Saturday, 19 April 2014

Hooray, a long weekend!

It's been a lovely week because I only had to work two days and then we were into the long Easter weekend. Unlike the sorry thousands of people I saw queuing at London St Pancras station on Thursday night (five hour queues for Eurostar that filled up the entire lower concourse, unbelievable), we aren't planning to go away.

Instead we have a number of small indulgences planned.  Yesterday we drove over to the RSPB sanctuary in Sandy to enjoy the English spring tradition of a walk in a bluebell wood. The bluebells were in full swing, and there were still some daffodils in the mix although they were fading.  The temperature is about 15 C so it's warm in the sun but still fairly nippy when it's cloudy.

On the way back we stopped in the attractive market town of Kimbolton for lunch: I had homemade quiche which was very tasty.  We also picked up some fresh scallops from a fishmonger's van which we had wrapped in bacon for supper - yummy!  In the afternoon we went to look at a house just for the sake of comparison - it was really big and nicely done inside, but near a noisy road and had no character. Still interesting to look at though.

Today we are going to a tea room for a special Easter-themed afternoon tea, with sandwiches, Simnel cake, easter choc and of course plenty of tea.  Tomorrow we are going to the collectors' fair in Lamport followed by roast lamb for supper, and Monday we are packing DS up to take him back to Oxford where we will likely enjoy a visit to a museum and a few bookshops.

This week's activities

I did some more Fimo earlier in the week.  First I had a go at some Aubergines (eggplant) which came out fairly well.

Then I tried my hand at a more complex cane for Tomatoes, including the internal seeds.  This resulted in enough canes to make thousands of tomatoes, but I only cut up part of one into slices for now.  I can use them in sandwiches or salads.

I finished knitting my Slouchy Hat  from the Semi-Sweet Hat pattern by Erica Jackofsky in Elizabeth Lovold Silky Wool. I reduced the stitches to knit it fairly snugly because I thought the yarn might relax once washed, but it has surprised me by staying fairly taut. I showed this off at knitting group to lukewarm interest - I think because they don't realise the finer points like I did a provisional cast-on to pick up the hem, followed by a half-inch of linen stitch to hold it snugly to the head, and I knit it on 2.25mm needles for a really smooth fabric. I guess it just looks like a hat  :)

I also finished another square for my GAA Afghan.  This is the Dana Hurt square which is another big one.  These squares are never going to block to all the same size.  I think I will have to pick an average size and hope for the best.  Nine more to go.  The Dana Hurt square was fairly straightforward apart from you have to pattern the lace columns on the WS as well.  I had to draw out a couple of one row charts to remind me what I needed to do on that column on both WS and RS rows.

I found a ball of James C Brett Merino at my LYS which was a good match for my Crochet Slippers so I was able to finish them.  These are the 29-210-36 Room Shoes from Pierrot yarns, a Japanese pattern that is available free on Ravelry in translation.  I am a very poor crocheter so it took me quite a while to get these right, and I never did figure out the flowers properly for the band.  I like how the increases and decreases shape the slipper to hug the foot. I had to add an extra row to the slipper because I think my feet are a lot bigger than Japanese feet. They're not incredibly warm due to the mesh structure of crochet but they're about right for this time of year, particularly paired with some hand-knit socks.

I've knit a couple of tension squares getting ready for some new projects.  The darker blue is Regia Silk fingering weight for the Low Tide vest from Tin Can Knits, and the lighter blue is some Sirdar Breeze for a summer drop-stitch t-shirt.


Although I have successfully (and temporarily) whittled down my number of knitting UFOs, I was finding it annoying having to peek into every tote bag to work out what project was in which bag.  Totebags are good for travelling with knitting but for home use I wanted something I could see into.  After some trawling around on the internet, I found these shoe bags on Amazon UK, shipping from China.  They were very reasonable at £2.59 each and the quality is better than I expected.  They will hold small and medium size projects easily and I can see what's in them without having to open them.  I got three pink ones and three brown ones.

