Sunday, 19 January 2020

Back to school

My christmas school vacation is coming to an end this week because my Japanese evening class is re-starting.  We went to dinner at a Japanese restaurant recently with some of the other students and some Japanese study tutors, and I was able to use a few words of Japanese plus understand a bit of what the Japanese people were saying.  But basically I'm still pretty terrible.  We both had a bento box main meal - for some reason everything tastes so much better when you eat it out of little compartments!  :)  When I got home, I ordered a couple of bento compartmentalised boxes for us to use at lunchtime.  Perhaps it's because I wasn't allowed TV dinners when I was a kid? (when TV dinners used to come in little compartment trays like airplane food, before 'ready meals' were a thing - showing my age here.)

I've been making a push this week on cutting up fabric scraps and the end is in sight, what a huge labour it has been.  But it is sort of satisfying to have transformed a crate of crumpled scraps into neat piles of strips and squares. I just hope I use them one day.  On my day off though, I took some time out for a bit of fun and made this cute little teacup pouch from this Youtube video.  It has a zip closure and a pocket on the back

So cute!  I used a teacup fabric for the lining as well.  It was a lot of fun to make apart from I had major problems with my zip.  I had a white nylon zip of the correct length, but as I now know it is important that the zip tape be soft so you can fold the ends of the tape under out of the way.  My zip tape was the cheap modern kind that had been melted with plastic for about 3/8th of an inch at either end making the melted bit quite rigid.  It did NOT want to fold out of the way no matter what I tried, and I ended up having to take the pouch apart, cut off the rigid part of the tape, and re-sew the pouch a bit smaller.  I've now ordered some more zips that have a normal metal stop and I might make the pouch again once those arrive.  Oh, and I didn't stuff my handle with tweezers like the video did, life is too short.  I just ran several lengths of soft chunky yarn through the fabric tube which worked fine.

The quilting frame is back up in the living room and I'm trying to do some regular stints on the handquilting.

And I went back to Wilko and bought another of the cheap storage boxes. This one I popped the lid off and labelled all the compartments, and put the tray into the drawer of my sewing table to hold all my sewing machine feet.  I feel so organised!  Much easier to find the foot I want now, and also to remember what all the feet are for.

I've started a new hat using the pack of five icecream colour mini skeins I got at Fibre East.  It's a free pattern with rows of little hearts.  I suspect I might have a lot of yarn left over, perhaps I can make matching wristers.

I finished machine knitting the Sublime Eden vest/waistcoat and I'm blocking the back first.  It seems my tension gauge was not exact (deja vu) so the back has come out a bit larger than it needs to be.  The yarn is a wool/cotton blend so I suppose there's a chance it might shrink up a bit as it dries. The pleats at the bottom are particularly noticeable which is because my machine cast on edge is flaring (I used a crochet cast on).  I may need to undo the cast on onto knitting needles and re-cast off, we'll see. It's unclear from the picture whether the hem is supposed to roll, or whether the yarn is so obedient that the stocking stitch will just lie flat with no hem treatment.  The yarn comes as a five colour cake. I wound off each colour as a separate skein which is why my stripes don't look exactly like the picture.  I also swapped in a darker colour for the right front, I'm wide enough without drawing attention to my hips with a band of white.

At work we have been challenged to do something 'fun' tomorrow because it is Blue Monday, supposedly the most depressing day of the year.  I think when we are crafters, we're less likely to be depressed because we are busy creating. Also, what would be most fun for me would be not to go to work at all, but I don't think that's what they have in mind.

Monday, 13 January 2020

January bleahs

I survived my first week back at work and now contemplate without enthusiasm the weeks to come. I don't think I was the only one feeling grumpy - there is a general air of depressed drudgery amongst my colleagues  and the overcast rainy weather isn't helping.

I haven't done much craftwise this week because I've spent/wasted so much time cutting up fabric scraps.  DH has now heroically ironed everything that was in the crate but I am far behind on cutting it up into shapes despite several hours of work. I still feel very ambivalent about the task- am I really going to piece scrap quilts from these cuttings when I could be using my limited sewing time to play with my nice fabric??  Maybe when I retire.  After it's all cut up, I will group the strips and squares into colour families and see what I've got.

