Sunday, 19 February 2017

A lacy weekend

This weekend has been all about bobbin lace.  I mentioned last week that I've been plugging away trying to relearn Bucks Point lace, completing four short samples (in two strips) by Thursday night.

Friday night I spent a couple of hours setting up for sample five, which has a shaped headside, honeycomb rings, and uses two gimps. The Jean Leader book calls it the Plum Pudding pattern.

On Saturday I attended the Fenny Fiddlers Lace Day down in Bletchley, which was quite enjoyable. The ladies on my table were really friendly, and there was lots of chatting during the day while we worked our lace. There was a tombola, some suppliers, a secondhand table (I picked up a box of pins and several reels of thread including some quilting threads), and a raffle where amazingly mine was the first number called and I won a pretty vintage bobbin.  And there was cake.  One of the ladies on my table gave me a lift home, and we stopped in at IKEA in Milton Keynes which was a treat. DH doesn't like IKEA so I don't get to go there very often.

I wore my new Raindrops shawl to the lace day and several people admired it.

Then today was my own lace group meeting, so I worked some more lace in the afternoon. I'm still making mistakes but it is going a lot better.  I want to complete at least a few more samples before I go on the course in late March.

As well as doing some dollshousing this week, I started a new commuter knitting project now that the shawl is finished.  A couple of years ago I lost one of my Selbuvotter gloves and I've been procrastinating about knitting a replacement because I had modded the pattern quite a bit. But I sat down and worked it out and started knitting a new glove this week. I've been really enjoying it. I'd forgotten how much fun it is to knit in two colours, plus it feels good to stop procrastinating.

I also worked out the mesh pattern for the Frisee shawl so after pulling out my failed first attempt at mesh, I'm getting on well with the new section.  It won't look much like mesh until it's blocked. This is a bottom-up shawl - I started with the lightest gradient (of five) and I am now on the third colour.

No sewing this week although I did cut out a bunch more 10.5 inch squares last week and I have quite a stack of them now.  I've also been reading the instructions for the toadstool pincushion kit I bought a while back and trying to decide if I really want to make it.  It's cute but I'm not sure I would actually use it.

It was a nice day today so we took down the Christmas lights from the trees in the morning, and I have a nice scratch on my arm from the pyracantha bush to prove it. We also built a little drystone retaining wall in the front and started wheelbarrowing dirt dug up from our future patio around to the front garden to level outside the very wavy and sloping strip of lawn on that side. Once it's more level then I will re-seed with shade tolerant grass seed and hopefully it won't look so rubbish in future.

I hope you've had a nice week too.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

It's very chilly outside

We're having a wave of Siberian cold air so it was actually snowing yesterday most of the day, although not settling at all.  It's very cold and damp outside today, hovering about 1 degree celsius. So inside in our old house it really isn't that warm either. I'm sitting here with a heavy handknit sweater over my fleece over a long-sleeve tee shirt, and I've got legwarmers on under my trousers, and I can still feel cold drafts swirling around my legs.  The plan was to go outside and take down the Christmas lights from the trees but I think I will stay inside in the semi-warm, thank you very much.

So I'm pottering around today.  I've knit the front of my machine knit denim t-shirt but there are still two sleeves to go.  I've made a couple of templates to trace around for the flowers on my Hawaiian applique quilt, because last night I finally finished stitching down the stems and leaves (which has only taken me about five years, lol). Ignore the red patches, they were just markers to show me which stems I have finished. One day when I finish appliquing all of this, there is a border to add around the edge as well.

I promised pictures of my 20-year-old hooked rug now finished.  It doesn't look very big, does it?  How could that take 20 years? ...Because there are a kazillion strands, it's tedious to work, and it hurt my hands to do, that's why. But it's finally done, hurrah. I'm enjoying walking on it every morning on the way into the ensuite.

I've done some dollshousing, and knit some more on my Frisee shawl which I had to pull partly out because I went wrong on the mesh section. I don't really understand the mesh pattern, I think I will need to graph it out to work out what is supposed to be happening.

I finished my second Raindrops Shawl that I worked on in Japan, and it's blocking now. The wingspan is about 52". I like this pattern, it looks nice but it's simple enough to be a commuter project.

On the bobbin lace front, I've embarked on a crash course to learn Bucks Point lace before I go on a workshop at the end of March. I'm working through samples from the Jean Leader book she wrote for the Lace Guild.  I tried unsuccessfully to learn Bucks Point a few years ago and found it too hard to learn from a book, but at the time I produced some decent enough samples. This time round, after having been doing a relatively coarse tape lace for the last eight months, I am finding it really difficult to pick up the Bucks. For one thing, it seems impossibly fine and the multitude of pins ends up hiding what is going on with the pattern. I'm making loads of mistakes which is discouraging but I suppose it's better to get through this stage at home and not waste time on the actual course.  I'm trying to do some almost every day and it's going a bit better now.

This week's dabbling: upholstery

Last week it was scrapbooking, this week it is upholstery.  A couple of years ago I bought an antique needlework table on eBay for the living room so I would have somewhere to stash my stuff. (That's the theory anyway, normally it is too full and my stuff ends up on the floor around my chair anyway).  I always meant to recover the hanging storage box because it was in poor shape and only bare cardboard on the inside. I even bought some lining fabric and braid a year or so ago, from the Mill Shop in Northampton.