Happy Easter everyone!  I'm going to ignore my diet and tuck into a nice chocolate egg tomorrow -woo hoo!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Best shipping note ever, and some finishes

Being weak of will when it comes to shiny new things demonstrated by talented crafts people, I succumbed to ordering some fabric and a template from the Missouri Star Quilt Company after watching the lovely Jenny Doan in a free three-part interview filmed as part of the 'Quilt with the Stars' series. I love Jenny's Youtube video tutorials so enjoyed watching the interview and learning more about Jenny and her family.

My order generated the best shipping despatch confirmation ever:

Thanks for your order at the Missouri Star Quilt Company!
We just want to let you know that your quilting supplies have been meticulously gathered, placed on a red velvet pillow, and delicately escorted by 25 of our finest employees to our shipping department. Our master shipper has dutifully performed his craft, lovingly packing your order in the finest materials known to man.
Our team gathered to give your package the proper send-off it deserved. Tears of joy were shed, speeches were given, and there was even a farewell cake. Following the festivities, the whole group, led by our local high school marching band playing the song Leaving on a Jet Plane, ushered your order through downtown Hamilton, Missouri. No, we don't own a Jet Plane, but your package was placed in the care of a roguishly handsome man who is riding in a majestic horse-drawn carriage which is on its way to your home as you read this.
Although the products you've ordered will be sorely missed here at MSQC, we are overjoyed that they have found a good home. Take care of them, treasure them, and when you make something beautiful with them, make sure you share it with us on facebook, twitter, or just send us an email, we love to see what you make!.
*Note the above is a slight dramatization of what actually happened with your order, but seriously we did ship it, and here is the tracking info:

How wonderful is that? It deserves to go viral. I will probably get hammered by Customs for daring to order abroad but I almost don't care when the customer service is that lovely.
Finishing off stuff
Having somewhat alarmed myself last week when I bagged up knitting projects and discovered I had 10 of them, I have made a push the past week to finish stuff off.

At long last, I have finished the Haapsalu Shawl, which came close to getting frogged last year after a long hibernation since its start in 2010.  I was able to knit both borders to five eyelets in depth, and spent a morning carefully sewing them on.  Blocking was a bit complicated, because after blocking the shawl the normal way, the book then instructs you to pick up all the edge stitches onto needles, then wet them to coax them to stand out in nice loops.  Once that has dried, it's messed up your scallops a bit so you have to go along and pick up loops on each scallop and tug them to shape.  Hopefully I will never have to wash it again.

I'm not really sure when I am going to wear it as it is rather over the top for the office, but it feels lovely and soft and fuzzy.
I also finished my Desolation of Smaug Mystery Knitalong from the Lord of the Rings group on Ravelry.  This was a simpler shawl than last year's 'The Unexpected Journey' and personally I don't feel the design is nearly as successful, but I still really enjoyed knitting it and participating in the group to see what everyone else was doing.  I also liked the colourful Auracania Ranco Multy yarn.  This shawl is much easier to wear and has already been on a few days out.

I finally stopped procrastinating and finished the Opium Cardigan which was all done apart from the buttonhole band on one side.  I had a few fun and games trying to do buttonholes in this slubby yarn, which I eventually overcame by actually stitching around each buttonhole with some spare yarn to stop them gaping open.  However, when I took the pictures I noticed that I have 'bald' patches on each shoulder where the yarn pooled, so I am going to disguise those by darning in some thicker slubs. This is definitely one that I can wear to the office.

I also finished the textured beanie hat by Jane Burns from Simply Knitting April 2014 which I started as a portable project for SkipNorth using the same Rowan Wool Aran yarn as the Fetchings that I also knit that weekend.  Speaking of the Fetchings, after wearing them a few times I found I didn't like how they gaped open and let cold air in, and they didn't seem to come high enough on my hand.  I had some of the yarn left over, so I unpicked the binding, knit another cable repeat and four rows of k1,p1 ribbing to bring them higher on my hand.  They're much better now. I really like the Rowan aran, it is robust without being scratchy, really shows the texture, and softens slightly when washed.