This is what's left to cut, plus another pile on my cutting board.

Part of the ironing pile were several 1.25 inch white strips plus some 2 inch strips.  I was sort of vaguely wondering what they were from, and I threw out the 1.25 inch strips because the smallest I am cutting is 1.5 inch.  I kept cutting for about another 15 minutes before I put 2 and 2 together, and realised that the reason the white fabric looked familar is because it is the binding fabric I will use for my 25 block applique quilt that I'm handquilting.  I always cut the binding strips when I finish the top, since it could be years before the quilting is done.  Obviously the binding strips fell off the hanger where they were stored and ended up in the scrap box.  So I had to rescue them out of the bin and hope that I've still got enough.

I have set the 25 block applique quilt back up in the living room and am back at the job of hand quilting it.  I'm almost to the end of my second pass which is halfway up the second row of blocks, so ages to go yet. My reach with my right arm lets me easily quilt half of the 18 inch blocks at a time, so two more passes until I reach the halfway mark.

I caught up on the rest of the Janet Clare BOM blocks although I've left one applique block blank as I didn't like the proposed design.  I will wait to see what the rest of the blocks look like at the end before deciding what to do with the blank. This represents the first three chapters.

I've started making a plan for what accessories will go into the rooms of my Japanese dollshouse, starting by looking at the inspiration photos I took in Japan and at what the other blogger/builders chose to do. I've been feeling guilty about neglecting the house since I finished the main build, it would be good to get it 'finished'.

In the evenings I've been making a push on my giant granny square crochet afghan which is still only about pram-quilt size. I'd like to get it done and out of the living room. My crochet tension remains terrible.  I've also been stitching another free cross-stitch kit, this one for little gift tags that I will use next Christmas (if I remember I've got them).  Not sure where they get the 'luxury' from.  What is a luxury gift tag anyway?  Perhaps Tiffany's do gold plated tags encrusted with diamonds?

And I've done some more on my bobbin lace bauble wrap, taking it out to lace gatherings last weekend and this weekend.  I think it is going to look nice on a bright red bauble. I'm over the halfway point now. This is Bucks Point lace, with an interesting double gimp that splits up to make the green cloth stitch features before recombining for the next ring. I've used some clear/silver beads instead of tallies.

I've actually been machine knitting.  I pulled out my next handknitting project which is a Sublime pattern for a multi-colour waistcoat and realised that it was basically made up of simple stocking stitch rectangles.  This type of project is why I keep the machines, instead of wasting ages on boring knitting where my purl rows would show as ridges due to my tension.  So I worked three tension swatches on my Brother 260 until I got close to the required DK tension, and I've knit the back and a front so far.  I'm having trouble with the cast on and may have to re-do it by hand.  The waistcoat is supposed to have a simple rolled hem but the machine cast on is flaring instead of rolling.  I'll see how it looks after blocking.  It hasn't been straightforward even though the pattern is so simple, partly user error and partly fighting the yarn which is a wool/cotton blend that wants to snap if it snags. I'm hoping I might be able to wear the waistcoat to work if it looks alright.

Sunday, 5 January 2020

Born to knit, forced to work

I purchased a motto button a few years ago at a knitting show with the above slogan on it. I've always been tempted to wear it to work one day - maybe in my final week before retirement...  My long two-week holiday comes to an end today and it's back to work tomorrow. I think it is going to be a horrible shock - I have slipped easily into a low-stress relaxing lifestyle with lots of hobbies and have even been on a huge reading jag.  Not looking forward to returning to the world of commuting, mildly annoying colleagues, repetitive work, stupid customers and having to sit at a desk staring at a computer all day.  Just a few more years to go...

I have actually managed to work through most of the jobs on my holiday list so I feel like I have accomplished quite a lot.  I put away the huge stack of filing, have cleaned both the dollshouse room and sewing room, deep-cleaned the fridge, took down and put away all the xmas decorations including the tree and outside lights, did some housekeeping on my PC and email folders and tackled various other things I've been procrastinating about.  I've tried to keep up with Japanese practice but that has been slipping without a weekly class to go to.

