Saturday, 24 March 2018

Short week

Well my lurgy lasted and lasted, so I missed Monday to Wednesday at work. By Thursday I was feeling better in myself but the cold has gone into my sinuses where it still sits, making sleeping difficult and mornings disgusting.  I went into work Thursday afternoon for a half day then did a full day on Friday which was exhausting after being home for so long.  I don't know if it is middle age but I don't seem to be able to shrug colds off the way I used to.  I can't believe I'm saying this but it was actually nice to be back at work and out of the house, and doing something different. Much as I like doing my crafts, after several days without anything else to do, they don't seem quite as fun.

I finished quilting the Snowman quilt, bound it, and hung it up in the hall for a few days to enjoy it, even though it is really too big for the hanging space. This is an adaptation of a pattern I bought in Sisters, Oregon, ten years ago after seeing a version at the show. I also bought some of the fabrics there.  But I didn't actually start the quilt until winter 2015, it was a project in a sack for a long time. It was fun choosing additional scrappy fabrics and it's quite a cheerful quilt.

Now I've started grid quilting the Indigo Bear's Paw quilt with my walking foot on the sit down machine, sooooo tedious but it's got to be done.  I've started out with 1.5" intervals to match pieces in the block but I'm wondering if it looks too wide and I should cut that in half.

I've been hand appliqueing some flowers on my Hawaiian applique quilt but they are quite fiddly to do and there are so many of them, so this continues to be a long term project.

I also started a new knitting project from The Vintage Shetland Project, a weighty tome by Susan Crawford which turned up recently a couple of years after I contributed to its crowdfunding start up.  Susan and her family have made heroic efforts to document stitch by stitch a number of vintage Shetland garments.  The book contains 27 patterns recreating these vintage treasures, and contains a number of interesting essays about her research into the original knitters and the fashion history driving the Shetland knitting trends.  It's an enjoyable read, tempered by some non-ergonomic choices in the book design and some idiosyncratic writing habits such as frequent and apparently random italicisation of words. The book is quite heavy, has very small type, the captions for the photos are at the ends of each essay in microscopic type rather than located near the photos, and it is frustrating that she describes photos and garments in the essays which aren't always shown. There is a gallery of small photos of the vintage garments at the end of the essay section but you can't make out a lot of detail. Due to the faithful duplication of the vintage garments, a number of the garments might look a bit odd at the office unless you were known for your passion for vintage - ie very high necklines, oddly puffed sleeves, 1940s shoulder lines etc..  (There is a woman who gets off my train regularly who is dressed head to toe in 1940s style, very intriguing). But it's full of gorgeous fair isle motifs and colours, and some lovely lace patterns,  with large clear charts so it is a treasure trove of inspiration and stitch patterns.  And the photography is gorgeous, with plentiful pictures of each garment. I'm knitting the Harriet Mittens because I had some Jamieson 2 ply jumperweight in my stash, only I'm turning them into fingerless mitts because I prefer those for commuting.

On the Japanese dollshouse, I made some furniture pieces for the two extensions then moved on to the first floor section.  This week I have built one of the guest bedrooms and am currently working on the Tokonoma or decorative alcove for the back of the room.  I'm trying to use a real twig for the central post, which will look better but requires that the surrounding panels be carved to fit round its bulges which is challenging. The floor area will hold six tatami mats but I'm not putting them in until I'm done constructing the Tokonoma in case of accidents with glue or paint.