I decided to knit the second pair of Fingerless Gloves for DS right away, while the pattern mods were fresh in my memory.  I've finished one and am just up the fingers on the second one.  I knit a little cable twist on the first one to differentiate them from DH's gloves.  But I forgot to do that on the second glove so I need to drop down some stitches and cable them back up before I start knitting fingers.
Also this week, though it won't be a 'finish' for a long time, I've made an effort to stitch down some more of the applique on my Hawaiian Applique Quilt.  I feel guilty that it's been sitting there almost untouched for months when really it should be a great project to do while we're renting.  However, I find it much easier to do when I've got some natural daylight which doesn't really happen on work days. 
I finished crocheting the first crochet slipper that I started on the SkipNorth weekend and have done half of the second slipper but annoyingly I've run out of yarn.  I need to mailorder another ball of the Drops Karisma before I can finish.
That's about it this week.  We are enjoying some lovely Spring weather. Today we went out for a drive to a couple more lovely Northamptonshire villages in the morning, then dragged DS out for a walk to a nearby country park after lunch. In the morning we stumbled across a gorgeous English country house called Lamport Hall and saw signs for a Collectors Fair they are having on the Easter weekend.  So we'll probably head back for that next weekend, to see if we can pick up anything nice.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Four months and counting

Suddenly it's April and we've been in our rented house for four months now.  Still no ETA on the new house but the owners have found somewhere and had a successful survey, and they tell me they are pushing to move by the end of May.  Frustratingly, our own solicitor who was an uber-efficient hero during our own protracted sale, has dropped off the radar and is not responding to email or phone messages for the last two months.  I did manage to speak to her two weeks ago and she said she's been crazy busy but would review our file, but since then no word.  I left two messages on Friday which she didn't return, I will try again next week.  I don't want to be the ones who hold up the chain because of a slow solicitor, it would just be too ironic after that happened to us before Christmas!

DH's blood test was negative which is a relief, but my elderly friend has been moved to a nursing home and isn't doing well at all which is very sad.  I took her a quilt when I visited, she doesn't really need it at this time of year but it brightens up the room and gives her something to look at. It's funny that we spend so long making these quilts - hours of choosing fabric and cutting it out, piecing it together, quilting it, binding it - storing up time like putting pennies in a piggy bank, not necessarily knowing how or when we are going to 'spend' the outcome.  When I was making the quilt a couple of years ago, I didn't know it would be coming with me to a completely new town, or end up being given to a friend who, at the time I was making it, was pretty healthy for her age.

On the train there and back, I finished DH's gloves.  He's quite pleased with them.  DS, who initially was not interested when I offered to make him a pair, has now realised they would keep his hands warm when he is playing video games in his cold college room, so he would like a pair too for next winter. I've still got plenty of this yarn (from the p/hop swap) so I will get started.

I did a bit more Fimo miniature food this week. I made up a bunch more parsnips and did a better job on the second batch than the ones I made at Miniatura.  I made some lemons, and some yellow and orange peppers.  I've also included in the picture some cheese boards I made a few weeks ago and forgot to blog.

The second day I made up some carrots using similar techniques to the parsnips, and some potatoes.  I'm getting a bit better at modelling in Fimo but it does make my fingers feel like huge clumsy sausages.  I spend as much time crushing detail accidentally as I do sculpting it in the first place.

I got fed up with my pile of knitting UFOs on the sofa because they were all getting tangled up with each other.  So I spent a couple of hours one morning going through the pile, bagging up all the projects (10 of them!), and also going through my backup pile hidden behind a door - putting away the dregs of old projects, putting needles back where they go etc.  It's a lot tidier than it all was but I have ordered some shoe bags with a clear vinyl lid from Amazon (they were cheap) because I want to be able to see what's in each bag.  Several projects are almost finished so it won't be 10 for long - the final clue is out for the Desolation of Smaug shawl, I've finished DH's gloves, I just need to do a button band for the Opium cardigan, and I've done all the knitting for the Haapsalu shawl and just need to sew on the borders.  Then I can start some of the projects waiting in the wings:  thrummed slippers, the Lush cardigan, and my next shawl!