I've even been tackling the enormous and overflowing box of scraps that has been building up for a few years in my sewing room.  I'm slowly cutting them into hopefully more useful strips and squares for scrap quilts.  It is a thankless, tedious job even with DH helping by ironing them flat for me.  I feel like I've been doing it forever and we're not even halfway down the box yet.  Partly it is so full because when I tidied up my sewing room last Christmas, I demoted various older fabrics and project leftovers to the scrap box.  I'm cutting squares and strips in 1.5 inches, 2 inches, 2.5 inches, 3.5 inches and rectangles in 2x3.5 and 2.5 x 4.5. I've also started cutting some 5-inch charm squares.  Hopefully it isn't all a total waste of time and I will use them for projects.

Even the cat is 'helping'

The backing fabric arrived for my Let's Bake Quilt so I sandwiched that up ready for quilting, using the dining table.  My plan is to quilt this on the sit-down machine once I get through all the scrap cutting and get my sewing table cleared off.

While I was waiting for the backing fabric to arrive, I started on the Janet Clare Block of the Month being published in Today's Quilter magazine.  I've collected three instalments so far so I have six blocks to make to catch up.  Here are the first three.  I don't know how many blocks there will be - if it lasts a year then I suppose there will be 24 blocks.  I'm not sure about the different toned back ground fabrics, that's what it looked like in the picture of each individual block but perhaps the tones are meant to be closer.  I'm making this from stash rather than using the designer's fabric line.

For this project I have started using the Bloc-Loc rulers that I bought at the NEC quilt festival.  They make trimming the half-square triangle to size so easy!  My HSTs never turn out the right size or even square (unless I use Thangles or some similar grid tool) and it's harder for my eyesight now to exactly line up a diagonal line along a seamline for trimming.  But with the Bloc-Loc, you just butt the groove in the underside of the ruler up against the ridge of the seam allowance and trim away to create an accurate square. It was great, especially for the little 1-inch finished HSTs in the middle block.

I finished the decorated quilted hanger that I was working on last week with a strip of vintage crochet lace from my collection, just a bit of fun. The flowers are decorated with yo-yos and some beading, and a bit  of embroidery.  It seems really 1980s-interprets-Victorian to me for some reason. Too pretty to use.

Just before we took the tree down, I managed to finish up the two free cross-stitch kits and put them into the Boots photo display ornament (half price in the sales) like the one I saw on Facebook. So it was  briefly hung on the tree overnight and will be a nice suprise next year because I will have forgotten about it. It's a clever way to display some stitching - thank you anonymous Facebook creator!

Happy new year - let's hope 2020 isn't as disastrous as it threatens to be (at least for the UK anyway).

Sunday, 29 December 2019

So it's not such a great idea to dust your dollshouses with a hoover/vacuum cleaner

Over the holidays I am trying to tackle some bigger jobs, one of which is a good spring/winter clean up of my dollshouse room.  I was using the hoover (vacuum cleaner) to dust the outsides of the houses, and also turning it down to half suction to clean some of the bigger floor areas inside in conjunction with a soft brush to wipe dust. It was all going fine as I worked along the row of houses, until I got to my Japanese house.  I was hoovering one of the tatami mat rooms when suddenly something whisked off the alcove and into the hoover before I could even blink, before I could even see what it was.

So I turned off the hoover and opened it up, it has a paper dust bag which turned out to be full.  So I cut open the paper bag and had to root around in the bucket of dust, cat litter, threads and god knows what else.  I didn't even know what I was looking for. I eventually found a very sorry little paper and wood japanese lantern near the back of the bag, which has lost its carrying handle.  I cleaned up the mess and, much chagrined, returned to work being hugely more careful.

