lost much in the way. I lost time, I lost money, I lost some of my illusions and I lost quite some friends. In a certain way it’s something good, because the ones who stayed are the true ones; but it’s also hard to stop seeing people who where your party fellows and who gave you so many happy moments. Many things are gone, and many people too. I’m still learning about not dwelling on it too much. It mortified me for a while but not anymore. I guess when this happens you learn to weight what you have, and you also learn to prioritize things. What mortifies me right now is being tied to my home and not being able to do things normal people do, like eating outside or enjoying a casual snack. I have to say no often to eating-out plans. This usually happens with people that don’t know about my condition. Usually old friends who pass by Madrid and expect to meet and socialize like it’s done over here. I hate having to tell the same story again, but I think I hate it most because I can’t tell the end or the conclusion. It’s like telling a story which you don’t know very well and ignore the end. At least I have learned to take pleasure on the little things, but recounting my story still makes me cry sometimes. I guess I still have a long way to go.

Top5 Goals

  • Getting healthy or have a normalish life: I know I have a long way to go but I’m not giving up on having some improvements. The good thing about my doctor is that she answers my emails quite fast (usually the same day), so if things don’t work, we fine tune the treatment to see if things could go better. Mast cells issues are not very well known and many times is just trial and error.
  • Building a capsule wardrobe: Teresa from Canary Knits got me started on this. I’m usually pretty lazy to do this kind of things, but I think it could be interesting for the next point.
  • Sewing and knitting my style.
  • Keep learning about my new serger.
  • Being able to travel: I know this will take time and may not be for 2015 but I won’t give up.

Fall plans: Coziness and stashbusting

Summer came and went fast and my knitting and sewing plans more or less fell into pieces. I stopped knitting to make sure wool was not causing the eczema on my hands. Anyway, I was not very motivated at all to invest time doing things that I enjoy. I preferred to invest it reading about histamine, angioedemas and immune diseases. This didn’t make me closer to the truth but knowledge is power. So I’m now a powerful ill person.

I had lots of plans for sewing, including making Gertie’s bombshell dress, which course I purchased already last year. I even had the fabric, but I didn’t have the heart… nor the weight. I finally recovered 3 out of my 10 lost kilos and I’m more or less stable, so that means I can start sewing for myself again. Another factor is that we moved to a bigger apartment in August, and now I have a dedicated sewing space and a large living room where I can cut fabric, tape patterns and leave things to be able to work on them the day after. Before this was unthinkable. Our tiny living room served as dining room, office, living room and sewing room. If I started sewing, cutting or tracing, I had to remove everything if I didn’t have time to finish at that moment. I also got an ironing board and my creases are a lot more crispy.

As I said, last year was full of plans but I didn’t have the infrastructure to make all happen. That didn’t stop me from dreaming, purchasing fabric or refraining myself from any wonderful bargain I happened to stumble upon. Luckily we had planned a good stash storage for our new apartment, and I stopped feeling that my wool and fabric were going to eat us.

And this is the story about how I started sewing and knitting again. I was working on two sweaters when my life stopped. I recently finished an Owls sweater but I still have no pictures because I need to add buttons. The other one is Armande, from Andi Satterlund. I resumed this one when half of my brain was still busy with medical concepts and had to unravel a section a couple of times. Yes, I know, this is a very simple design, but as I’ve said, half of my brain was focused on my health and the other half was simply tired.

Things are going now better knitwise and I hope I will finish this cardigan very soon.

And about sewing, I finished a couple of things when my health issues started but I haven’t shared them with you. Honestly I didn’t even took pictures and I don’t feel like wearing the bikini I made to show it here. Probably for next summer, I promise. I have a couple of blouses and a skirt that I could show you but I haven’t found yet the perfect location for pictures in the new house. To be honest, I haven’t worked on it, I still need to unpack my tripod. Please bear with me.

What I did was sewing accessories. The weather is a bit warm again, but there were some very cold days that caught us completely by surprise. I even turned the heating on since the pain in my finger joints was starting to be unbearable (and that for knitting is a no-no). So I decided that, even I wanted to sew wonderful dresses, I needed some basic warm garments and accessories to survive the coming winter.

And I’ve made slippers! I’d toyed with the idea of making them for a long while. I even bought the insoles last year and they were there, waiting to be used. I used this tutorial but made my own pattern using some scraps of paper. It’s the same idea that’s explained here, but I didn’t have this site in front of me since I felt lazy while measuring my foot and sitting on the floor.

And they fit like a glove.

Please excuse the sock marks on my feet. I was wearing something else before taking these pictures and I was in a hurry to make them with natural light. I’ve used faux leather for the sole, an old fleece scarf for the lining and some remnants of my first Thurlow trousers (I’m scared of trying them on because I know they won’t fit anymore). The faux leather was on sale because it was a small piece with some stains. It cost around €2 and I don’t mind the stains at all when they are going to face the floor all the time. Anyway, they are almost invisible.

The fleece scarf was a present many years ago from one of my aunts. I never quite liked this scarf and it was in the back of my closets in all the apartments where I lived since then (Vigo, Leuven 1, Leuven 2, Brussels, Madrid 1, Madrid 2). I don’t know why but I was attached to it because it had been a present, so I’m glad that it finally started to have a useful life. It has a vibrant yellow color with some pink and blue flowers. Beautiful for slippers lining but not so much for a scarf.

I really like how they came out, but if I were to make them again, I should probably design them slightly larger if I plan to wear thick socks with them.

And then Gerry joined the fun. See how beautiful his wings are. I see lots of birds on Instagram, and most of them have clipped wings. It makes me very sad because if birds should do just one thing, this is flying. Their metabolism, lungs, bones and digestive system are designed to facilitate this. Why do people clip their wings? They are birds, they should fly. Clipping their wings to make them obey better is cruel, coward and lazy. And if it’s done when they are very young, it prevents them from developing normal muscles. When we took Gerry to the vet last month (for a check up) she congratulated us because he is a very healthy and strong bird.

Another pattern that I had my eye set on was Maria Denmark’s SuperSocks. This is a very easy and quick project, and you can use leftovers since it takes very little fabric. I’ve used a piece from my Skull Fleece Renfrew and still have a lot left.

It’s an easy and straightforward pattern. It’s true that it fits quite well, but next time I would probably make left and right slightly different to have the toe fitting more closely and being actually able to use them inside shoes.

They are very nice and cozy though, and ideal to hang out on the sofa while knitting and watching an episode of our favorite series. I’m actually watching “Call the Midwife“, and I’m really enjoying it. It’s truly beautiful, you should see it.

 

It was not on purpose, but as I cut both pieces together, there’s almost continuity on the design. You can almost see the complete skulls if I place my feet together.

If the sole is substituted for a different material (faux leather) or if we use some non-slip glue, then they could become more versatile and be also used as slippers.

I’m thinking that this could make a quick Christmas present. I still have some Winnie the Pooh pink fleece from my niece’s hoodie, I’m sure she’ll love it.