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Retail therapy

I've been feeling a bit stressed lately and have been overcompensating with retail therapy.  Previously I would have comforted myself with food, but since I'm still on a diet (12 pounds lost) I'm trying not to do that.  An elderly friend is poorly in hospital and DH has to have a blood test next week to check if he's got something serious, and DS is home which while lovely is disrupting our routine (and our diet).

Work has been astonishingly tedious lately which again gives me too much time surfing the retail opportunities on the internet. This has resulted in two new quilting books, two new Fimo books, a set of ergonomic crochet hooks (because I tried some at the Skipnorth Retreat and they felt so much better), a new suitcase with a fun print of fishermen's cottages on it, a purse frame that I'm going to make a knitting bag out of using the fabric I bought last weekend, a bid ongoing on eBay against an antique bookcase, and several pieces of bargain Bespaq dollshouse furniture.  The postman is probably wondering why there are parcels every day to my address.  Notice there are no clothes or shoes in this list - I have priorities.

Today DH wanted to go to Birmingham to visit a model shop and I had a ticket for Miniatura, which is pretty much the best dollshouse and miniatures show.  So he dropped me off and headed into Birmingham.  Due to my disarranged (deranged?) state of mind, I found it hard to settle at the show but I enjoyed looking and did pick up some things there.

My first stop was Model Village Miniatures, who are sadly giving up making their wonderfully affordable furniture and accessory kits.  I used several of their kits when I built my Fairfield, so I took advantage of show prices to stock up on several more kits that I might find useful in future.  Then I went along to Petite Properties to look at their latest kits including a new French mansion which might be a future purchase.  Then I visited Sally Meekin to add to my collection of 1:12 scale architectural teapots.  This year she had a cute little windmill that came home with me.

I was on the lookout for cheap platters, plates and pie dishes to accommodate my growing collection of Fimo food, and found various bits on stalls.

I took a free workshop making parsnips from Fimo from the British Polymer Guild which I enjoyed and I learned some new things. They even baked them for us and we got to bring the excess clay home so I can make more at home.

I found this fabulous knitted outfit whichwhen I took it out of the packet even has a matching hat, to put in my knitting shop.  It was only £8!!  How can they possibly do all of this incredibly skilful and timeconsuming work and only charge £8?  The mind boggles.

On the way there and back, I started knitting DH a fingerless glove out of some lovely soft grey wool I picked up in the p/hop swap last weekend.  I think the yarn might even have some silk or alpaca in it, it is so lovely and soft but I don't know as there is no ball band label. I finished the glove when we got home but still need to darn the ends in. It seemed to knit up so fast in DK weight, I'm used to knitting gloves in sock yarn which take a lot longer.  The pattern is from Ann Budd's Handy book of Knitting Patterns.

Fimo this week was tackling the bacon, pork chop and lamb chop chapter in the Angie Scarr book.  Unfortunately the directions weren't very clear and I'm not that pleased with my attempts.  One of the Fimo books I've ordered is her latest book which I expect will be better than this old first edition that I've got.

I knit a blue cowl out of the electric blue chenille I got in the p/hop swap.  It's lovely and soft, good for wearing around the house on a cold morning.

Otherwise this week, I've continued to dabble on various knitting UFOs including the Aran Sampler sweater, the Aran hat, my next GAAA block and the neverending lace border for my Haapsalu shawl.  My mess of UFOs takes up half the sofa but luckily my family are trained to avoid them.

Tomorrow is Mothering Sunday here in the UK and it's supposed to be a really nice day.  We are planning to visit a garden centre for tea and cake and are dragging DS with us since it's my special day.  Maybe we'll even make him come for a walk around the pretty village with us - Bwaa haa haa ha haaaaa.....

Monday, 24 March 2014

Spring gallivanting

I've been gallivanting around on two successive weekends, including a knitting retreat in Yorkshire.