Being stupid enough to try again, I promptly hoovered up a tiny little armrest.  At least this time I had put a new dust bag in the hoover so it was easy to find the armrest - now in two pieces.  Having learned my lesson, twice, I cleaned the rest of the house only using the brush.  It was when I was reaching past the house to unplug the hoover from the wall socket that I managed to snag the outdoor balcony of the Japanese house and yank part of the railing loose.  Sigh. Much repairing ensued.

One of my older houses turned out to be a bit mouldy - I hope it's a one off.  It is a house that spent 18 months of the build facing what is probably the dampest wall of the room.  At first I thought it was glue that had turned brown, but it turned out there was a film of dust all over the bathroom floor (which is made from a vinyl placemat), and the mold was growing in the dust.   I experimented and was able to wipe up the dust and mold from the bathroom floor using a makeup sponge. I've washed the round carpet but the stains wouldn't come out completely. Oddly in the next door room, the bedroom looks fine but the white shirt lying crumpled on the floor (artistically crumpled and presumably stiffened with glue) has also become all stained.  I think it is probably a write-off because if I dampen it, the glued-together shirt will fall apart.

Anyway, after about five sessions of an hour or more, the room is finally all clean and dusted and all the houses have been put back in order.    I'm glad that this big job is over.  One of my friends lives in France and runs a large and excellent miniatures museum (Mayenne Miniatures) as a side business, I wonder how many hours a year she has to spend dusting!

While putting away the accumulation of bits and bobs, I was getting frustrated with my storage system for beads, findings and small hardware.  I knew Wilko (a discount general store) had some cheap plastic storage boxes because I got one for DS for his christmas stocking.  So I headed there and found they have an excellent range from £1 shallow boxes with small compartments perfect for tiny hinges, right up to £4 larger boxes with deep compartments suitable for wooden beads and findings.  I started out with a selection of four and went back for three more later in the day.  I've rationalised all my ancient and inherited jumble of different sized containers into the new storage boxes and it's great, I can see what I've got now especially things like hinges, cupboard pulls and door hardware.

By now being on a bit of a cleaning roll, I tackled my sewing room next.  I dismantled and put away several collections of fabric/pattern/rulers left over from past projects, took down the towering pile of 'waiting to be filed' papers and moved it to the attic (a job for another day to sort those out), dealt with the pile of household ironing, packed up the enormous box that my 'new' sewing machine came in and likewise moved it to the attic, and then hoovered up all the threads, fabric scraps and polystyrene bean bag pellets from the floor.  It looks so much better now, and is a much nicer room to work in.

And I have been working: I pieced the rest of the blocks together for my Let's Bake quilt, sewed the border, and with DS's help, calculated and cut the inner coping strips and sewed the whole thing together.  The original pattern includes an outer plain border but as I plan to display this  quilt as a wall hanging and it's already on the large size, I am omitting that border.  So it's now a completed top!  I love how cheerful and bright it is, like a child's colouring book.  I've ordered some baking-themed backing fabric in the sales, so once that gets here I will sandwich it up and possibly even start quilting it.

As a reward for the big milestone, I pulled out a little kit for fun.  This is the decorated clothes hanger cover pattern that I bought at the quilting show a few months ago.  Here's an in-progress shot, I'm still sewing on flowers.  This was also the first time I've tried free-motion quilting on my new machine, it wasn't too bad. The manual said to set the thread tension to 'Auto' which looked fine on the right side but was too loose so the underneath side doesn't look great. Not a problem for this project as the underneath side will be hidden, but something to keep in mind for when I quilt the Let's Bake quilt.

One more picture this week - the 25 day Petite Properties advent calendar is now over and we're allowed to post pictures.  Look at all the different 1/48th scale kits I got!  Quite a fun treat to open every day, as good as the sock yarn calendar I had a few years ago. 

One finish this week is the Victorian leaf shawl at long last.  I knit the centre panel out of Victorian Lace Today some years ago, and this past year I've been knitting on a different border (I didn't like the one in the book).  It's blocked out slightly oddly as the top is very stretchy but the sides not so much due to the knitted on border.  It feels lovely and light and airy in wear.  The border didn't work out entirely symetrical as I wasn't really trying very hard, I just bunched it up around the point of the shawl by knitting twice into each joining square and stopped when I reached the last stitch in the side when perhaps I should have short rowed a bit.  At the moment I'm just glad it's finished, if it bugs me then I could add some short rows later.