And that's about it this week.  Not much excitement apart from our pea-brained cat managing to get herself locked into the garden shed during the 20 minutes I ventured out to prune a rose on Wednesday.  We didn't realise until it was dark and she hadn't shown up for dinner, and of course when we tried to let her out, the key broke off in the padlock.  So there we are shining a torch on the padlock trying to worry out the broken key, with the cat piteously crying inside (serves her right, but it was upsetting DS).  We couldn't get the broken bit out so ended up getting a sledgehammer and bashing the heck out of the hasp until it bent enough that we could wedge the bottom of the door open sufficiently that she could come out.  I got the key out the next day in the daylight but the hasp needs replacing now and the door needs repainting.  Stupid cat.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Deja vu all over again

There is once again snow on the ground and I am once again home sick with a cold.  Grrr, there ought to be a law against getting two colds so close together.  Plus my manager is probably going to start wondering if I am just avoiding having to travel to work in the snow.  It's supposed to be spring, I was enjoying seeing all the bulbs poking out of the ground and now they are hidden under a blanket of white.  Ironically we are shifting to British Summer Time next weekend. This weather is so bizarre.

I've been snuggling under my new GAA Afghan while I work on my oldest outstanding quilt UFO, the Hawaiian applique quilt. This was hibernating in a cupboard for several months while I did other things waiting for me to make some templates for the flowers.  I've stitched down all the stems and leaves so it's only the ring of flowers  left to do on the main part of the quilt.  There's supposed to be a border after that but I may stop while I'm winning.

This week I was back at work (possibly where I caught the new germs) but in the evenings and on my day off I was working on the Japanese dollshouse, mostly on the extensions to the bathhouse and kitchen.  Although not very big, these were surprisingly involved with lots of steps to complete for interior and external detail.  I've also made a few accessories, and jumped ahead to complete the ceiling to the bath house.

The new spa ceiling, and some little stools

The kitchen sink - looking online I think these were made from stone so I've painted mine accordingly.  The weighing scales are for the spa changing room.

Then it was time to attempt to hinge the extensions onto the house.  I'd taken heed of the struggles of the original blogger who said the screws were horrible and the heads stripped easily.  I ruined two  screws (luckily they give you two spares) while I worked out the best combination of drill size and mini screwdriver, then managed to hinge on the two extensions.

This is what the ground floor of the house looks like with the extensions closed. The clapboard is now in place, and the changing room has a shoji rice paper screen.

The ground floor with the hinged extensions open

The changing room extension to the bath house with sliding doors

The kitchen extension

Train knitting has been the 10-stitch triangle shawl which is slowly growing in size.  You could probably use it as a head kerchief now.  And I've been doing some cross-stitch in front of the telly while I'm sick.

This weekend was supposed to be a lace weekend with an outing to the lace day in Oakley yesterday and getting together with lace friends today, but I had to drop out of both due to germs.  The thing today has been cancelled anyway because of the snow.  I should try to do some bobbin lace on my own but I just don't feel like concentrating on it.

I had a bit of good news last week, I'm getting a small raise at work which will be backdated to June so this month's pay cheque should have a small windfall.  I think I'm going to spend it on a mini disc sander to help with the dollshousing.  I already own a fairly vicious belt sander but it's both inaccurate and overkill for small dollshouse items: more likely to tear them out of your hand, destroy them, and spit them out into a far corner of the workshop than to reduce a bit of material like you intended. 

Sunday, 11 March 2018

An historic finish

Or 'A' historic finish, depending on your style preferences.  Anyway, I have finally finished The Great American Aran Afghan!

This was a series based on a design contest run by Knitter's Magazine in America and subsequently published as a pattern booklet of 24 squares.  According to my Ravelry page, I started my first squares in spring 2012. I finished my 20 squares in spring 2016, then it's taken me another two years to crochet join the squares and knit the twisted border.  So six years of intermittent work.  Most of the squares were quite fun to knit and also developmental for me as a knitter.  I couldn't afford to knit it in wool at the time, so I bought several big skeins of Hayfield Bonus Aran (80 acrylic, 20 wool) and thankfully did not run out, and it actually wasn't bad to knit with at all. The finished afghan feels nice, it's got a good weight to it and it's warm.  Probably not as warm as a wool afghan would be.  And despite the wide variation in my square size, it is lying reasonably flat.  It feels really good to have finally finished this long term project.