Last Sunday I took advantage of having a season ticket and went down to London to the Spring Knitting and Stitching show at Kensington Olympia last Sunday.  This is the new version of what used to be called the Stitch and Craft show, and this year it was relocated to a different hall which is all on one level.  It's a mixed show covering many crafts and normally I quite enjoy it as I have varied interests.  However this year I found it disappointing and felt that it was poor value for money for the expensive entrance ticket (£12.50).  There seemed to be fewer stalls, and a disappointingly high number of non-craft 'tat' stalls selling scarves, handbags, hair clips etc.  That's not what I come to a craft show to see.  There also seemed to be much less of a 'buzz' on Sunday anyway, and fewer exhibits to look at.  The number of workshops and lectures also seemed reduced from previous years. I couldn't find a single button stall to buy buttons for my gilet, there were only a few plastic buttons on general craft stalls.  There was a fair assortment of quilting and knitting stands, but other crafts seemed underrepresented compared to previous years.  Overall a disappointment although I did manage to find some Rowan Aran yarn for my projects for the Yorkshire knitting weekend.

I needed to start some simpler portable projects for commuting and to take to the SkipNorth knitting retreat, because all of my current projects are charted.  I got the Aran yarn for a hat, and to make a pair of Fetching fingerless mitts, and some DK yarn to crochet some slippers and to learn how to do thrum knitting.  I've also cast on for a simple slouchy stockinette hat in some Elizabeth Lavold Silky Wool that I bought in New England a few years ago.  I will confess that I finally bought one of those needle threaders that they market at these fairs  on the stall that I generally walk past thinking "I don't need one of those".  Well now I do, grrrrr.  Hope it works, it seems kind of flimsy.

I bought some buttons in our local fabric store the next day and sewed them on my Gilet so it's now done.

Then on Friday, after a happily shortened work week, I set off up to Haworth in Yorkshire for the SkipNorth knitting retreat. This was my second time but it was actually the tenth anniversary so we were able to buy a sturdy commemorative bag which came in useful for shopping and for the overspill for my suitcase on the return journey.  On the journey there, I cast on for my hat and for my Fetching fingerless mitts, and worked some more rows on my Haapsalu lace edging.

There were around 34 of us I think, knitters, crocheters, spinners etc. and it takes place in a rather impressive youth hostel in the village where the Bronte sisters' parsonage is located.  On Friday afternoon there are workshops:  I took Beginner's Crochet and Learn to Thrum.  I know how to crochet after a fashion, enough to do edgings on cardigans or blankets, but I don't really know what I'm doing.  Our excellent teacher Laura gave us some great handouts and let us try many different shaped hooks.  I found that the ergonomic hooks sat much better in my hand than the plain metal ones I've always been using.  I have a simple pattern for crocheted ballet house slippers and over the weekend I began puzzling out the sole.  It was going fairly well except that I can't count and started going wrong on the increases and decreases so will have to sort that out quietly one evening now that I am home.  In the Thrumming workshop, I knit a small sample mitten to learn the technique of knitting in 'thrums' which are loose bits of roving which then line the inside of the mitten to give a fleecy lining.  I'm going to knit a pair of thrummed slippers now, and I bought some Drops Big Merino and some rainbow dyed merino fleece on our shopping expeditions for them.

Before dinner, there was a small Fair where partcipants could set up a stall if they wanted to sell things.  I bought a lovely ball of hand-dyed pink lace yarn from Eden Cottage yarns in Yorkshire which is a fairly good colour match for the yarn I am using for my Haapsalu Shawl, with the intention of using it for seaming the lace borders to the main shawl.  That way I can use all my mohair yarn up on the lace edging.  There will be plenty left over of the hand-dye for another project.  I also bought a pattern for fingerless mitts called 'Forgotten Love', featuring twisted stitches, from the excellent Jane - designer of the Cranford mitts which I knit last year and have worn so often.  And I bought a cute cushion from another member (sorry, don't know the name) which is now on my sofa.