So my first week of christmas holidays is over and I've got a whole 'nother week.  It feels strange, I don't think I've ever had two weeks at home without some other agenda like maternity leave or job-hunting while unemployed.  I've been glad I made a list of jobs to tackle because otherwise I think I would feel a bit aimless without my usual work routine.  It makes me wonder what retirement is going to be like.  I have to impose my own routine of Japanese homework, bobbin lace, jobs, some time out in the garden doing further clean up etc.  And a fair bit of video gaming (currently playing Dark Souls Remastered).  My friends who are retired have all said they are so busy in retirement that they don't know how they ever found time to work, so I guess it will be alright.

Did you have a good Christmas?  We certainly did, very relaxing and far too many sweets.  I judged the turkey size well - we had two dinners out of it, two lunches and the remainder was used up by DS in a traditional turkey leftover curry.  My main craft present was a set of Apliquik rods, interfacing and glue, for doing applique in a new way which looks a lot more accurate than my usual pencil+template method. I also got myself a clip-on Ottlite for doing bobbin lace and other crafts at my desk where the light isn't very good.  Did you receive any nice crafty presents?  I hope you've also had some quality crafting time over the holiday.

With best wishes for the new year!

Saturday, 21 December 2019

Happy Christmas

Last blog post before the holiday so wishing everyone a happy and stress-free Christmas with lots of crafting.  I've got one more day of work on Monday and then I'm off for two weeks, woo hoo!  I've already got a long list of big jobs I've been procrastinating about and hope to achieve: like cleaning up my dollshouse room, ditto my sewing room, tackling my scrap fabric mountain, finishing the Let's Bake quilt, tidying up all the photos on my PC etc etc.  I doubt I will get it all done though.

We went to a local church for a  carol service this week. There was a decent turnout and the organ playing was good although the timekeeping seemed a bit variable.  There was a tiny choir of two older ladies and two older men.  One of the choir ladies was attempting the soprano descant for some of the relevant carols, good on her but it was a bit hysterical as her pitch was all over the map.  Several people including me couldn't quite suppress a muffled giggle after a few of her most off-key flourishes.  It was still nice to hear the seasonal tale told once again, in a church that is hundreds of years old where generations have participated in the same tradition. Afterwards there were mince pies and hot drinks and we wandered around a bit inspecting some of the carvings and monuments.

Christmas fudge recipe
Today I made our traditional Christmas fudge, from a recipe my father used to make every year and he got it from his parents I think.  It's basically brown sugar stuck together with butter and milk, very good if you have a sweet tooth.  You only need:

1 Tb butter
1 cup light soft brown sugar (not dark)
1/3 cup milk (whole milk is best)

Multiply the above to the desired quantity, I usually do three times so 3 Tb butter, 3 cups light brown sugar and 1 cup milk.  Cook over a medium heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, stirring frequently so it doesn't catch.  Once it is simmering nicely, add your candy thermometer and cook to soft-ball stage.  Remove from the heat and start beating it by hand with a wooden spoon while it cools down a little.  After a few minutes, add 1 tsp vanilla essence then keep beating.  The trick is to judge when the fudge is cool enough to pour into a buttered metal cake pan, you want to beat it right up until it gets very thick and is just starting to crystallise around the edges then quickly pour it into the pan and scrape out the saucepan into the pan.  If you wait too long, it will set in the pan and won't pour at all.  If you pour too early, it may not set very well or may be very hard and crystalline.  Beating it right to the last minute keeps it softer and fudgy.  Once in the pan, let it cool down 5 to 10 minutes then cut it into squares then leave it to cool all the way.  Store in an air tight container once completely cool.  Licking the spoon and scraping out fudge residue from the saucepan is the cook's privilege.

Christmas ornaments

This week I have been making up some of the Christmas ornament kits I've collected.

This first one is a giant Dorset button decoration, a gift for my birthday which I think is probably this kit.    It was fairly quick to make, and looks unusual on the tree.