Minor alarm on the Japanese dollshouse front when I realised two of my instruction booklets had gone missing.  I couldn't find them anywhere but as DH had earlier done his usual Saturday morning rubbish collection around the house, it seemed an obvious possibility.  Sure enough, they had somehow ended up in the recycling bin outside the house, along with a parts diagram sheet that I hadn't even realised was gone.  So alarm over, although I don't know if I accidentally knocked them into the bin or if there was some overzealous collecting going on.  We've now had a refresher session on 'in the bin' versus 'near the bin' and which lot to leave alone.

Otherwise the house is proceeding along nicely.  The bathhouse is done now apart from I haven't glued the entrance wall in yet, and I've now opened up to Chapter 25 as I work on the two bay extensions for the bathhouse and kitchen. 
The finished bath house, with sliding wooden shutters. There will be
an internal wall along the edge of the floor which diverts bathers
into the front bay extension where the changing room is.  I really like
how 'watery' the water is.  I've got to make a bunch of little
wooden stools to go in here as well.  You sit on the stool and use the bucket
to completely clean yourself at the faucets before getting in the bath.

The two bay extensions, kitchen on the left and bath house on the right.
These hinge onto the front of the house.
One of my lacemaking friends came to visit and I was proudly showing off my handiwork on the house.  She looked at the massive box of almost 100 unopened chapters and announced in a nice way that I was obviously insane.  I don't know, I like building things and I like following instructions to build things, and I like the positive reinforcement of the many 'wins' as I complete each room or piece of furniture.  I think that's the reason many of us do crafts - unlike tasks that constantly have to be re-done like dishwashing or ironing, you have a concrete achievement that waits patiently until the next time you can give it some attention.

I actually did some work on my Bucks Point hexagonal edging this week and have reached the halfway point.  I really like how it looks but I do feel a bit bored with it now as I know how to do it and am not really learning anything new. It's taken me about eight months to get this far so probably another six or eight before it's finished at the level of attention I am giving it.  Obviously if I worked on it more often then it would go faster.  I like lacemaking but it's not something I want to sit and do for hours and hours, generally after a couple of hours I've had enough, my eyes are tired, my pin pushing finger is getting sore and my back aches from bending towards the pillow even though I try to sit up straight.  I know a lot of lacemakers who go to the courses at Knuston Hall which is relatively local, and I've felt tempted, but at the end of the day I don't think I would enjoy sitting doing lace for several days.  On a quilting course, say, you are moving around a lot more as you sew, cut, press, lay out blocks etc. so it's physically more varied.

The garden seems to have survived the snowfall although it remains to be seen if we've lost any herbaceous plants. Suddenly it is driving fast into spring, and the first daffodils are starting to appear.  The crocuses I rescued from the old hedge when we replaced it, then replanted in the new bed, are all blooming away. Although it turns out I missed several bulbs which are also blooming now around the new lavender hedge.  I went out with the claw thingy yesterday and loosened the soil around the plants yesterday - we have quite sandy soil so I don't think it needs proper digging.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Snow bound

It's been a strange week.  Weatherwise, the Beast from the East brought days of snow and sub-zero temperatures, very unusual for this part of England and for this time of year.  I don't think I've ever known it to be so cold for so long since I arrived almost 30 years ago. Normally I would have been struggling to get to work with my two mile walk through the snow, but Monday night I went down quite suddenly with a rotten head cold and I've been home sick ever since.  With the terrible weather, there was no attraction to go out even if I had felt well enough so it was sort of a mixed blessing.  DH was home as well on Thursday and Friday after his journey to work took four hours on Wednesday (normally one hour) due to accidents and road closures.  So we were all snowbound together like being shut up in some big log cabin.  Luckily we had enough food and milk for the first few days and of course lots of hobbies to do.  I was feeling on the mend by Thursday night and if the weather had been better I might have gone back to work on Friday, but the scene outside killed any motivation.  I even had to stop washing paintbrushes in the basement sink because the external waste pipe had frozen solid and the water wouldn't drain any more.  It felt like a long extended limbo, punctuated by lots of nose blowing  :)

The cat had the right idea for the weather.