Friday evening after supper was the amazing and humongeous P/Hop Swap, where everybody brings their unwanted stuff to swap with others.  When you get home, you make a donation to P/Hop which supports the charity Doctors without Borders in return for your goodies.  People brought absolutely amazing stuff.  At first, we all had to take turns choosing our most preferred item, but after three rounds of that it turned into a glorious free-for-all where one woman's junk was another woman's treasure.  In my first three goes, I picked up a magnifying stand which I think is going to be very useful for my Fimo food making, a KnitPicks binder for storing interchangeables and their cords, and a Kaffe Fassett knitting book.  After that I tried to be good, but a lot of stuff was getting left behind so I ended up coming away with several more books including a couple on Tatting, some gorgeous Cherry Tree Hill peacock dyed mohair, some mystery cakes of soft grey yarn which I can use to make something for DH, some Rowan chain-knit Kidsilk scarf yarn in vibrant pink, and some royal blue bulky chenille which was so soft I couldn't resist it.  Last night when I got home, I cast on for a simple cowl in the chenille.

The upshot was that my suitcase was almost instantly full on the first evening, and by the return journey was so stuffed that I actually broke the wheel on the way home - oops.

Saturday we headed out on the coach with the first stop being Saltaire, a model town near Bradford from the 19th century, built around an enormous woollen mill which has been partly renovated into an art gallery.  After exploring the gallery, and the great Antiques shop upstairs near the historical exhibit, I headed out into the sunshine for a lovely walk around the town. If you would like to see pictures, visit the excellent photoblog by GreensideKnits who also recently visited Saltaire.

Back on the bus and eating our packed lunches, we headed to Arcadia Textiles, who are now a Drops Superstore with excellent prices. I bought 11 balls of a lovely cherry red Drops Karisma superwash DK at only £2 a ball to knit the Lush Cardigan pattern by TinCan Knits that I bought at Unravel.  This is also where I got the slipper yarn.

Then we headed off to The Skep knitting and quilting shop, where I got a half yard of two different fabrics which I plan to make into a project bag.  And we hiked up the hill to Bond's, a wonderful rabbit warren of haberdashery, where I found red buttons for my cardigan, plus I picked up several cards of blue buttons for future projects at just 10p per card.  They also were selling doublepoints at £1.50 a pair, so I picked up some larger sizes to fill gaps in my knitting needle storage display.

After a relaxing evening of knitting, crocheting and watching the spinners at work, it was time for bed in the youth hostel's bunk beds - I had a top bunk which was not fun when I had to get up in the night!  I'm too old for this...  There is a bed and breakfast nearby where some clever people were staying, I think that might be my preferred option next time I go.

Sunday we headed off to Winghams Woolworks, where the spinners went slightly crazy on yarn fumes.  This is where I bought my roving for my thrums. I also petted the Ashford 4-harness table top loom for a while - I can see a weaving loom in my future one day.  Then we made a stop at Coldspring Mill, a camping shop in an old mill which has a ground floor full of lower-end yarns like Sirdar and King Cole.  They have a huge selection and I ended up falling for a summer lacy t-shirt pattern (Sirdar 9775) and buying some pale blue cotton blend 'Breeze' to knit it with.  While we were out and about, I finished the pair of Fetching mitts that I was knitting in Rowan aran yarn.  I've also started a matching hat from a different pattern.

It was all over at 2pm on Sunday and the group started breaking up to head home.  Trains were disrupted from Leeds and I got diverted via York, but still got home earlier than I expected due to a lucky connection with a fast train direct to London.  When I got home, I opened my poor broken suitcase which exploded all over the living room.  (You have to imagine the soundtrack with DH exclaiming "How much stuff?!?" in the background)

An enjoyable weekend and so nice to see several friends from last year - it's great to spend time with a lot of like-minded people.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Maybe I should just give up knitting altogether...

I am an idiot.  Apparently. I've spent the week struggling with my lack of yarn for finishing the borders of my Haapsalu Shawl and have just realised that I made a huge error when I calculated the number of stitches to cast on for the lace edges.  I mean HUGE.  Not just a couple of stitches.  I originally calculated I needed to cast on two pieces each of 631 stitches.  I've now realised that I actually only need 391 stitches for each piece.  If I could do math at all I would be able to tell you how much of a factor of error that is.