Then this gingerbread house kit was from The Works and cost a whole £1, but was fun to do. And the snowglobe ornament is from Trimits and is such good value at £2.50, you get all the precut pieces and even the stuffing.  Finally the heart-shaped ornament is made using up some left over felted scraps form the teddy  bear I knit a few months ago.

I'm almost finished a Christmas robin cross-stitch from the same set of three kits that I made the Christmas tree card from, this will go on the tree.

This week on the Let's Bake quilt, I have made the final four blocks up, which are four little vintage aprons.

So now I can sew together the final section and the centre of the quilt will be done!  There is a narrow border to add around the centre and then all the pieced border blocks to sew together.  Hoping to get it done over the holidays.

Hope you have a lovely holiday!

Sunday, 15 December 2019

Finally, a day when it is not raining

We've just come in from a couple of hours of tidying in the garden due to finally having a bright day.  Although it is windy, it's not too cold (about 7 degrees C).  So I pruned the apple and pear tree, and gave them a good spray with fungicide.  I didn't do the spraying last winter and our apples had terrible scab this year.  I'll hopefully spray the apple tree again at bud break if I remember.  We also scooped up tons of leaves from the pear and magnolia, the latter having terrible leathery leaves which do not rot down and smother everything underneath.  More hacking back of dead geranium growth and dead iris leaves, and we gave the corkscrew hazel a strong haircut as it had become very overgrown with lots of dead growth in the middle. DH called a halt at the point because we had run out of containers for all the debris he was going to take to the dump. Our last task was to attach the squirrel silhouette we bought last weekend. We've put it on the pergola in the first instance, we'll live with that for a while and we can always move it somewhere different if we change our minds.

I've continued to chip away at the Christmas decoration mountain this week and most things are now put up. There's a small pile of textiles in the living room still awaiting a home: quilted wall hangings and quilted decorations that I've either made or been given by friends.  The tree is up, it's not as tall as some years but it looks nice now that it's decorated.

I brought out a few old miniature Christmas scenes I made a long time ago and put them on display as well.

I also dug out the snowman quilt I finished last year, and hung it in the hall.  It's a bit large for the location, but eyecatching and easy for spotting all the details that I'd forgotten I'd added.

Over the years I have accumulated a small collection of blue and white Wedgewood baubles as I quite like them. I wait and get them half price in the sales.  Last year I thought it would be nice to have a single tree to hang them on and I bought a small white artificial tree in the post-xmas sales.  So I got the white tree out this year and assembled it, it turned out to be dreadful and completely flimsy, a real Charlie Brown tree when it came to trying to hang the relatively heavy Wedgewood baubles on.  So I had a look around on the interweb and came across this tutorial for making a simple wooden tree.  I was able to buy the dowels and 2x2 at our local DIY store and I had a base already.  I couldn't find a suitable finial so my tree doesn't have one yet.  It wasn't hard to build apart from none of the holes I drilled are very vertical.  If I win the lottery one of the things I would buy would be a drill press!  Consequently my branches are not very horizontal.  DH kindly said it made the tree look more natural.  Although he's a bit suspicious that there is room for so many more ornaments to be added to the collection. So this is what it looked like after the tutorial.

I thought it looked too bare and too wonky.  I still had the rubbish white tree so I experimented with taking that apart with wire cutters (I had to get DH to help, it needed some muscle ) and attaching some of the white branches to the wooden armature.  It probably looks a little odd but I think it looks better. It definitely needs a finial for the top of the three.  Wedgewood do a cute squirrel ornament now, if I can get that in the sales then perhaps it would look nice as a finial.

I finished knitting the Cumbria mini-skein fingerless mitts this week and darned in the ends.  They've turned out well but I think look fairly masculine, so I am going to give them to my f-i-l for Christmas to see if he likes them.  So when I washed them, I stretched them out quite a lot to make them looser for his bigger hands.  That's the great thing about pure wool, it's so flexible.