But suddenly it's all thawing and the temperatures are rising fast.  Some green is showing on the lawn after days of being blanketed with white - I just hope we haven't lost too many plants.  We went out today in the car for the first time in days, to do some shopping with DS who has just been offered his first proper job. He'll be working in London with an accountancy firm on their graduate trainee scheme starting in a few weeks.  So it was off to the mall for a new suit and all the accompaniments that go with it, with DS being visibly torn between his loathing of shopping and his slightly terrified recognition that he will need all these things soon.  I'm very proud of him but secretly a bit sorry for him as well to have to leave his relatively carefree student life behind and join the daily working grind of adult life.  But on the other hand I don't want him still living here in his 30s!

So apart from the first few days of being ill, I've been spending a lot of time down in the basement working on the Japanese dollshouse.  I've been trying to keep the fan heater running a lot more frequently, even though it's annoying, in case the cold down there contributed to my illness in the first place.

My trolley arrived (Amazon were seemingly unhampered by the snow) and DS put it together for me.  It's holding all the tools and paints brilliantly, leaving me much more working area.

After doing a couple of the new chapters, I became impatient with the partwork approach of doing a wall (or maybe just part of a wall) plus a bit of furniture in each instalment.  This results in a lot of instructions such as for example leaving 2mm gaps when you are gluing on rafters, because a couple of chapters later the next wall has to fit into that 2mm gap.  But inevitably you didn't leave enough gap, or too much gap. Multiply this by three sides on every wall and ceiling, and no wonder the other bloggers were complaining that nothing fits together properly.  I gave up on that approach, and jumped ahead to cherry pick all the chapters which had the walls, floors and ceilings for the ground floor so that I could work on all structural elements sequentially.  While raising the risk of losing tiny bits of not-yet-required furniture or shutters, it meant that I could trial fit all the walls and floors that were meant to fit together and adjust notches or sand off excess as required, and see exactly where gaps needed to be left in decoration.  It became fairly intensive as I ended up working on around eight chapters at the same time but I eventually achieved a complete ground floor structure.  So now I can go back and sweep up the extraneous bits of decoration and furniture one chapter at a time.  I have little piles of partly-opened chapters all around the room with numbered post-its stuck on each one waiting for me to get to them.

I really like this entrance hallway, with the Mt Fuji window and its shoji sliding rice paper window screens.  I added some lasercut paper decoration I found at Colemans on the outside of the rice paper.  The overhead opening is awaiting the stairs which get constructed later.  The tatami mats in the corner are the first of many to be built  throughout the house, you make them out of real tatami so not exactly in scale but they feel very authentic.  The cabinet was built over two chapters and had especially fiddly sliding doors but I got there in the end.  The two beckoning cats are both souvenirs from our trip to Japan a few years ago.

The spa is still under construction.  The round wall mural is actually a coaster which we bought in Japan but it looks good here.  The decorative ceiling gets built many chapters later so I've decided to wait for that to turn up.

The kitchen has a ceiling now, another shelving unit, and both a sliding outside door, and sliding doors into the central hallway.

A picture for scale, and showing one of the tiny spa buckets that are in the kit, you have to wind wire around them, I've got another half dozen to do.

I'm sorry if you are reading this blog for the quilting or lacemaking because there has been very little of that this week!  I did pin my Snowman Quilt  up on the design wall to see how much more I need to quilt.  It's probably about 75% done now. Ironically it's been very seasonal this week.

I did a bit of work on my Bucks point hexagonal edging but it was halfhearted.  In the evenings I've been knitting on my GAA Afghan twisted cable edging, I am slowly approaching the final corner.  And I've moved on to the next little ball of yarn on my 10-stitch triangle shawl.