This realisation comes after I ripped back my first part-knit lace edging (631 stitches x two rows) to get enough yarn to cast off the second part-knit lace edge (for which I already ripped out my tension square including several partially felted nupps), which was no picnic in this mohair yarn which wants to cleave to its brethren.  After laboriously casting off the remainder of the stitches in the car on the way to collect DS from Oxford today, I stretched out the resulting lace edging and thought 'Huh, that seems a tad long...?'  This evening I compared the lace edge to the central panel it is meant to be sewn to, to discover there is so much extra length that it can wrap around the second end and start back up the other side.

This project has officially been No Fun this week, and now I am tempted to take the whole thing out into our rented garden and burn it - but only after stomping on it many times.  Because now I am facing having to rip out both lace edges (631 stitches x c 14 rows x two pieces, one of which has been cast off) in this mohair yarn, and then cast on two sets of 391 stitches, and see if I can make the lace edging a deeper width this time while still ending up with two edges of equal depth with enough yarn to cast them both off.  AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ok, ok.  Deep breath.  Put down the fluffy pink knitting and do NOT reach for the matches....

In brighter, less traumatic news, I picked up two exciting parcels from the post office today which have come all the way from America.

The first one is my first Knitcrate shipment, a scheme which ships you curated knitting or crochet goodies every month or two months depending on which option you choose.  It came in a jazzy red metallic padded envelope and inside were some tasty sweets, two really nice laser-cut wooden needle gauges, some gorgeous cherry blossom-inspired hand-dyed yarn, and a link to the shawl pattern to knit with them.  The yarn is actually a lighter pink and more flecked than it is showing in this photo. I like the shawl pattern, Ume by Andrea Rangel, but I need to finish the Desolation of Smaug KAL shawl first (we just got Clue 6).

The other exciting parcel was the laser-cut kit for my 1:48 replica Bliss dollshouse, which I ordered from Cynthia Howe Miniatures.  I think I will have to wait until we move to build it though. It has all the art work for the outside and includes a set of replica Bliss dollshouse furniture.

I've done some more miniature food in Fimo polymer clay.  I backtracked to the Bakery chapter when I found this excellent tutorial by IGMA Fellow Betsy Niederer which gave me a much more successful result for rustic loaves and baguettes.

Then I moved on to the next chapter which was Pork Pies.

These don't look as realistic because the mottling pattern of the 'fat' and 'meat' isn't right, but I still feel I am showing an improvement.  Can you see the little egg embedded in the rectangular pie?

I finished my Gilet in my bargain clown-barf yarn this week, it just needs some buttons.  I am off to the Knitting and Stitching show at Olympia tomorrow so I will look for some buttons there.  I'm also going to pick up some yarn for a hat, and for a pair of Fetching fingerless mitts, and for some crochet slippers because I'm taking a Beginner's Crochet class at the SkipNorth knitting retreat next weekend.

And I've made a start on my old UFO Aran Sampler Jumper in Jaeger Sport.  It knits to an Aran tension and I just couldn't get there even after dropping down to 3mm needles.  So I've started anyway using the 3mm, which is a bit physically laborious in such thick yarn.  I'm going to block it after I've got six inches or so, and see how I am doing on width.  It feels good to finally be knitting this project after hanging on to the yarn for over 20 years.

The diet is going well, I've lost 10 pounds now and can definitely see a difference in the mirror and my clothes are looser as well.

And we got some good news this morning - the owner of the house we want to buy has finally found somewhere they want to buy and they've put an offer in.  If their offer is accepted, then we can finally get this show on the road and stand a chance of moving by the time our lease runs out in early June.  Woo hoo!

Saturday, 8 March 2014

When knitting attacks...

For some reason my knitting has been biting me on the you-know-what this week.  I sometimes listen to the Knitmore Girls podcast and they often have a segment called 'When Knitting Attacks' (intoned in sepulchral voices) if they've had a knitting problem that week, and this was definitely my week for being attacked.