This week I sewed some spoon blocks for the Let's Bake quilt and then sewed together the blocks for  three of the four main panels. It's so cute!  I've only got four apron blocks left to make for the final section.

As it turns out, I am going to have two weeks off at Christmas because the trains are suspended for rail improvement work. I was supposed to go in for a couple of days before New Year, but I don't fancy having to get a rail replacement bus so I asked for, and was grudgingly granted, more leave. So hopefully I can get lots of crafting done and perhaps finish up this quilt top completely. I also hope to do the big clean up in the dollshouse room.  Only five more days to work, woo hoo!

I went to my monthly lace group meeting yesterday and started a new small project. Do you remember this lace bauble wrap I made last year?

I'm going to try a different pattern from the same book of patterns which is the Lace Guild's Take A Box Of Baubles... compiled by Rosemary Green. When I unpacked the bauble this year to put on the tree, it was nicer than I remembered and made me want to make another one.  Obviously I won't finish it for this Christmas but hopefully in plenty of time for next year.

Are you looking forward to the holiday?

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Look how big the living room is!

I had to dismantle the quilting frame (a plastic Q-snap type floor frame) for the weekend because DS was having friends to stay and they were planning to watch movies in the living room.  Once that was all moved out, and my crate full of yarn for the Granny square crocheted afghan, and my various other ongoing projects hidden away, we were marveling about how much bigger the living room looks without all the clutter. Sigh.  I think I need two living rooms: one for show and one where I make my nest.

So the 25 block applique quilt has been put away, probably until January.  We'll put the christmas tree and decorations up during this coming week (the tree is purchased but currently living in the porch until DS's friends depart) and there just won't be room for the floor frame.  I don't get on with a hand quilting hoop, I need both hands free for the way I quilt.

I did get a few more blocks done for the Let's Bake quilt this week.

 I did the donuts with fusible applique for a neater result, but it means they aren't as 3-D as using the interfacing technique.

The mixing bowl set still needs to be stitched down.

This is the table cloth block. On the original quilt, the designer stitched this block with chicken scratch embroidery. But I didn't want to do that, so I looked through my vintage doiley collection to find one the right size that would stand up to washing.  I have hand stitched the doiley to the block, and I think it adds a nice vintage touch.

One of the projects I removed from the living room is a cross-stitch Christmas card kit I am stitching for my m-i-l. Due to my inability to count, this is more of an interpretation of the chart than a faithful reproduction.  I will finish it in the next few days hopefully and get it into the post.

We've been away this weekend as a seasonal treat. We drove down to Hertfordshire and stayed near Bishops Stortford for one night.  Quite by chance, we were there for the day of their big Christmas market so we enjoyed having a wander through that (once we got a parking space) and picked up a few christmas gifts. Then we drove a few miles down the road to Sawbridgeworth to visit The Maltings on Station Road, a rambling old industrial building which is now home to no fewer than five big antiques shops.  They run the gamut from posh to tat, but we enjoyed wandering around all the floors and were even provided with free hot mulled wine in one shop.  I bought a few pieces of 1920s pottery and a modern metal squirrel silhouette for the garden.  That night we walked from our hotel to a pub for supper, and came across a little close of modern houses where almost every one was fully decorated with loads of lights.  It was quite a show and there was even  a button to press to play christmas music at one house. This probably seems nothing out of the ordinary to my American readers but in the UK it's not nearly as common for houses to put up a lot of lights (particularly a large group of houses like this street), so we enjoyed the show.  Today we drove back via a few more big antiques centres, including this one in an old textiles mill in Halstead in Essex. It's fun to see these old industrial buildings, and it was full of dealers of varying quality.  I got a few 1930s plates here.

While we were away I was knitting on the second Cumbria mini-skeins fingerless mitt which is almost finished except for the thumb.  I was wearing my Rainy Day fingerless Mitts all weekend, which I knit a couple of years ago from Doulton Flock Border Leicester wool.  They were perfect for the c.10 degree C weather and the generally unheated antiques warehouses, so my hands could be warm yet I could still pick things up to look at them.

A couple more weeks and I will be on holiday for Christmas - yay!!

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