So it's back to work tomorrow for the first time in a week, if I can remember how to get there and what it is I actually do...

Sunday, 25 February 2018


The cold spell not only continues but is predicted to get much worse this coming week.  Parts of our old house are quite cold even with the heating on 24/7 and I am routinely walking around with a cowl and heavy jumper, augmented with a hat and sometimes a jacket when I go down to the basement to work on my dollshouse.  Consequently I just don't feel like doing anything, my biological need to hibernate has obviously kicked in and all's I want to do is stay still, stay warm, and eat lots of sugar  :)

However I have been putting in major time on my Japanese dollshouse, spending hours down there all day on my days off and a few hours each evening.  My DS has started referring to me as the 'basement dweller', as in 'How's the basement dweller tonight?'   As you can see, it is a hive of mess and activity.

I have a bad and longstanding habit of covering every available surface so that I end up actually working on my lap, but I've ordered a cheap rolling trolley off Amazon which should hopefully be coming this week so that I can offload the items I am only using occasionally like the paint bottles. I've also ordered some more clamps as it is becoming obvious that there will be a lot of sanding to fit and clamping on this project.  As it is built in small steps, the potential for small errors to creep in that disrupt later combination with subsequent walls/floors is large although I am trying to keep everything flat and accurate.

The first few days of time were spent rectifying the previous owner's bodge job on Chapters 1-6.  Luckily they used some kind of inferior glue so I was able to break apart the front porch, completely repaint it, then glue it back together.  I also broke out the sliding doors and fixed them so that they actually slide now, and repainted them as well, and repainted the 'cobble' frontage. The lower part of the walls is left unpainted for now as there will be clapboard siding later.

I repainted their kitchen walls and repainted the beams in a darker brown, I had no choice as they had already been painted with a rust brown so I couldn't stain them.  Now that I've moved on to subsequent steps, I've stained the later beams with Georgian medium oak colour, sealed with matt varnish.  In this picture of the kitchen, you can see the dark brown beams on the rear wall, and the stained beams on the left hand wall.  I'm trying to decide which I like better, to do the rest of the house the same.  I think I'm leaning towards the stained beams because the wood grain, although not in scale, looks more lifelike than the flat painted beams.  But staining/varnishing does take more time to dry.

 I waxed the dais in the kitchen to improve the finish and textured the kitchen floor to look like a tamped dirt floor, and repainted the traditional kitchen stove (after prying the glued-on lids off the pots so I could paint them as well).

They had really done a number on the lower section of this kitchen cabinet, I think in despair they had just given up and glued or forced in the drawers and glued in the lower doors which were meant to slide.  I managed to pry their pieces apart without too much breakage, and spent a long time scraping glue out of the sliding grooves and sanding things until it all fit together properly and the doors worked.  I built the top part of the cabinet (with two further sets of sliding doors) in one of the new chapters, then put it all together.  As they had painted the lower half, I had to repaint their half and paint my top half so it all matched, plus I aged the whole cabinet to look well used.  I'm pleased that everything is operational on it now.

The new chapters 8-10 are now focusing on the hallway, including building a three sided traditional entrance, which I've almost finished.  So far I'm taking a couple of chapters at a time, so that I can stain and paint in batches without risking losing things.  I'm using a couple of bargain store baking sheets to store the chapter pieces on.  I'm really enjoying the build, the kit quality is much higher than I had expected, with a lot of pieces precut or pre-routed to size, I can sort of see why the series was so expensive to begin with as it would be a massive job to retro-engineer and assemble all these components into mailable chapter packets.  I've only had one piece that was too short so far, and I was able to cut a replacement from my stash. The instructions are very detailed and I'm starting to recognise some Italian words that are being used frequently like right/left/piece/glue etc. I don't always do it the way they say because sometimes from experience I  know it's better to do things in a different order.  I do feel a bit pressured by having a box sitting next to the table with 100 more chapters in it, but I just need to take it a few at a time.