I'm knitting the shawl collar on my gilet now.  It's knit in two halves so I picked up for the first half, knit it, and tried it on.  I'd picked up my normal ratio of stitches to rows, and it was hopelessly too tight - hoiking up the hemline by several inches.  So I pulled that back and picked up again, this time going into every possible stitch.  I reknit it and cast off loosely and it seems to be fine.  So I picked up for the other side of the collar.  I was very careful to start the 2x2 rib with the right stitches so that my back-neck seam will be invisible.  I knit three rows and realised the rib pattern wasn't matching at the bottom hem.  Turns out I knit the first two stitches at the back neck exactly right in knit stitch, then knit the next two stitches in knit stitch as well instead of switching to purl.  Grrrr.  So I had to pull that all out and start again.  I'm still working on that.

Then there was the lace edging for my Haapsalu Shawl.  I had managed to cast on 631 stitches accurately, and have now launched into an extremely simple eyelet / double decrease lace edging, a repeat of 10 stitches that draws the long edge up into shallow scallops.  I haven't got stitch markers for every repeat because that would require 63 markers, so my markers are every 50 stitches.  It seemed to be going fine and I took it to knit night at my LYS.  The next morning on the train I was knitting along and discovered a mistake two rows below.  Then another mistake, then another.  I started un-knitting the two rows so I could fix that portion, and kept finding more and more mistakes.  In the end I had to undo a stretch of 40 stitches where I had apparently just been increasing and decreasing completely at random like I'd been drinking Tequila Slammers rather than tea at knit night. And the mohair yarn is quite hairy and kept sticking to itself. In the end it took me about 2.5 hours to sort out, spread over two train trips and part of a lunch hour.  It's fixed now (apart from a nasty crooked set of eyelets that I've decided to ignore) and thank heaven I didn't have to pull out all 631 stitches.  However, I am rapidly running out of yarn which is very disheartening after all this work.  I think I will stop this edging section now and cast on for the second one and see how far I can get on it before I run out.  Perhaps I will have to have a very skimpy lace edging around the main panel.

The Fimo miniature food has been going better.  I did have a session making completely unrealistic-looking bread - I'm working from a first edition of Angie Scarr's book from several years ago, before people cottoned on to using pastels to colour the Fimo, so she was suggesting using caramel fimo to simulate a baked top to the bread. My buns came out looking like donuts. But then I tried her Hot Cross Buns and a seed cake and they came out much better.  I also got some cheap pastels from the art store to colour them with.  Then I made some salami which I'm fairly pleased with.  I say 'some' salami - I'm still inexperienced about judging quantities and have actually ended up with about 20 salamis so perhaps I will need to create a deli or a market stall.  I got the train to Kettering to visit The Dolls House Store and picked up some cheap plates and platters to display my creations upon.  I'm going to the next Miniatura show so I can look out for more then.

Earlier in the week, before knitting started kicking my b*tt, I needed some commuter knitting so pulled out a pattern for a baby hat from my files and knit it up in acrylic DK.  This is the 'Baby Leaves Hat' by Paula Dean Nevison, and it's really adorable.  I wouldn't mind an adult version for myself but I can't get my head around how you would make it increase quickly enough.

 I finished Clue 5 of the Desolation of Smaug mystery shawl KAL.  It was fairly easy but we have to wait two weeks for the next clue, presumably because of the number of stitches.

I've got to dismantle my sewing room on Monday or Tuesday because DS is coming home next weekend and wants his room back.  I guess I will have to hide everything away and put the machine cabinet (without the machine) into the garage for six weeks.

I've been enjoying watching The Great British Sewing Bee which has 10 sewists competing for the title of Britain's best amateur sewer.  For some reason (probably because it makes good television) at least half of the contestants aren't actually that great at sewing.  But it's so good to see craft on primetime TV (very rare in the UK) - last episode they were actually explaining what an overlocker was.  I was never that great at dressmaking when I was younger but it makes me want to have a go again. I actually have an old overlocker which I bought 20 years ago to make clothing for my son.  I even made a few quilts with it a la Eleanor Burns, but haven't used it much at all the last decade.  One day, when I have a sewing room again (and a house), perhaps I will try some simple patterns for a skirt or some pyjamas.

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