I'm continuing to knit on my 10-stitch-twist shawl and have just joined on my fourth little ball of sock yarn.  The sides are getting much longer now so one little ball doesn't do a full circuit any more.  I've knit a bit more on the twisted rope edging of my GAA Afghan, I'm on the fourth and final side now so the end is in sight although several feet away.

With all the dollshousing going on, I haven't done any bobbin lace this week and almost no quilting!

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Goodbye Christmas

I spent an hour this cold morning going up and down a ladder to unwind two sets of Christmas lights from the two trees in front of our house. For some reason I had wound them around every branch I could reach when we put them up.  While this means that they survived Storm Eleanor and Storm No-name, it made the job of taking them down fairly difficult especially as I kept losing feeling in my cold fingers then having painful pins and needles as the circulation returned.  But we had to do it because we're getting the trees trimmed hopefully soon.  At least it's done and off my guilt list, and I did not yield to temptation and take the scissors to the wires to speed the job up.

The knitted doll reached its destination and has been ecstatically received by its new young owner.  Apparently she has a thing for hats so is delighted that I included a hat with the outfits. I've been sent some lovely pictures of her obvious happiness - I wish everyone I gave handmade things to was that pleased!  I think all of us hand-crafters have been burned in the past by people who weren't impressed by things we put a lot of work into.

I won the eBay auction for the little table for my dollshouse room that I will be building the Japanese house on, and DH kindly went and fetched it for me.  I think I might keep it afterwards, it fits in nicely and will add extra display space.  So I bought a plastic tablecloth today to protect it which I put on after taking this photo.  This shows the table and the huge box of all the part-work kits which DS and DH struggled down three flights of stairs with.

I've had a look and the original owner had completed the first six steps but not very well.  He's painted the wood instead of staining like I am planning to do, which is unfortunate as his wood won't match mine.  I've got a day off tomorrow so I will have to look at what he's done so far and consider how to go on. I spent some time typing the Italian from the books into Google Translate which is very tiring but gave me a general idea of what's going on. The accompanying booklets are very detailed and also include historical information about Japanese houses in each one.

Meanwhile I made a push to finish the third Chinese box theatre miniature scene to clear the decks for the new project.  This tin is 'In a happy corner' and the instructions were in English again which helped.  This was definitely the hardest to build, the buildings are made up of several separate components that just sort of balance on each other while the glue is drying. You can't clamp because it's inside the tin  It's cute and I'm pleased with it, but I think three of these kits is enough.  I'm staining the bunny stand this time so still waiting for that to dry. Due to the inclusion of the telephone box and pub sign, I think this is meant to be an English scene - or a Chinese idea of an English scene.  Looks more like New York or Boston to me apart from the telephone box.  Lots of cute detail again, including tiny cakes in the bakery, and books for the bookstore.

I've been sewing the binding down by hand on my big Blue and white china quilt, although the quilt fought back and had to have a time out for a few days.  I machine sewed most of one long side only to discover that my needle had unthreaded at the beginning of the seam, so by the time I noticed, the thread was all fouled and hooked inside the head of the machine. I had to unscrew the top cover and side cover to pull out all the stuck thread.  Then when I re-sewed that long seam and started the next side, my bobbin thread ran out.  I re-wound a bobbin and started sewing again, then realised that back when the original foul-up had occurred, my seam width had reset to default and I hadn't been stitching a 1/4 inch seam since the original problem.  Since I cut my binding to 1 1/4 inch, it isn't wide enough to wrap around the default seam allowance.  So after some bad language and a time out for a few days for me to get over it (aren't hobbies supposed to be fun?), I ripped out the two offending wide seams and re-sewed them AGAIN to finish the machine part of the binding.  Grrrr.

I had an enjoyable day out on Saturday at the Fenny Fiddlers Lace Day in Fenny Stratford. It's a good sized lace day that I've been to before, well organised and with lots of amenities like suppliers, a raffle, tombola, and a secondhand stall.  One amenity it didn't have this time was heating, it was absolutely freezing all day and I had to keep my coat wrapped around my legs to block the icy draft at floor level.  They had some portable heaters going, and a few inadequate wall mounted heaters, but it only started feeling a bit warmer in late afternoon before we went home.  It was also fairly crowded, the tables are not very deep and we had nine people clustered around our double table, so my elbows were occasionally touching the lacemakers on either side of me.  It was like making lace on a really cold aeroplane.  I took my new travelling pillow so I wasn't taking up as much width as usual, but still the same depth so I was extending well into the opposite person's table space due to the narrow table.  Luckily she only had a little pillow which just fit on as well.  But otherwise I quite enjoyed it, I sat with some friendly people, I got lots done on my Bucks Point edging with almost no reverse lacing, and I cleaned up on the secondhand stall to the tune of about 20 pairs of very reasonably priced bobbins.  I bought a couple of new painted bobbins by Sarah Jones as well, very pretty. Afterwards DH was a star and took me to the nearby and excellent Thread and Patches quilting shop, which is like a small version of an American shop with its wide variety of stock.   I enjoyed looking at the fabric but it's so expensive now that I didn't even feel tempted to buy any.  I think my brain is stuck in the past when it comes to the cost of quilting fabric, I can't believe that people are paying £17 a metre for it now.  I did buy a bottle of purple dye for a UFO knitting project I need to finish, and a packet of tiny white buttons I could have done with when making the knitted doll.

On my day off this week, I spent some time watching some excellent free video tutorials on repairing vintage Singer Featherweight sewing machines, on the Featherweight Shop site which was mentioned on Facebook. My 222 has always had erratic tension so I want to try some of the tips from the videos to see if I can improve it.  It will also benefit from some of the cleaning and polishing tips if I can acquire similar products to what they used. It's very generous of that shop to share so much knowledge to help owners trying to troubleshoot their old machines.  Mine dates to 1957.

Most of the rest of my time this week has been spent on my new knitting project, the Ten-Stitch-Triangle shawl by Frankie Brown. It's like a log cabin triangle: you start with a small garter stitch triangle in the middle of the back, then knit a 10-stitch wide garter strip around and around until you make a triangle big enough to wear as a shawl.  I'm knitting it with the little balls of Opal sock yarn from my Advent calendar so it's quite fun to see what the next colour will be.  It took me a long time to get going on this project, I had to rip back several times because I wasn't happy with my joins or corners.  After watching some YouTube videos on the related 10-stitch Blanket, I tried out a few different things and finally got going.  By that time my first ball of yarn was getting a bit matted from being re-used so many times!  I'm doing the corners as given in the pattern, but I'm joining at the sides using the join shown in the Nervous Knitter video , which is a flatter join more suitable for a shawl. My triangle is growing but still a bit wobbly which I think blocking will help a lot with. it's rather addictive knitting, mindless and yet not mindless because of the short row corners.  When I'd had enough of lacemaking yesterday at the Lace Day, I pulled this out for the last hour, and I'm knitting it on the train there and back to work.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Next big project

Having got the quilt frame out the way and significantly reduced my mountain of unfinished quilt tops, I'm now gearing up to tackle the next big project that's been waiting in the wings: my 110 chapter part work to build a Japanese style dollshouse.

Regular readers may remember I bought this on Italian eBay almost exactly three years ago. It was originally issued by De Agostini as a very expensive partwork, and published in Italian, Japanese and apparently Korean.  I found out about it when a finished example was featured in a British dollshouse magazine, and when I looked it up online, I found I could buy a complete set in Italian for about one tenth of the original price.  We were in the middle of house renovations at that point so the kits have been sitting in the attic ever since. Meanwhile we visited Japan ourselves in 2016 so I now have a ton of photos to draw on as visual references. The main stumbling block now is my inability to read Italian but I am placing great hopes on Google Translate and explanatory photos in the instructions.

As a preliminary step, I am hunting on eBay for a cheap small kitchen table that will fit into my dollshouse room to serve as a temporary work/building platform.  I can do the messy stuff in the unfinished basement room, but I can't leave the dollshouse in that room as it's really damp and I think the dollshouse would probably warp. This build will likely take months (possibly over a year) so I think it needs to be located in the much-less-damp dollshouse room.  Unlike my previous big dollshouse kit builds, I don't think I am going to blog this one specifically as the construction has already been well documented by a couple of other bloggers here and here.  So you may have to put up with the occasional post on this blog!

You may have noticed I slipped in an extra post this week about how I made my travel lace pillow, and on my day off this week I moved my Bucks Point edging onto the new pillow.  Yesterday I worked on my edging for a few hours at the Nene Lacemakers Saturday meeting, and the new pillow seems to be working really well.  The padded surface has a nice feel to it, I have enough room for my bobbins and the roller pillow is holding pins well.  I received several predictions that I won't be able to make a new pricking that exactly fits around the roller so it seems likely that I will have to leapfrog my original two prickings instead, but that's fine. The new pillow, when folded up, is so compact and easy to carry that as I headed out the door to go to the meeting, I had a strong sense that I was forgetting something - because normally when I travel to lace events I have a huge bulky bag of 24-inch pillow and accoutrements that makes it hard to even get out the door. This new pillow just hangs over my arm like a 1950s handbag! ! The club members seemed to like it anyway.

Also this week I finished my Knitted Doll.  As well as replacing the buttons with smaller buttons that I found at the haberdashery, I finished a two-part playsuit and a hat, so she has a change of clothes from her original dress and cardi. I've used up almost all my four colours of cotton yarn that I bought for this project so I am going to stop there.

I've offered her as a gift to a knitting friend for her toddler, recognising that the toddler is probably too young to manipulate the buttons and clothing yet but Mum could help with that. I've sewn the buttons on very securely and the toddler is over two years old now so I think the doll is sufficiently play-safe.

Today I have cut some binding strips and I'm planning to machine the binding on to my Blue and White China Quilt then I can stitch the other side of the binding down by hand in the evenings this week.  

I've been tackling a few outstanding items from my projects list (I have lists for everything because my memory isn't very good) so yesterday I spent a few hours cleaning up and re-waxing the antique sewing machine I bought a few months ago.  The beautiful machine is now on display in the upstairs hallway where I can admire it every day.  The wooden cover looks a lot better after a clean and wax but it is going to have to go into the attic for storage because I think it will get damaged if left in the hallway. And last night I sat down to re-spangle a bunch of old bobbins, something I've been putting off for months.  I get almost all my bobbins secondhand, and some of them come with some pretty weird spangles, or the wire ends are sticking out, or they've used some huge inappropriate centre bead like a 1.5inch crystal drop, or there is no spangle at all.  [The spangle is the ring of beads at the bottom of the bobbin that adds some weight and prevents the bobbin from rolling.]  I went through my two pillows in use and mended various spangles on those bobbins, then I sat down with a box of all the other bobbins needing attention and worked through about half of them in front of the tv last night. I'm not the world's best spangler but even my attempts are better than what was on them.

The unusually long cold snap continues here, it's been hovering around 3 degrees C for several days with heavy frosts every morning. But my garden is now bedecked with several clumps of pretty snowdrops, some pink hellebores, and a couple of primroses are trying to bloom despite being voraciously attacked as usual by slugs. The magnolia tree is covered in buds which promise much bloom in a few months, and the corkscrew hazel tree has catkins all over it.  Meanwhile the rosemary bush at the front of the house, which is supposed to be a Mediterranean plant, has decided to bloom which is just crazy.  Maybe it felt left out!

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