So I decided to finally tackle this on my day off this week.  I pulled out all the staples that were crudely holding on the red damask cover and looked at how my predecessors had attached it.  Once the modern repair staples were removed, I could see that originally the cover had been stapled at the top from the inside, so that the staples were hidden when the cover folded down over them.  As it happened I had a remnant of our living room blind fabric which was just the right size to recover the box.

It was a bit fiddly but I managed to staple all around underneath the rim of the box, then pull the fabric taut to fold it over and staple it onto the bottom of the box (where the staples will be hidden).  However, as the box is tapered, I ran into trouble with pleats and had to re-work the final seam a few times to try to pull as much excess fabric as I could towards the back panel.  Eventually I managed to achieve a fairly smooth result.

Then I covered up the staples on the final seam with a bit of braid (you can see the bias  created some folds here at the back where they won't be seen.)

I used the lining fabric I had bought to sew a tapered liner  for the inside. I stapled the seam allowance to the base of the box to hold the liner in place, before pulling the fabric upwards and folding it over to staple it at the top.

Then I covered up the staples with some braid, carefully hot gluing it on. Carefully because I find hot glue very hard to manage and keep tidy, and I have also burnt myself many times in the past.  It went ok this time and the braid looks good.

The finished result, in place in the living room.  It looks a lot better.  I wonder who used my table in the past and what needlework they were making? The eBay page described it as Sheraton but I doubt that because that would make it well over 200 years old and it seems in too good shape for that (plus it wasn't ridiculously expensive).  Victorian in the style of Sheraton perhaps? Anyway, it's in a good home now and is being used for its original purpose. The top hinges upwards as well so you can reach in the drawer from the top, but I never do that because I've always got stuff on top of the table.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Back at work

I went back to work on Tuesday and have been completing my convalescence at my desk. I'm still coughing and blowing my nose, but so are several other people on my floor. Previous victims say it takes about four weeks to completely get over the virus so I've still got to put some time in.  Stupid sinuses.

I persevered with my 20-year-old hooked rug kit and finally finished it Thursday night, which felt like a momentous moment until I turned it over and spotted several places where I had gone wrong on the chart.  So I fixed the worst of those last night and sewed some tape onto the raw edges of the rug canvas so that I can start stitching down the edges to finish them. I'll take a picture when it's finally done.

Knitting has been  adding more rows onto the leaf yoke top-down sweater and I've also cast on for a shawl called Frisee using a Sweet Georgia Party of Five gradient set that I got from Deramores using a coupon.  In commuter knitting I am occasionally on knitting the final edge to my Raindrops Shawl that I knit the body of during the Japan trip.

In the sewing room this week, I tackled the last glory bag of scraps that has been sitting on the floor for a couple of years. I ironed all the big pieces and cut 10.5" squares out of them for use in future quilt backs. The remnants and smaller pieces have gone in a pile waiting to be cut up into smaller pieces for my scrap system. In a fit of housekeeping I have also pulled about 15 fabrics off my stash shelves to also cut up into 10.5" squares - several of them dating back to quilting trips I made to America in the 90s which have never been used, or not completely used up. In those days fabric was so precious that I used to pick up almost anything that was cheap, resulting in a lot of dogs which didn't necessarily make it into quilts.  Plus my tastes have changed over the years.  Interestingly I was recently reading some online articles about the challenges the quilting industry is facing and how expensive quilting cottons have become in America now, up to $16 a yard apparently. I was buying it for $3 a yard at Hancocks of Paducah back in the day.

I also finished the Idrija Lace Doiley. I have to say that I did not do a great job on the flowery thing in the middle. It was so small and the working space quite constricted, so  my plaits are pretty wobbly. One day I might cut it off and re-do it.  I took some time to darn in all the loose ends on the doiley, and it is finally done. There are many flaws, but I am focusing on the 'done' part.

Scrapbooker for a week

This week I got distracted into a new project which I suppose falls more into the scrapbooking field. I am not a scrapbooker, and when scrapbooking started to be a thing in the UK, I think many needlecrafting ladies were a bit sniffy about this newcomer. I know I have thought "how hard can it be?" to cut up paper and reassemble it into things.  Well as it turns out, it is quite hard, lol!

Do you remember when I bought some MDF blanks last year over at Coleman's Warehouse in Rushden?  Then later on I bought some cross-stitch pictures from a woman de-stashing her late mother's hoard. I had it in the back of my mind that I could combine the two, but hadn't got around to it but this week I decided to have a go, and this is the result.

I started out with the MDF blank and mixed a soft green paint colour for the edges.

Then I covered the box inside and out with some scrapbooking paper I had leftover from previous dollshouse projects, which proved quite difficult. Not only to cut the paper to the exact sizes, but to get it glued in without too many scars or marks.

I used Mod Podge for the gluing and then gave the box a final coat of clear sealer to seal the paper. Big mistake! It was an unused spraycan of Krylon which was about five years old, and it turned out that was long enough for the contents to turn into toffee coloured foam with bits in it.  By the time I hurriedly wiped all that disaster off, I was left with crusty brown bits which I thought had ruined all my work.  But when they dried, I was able to gently sand or scrape off almost all of the brown bits and only had to replace the paper on the underside of the lid.

I cut a shaped piece of card for the upper lid and sewed the cross stitch onto the card over several shaped layers of padding to create a domed shape. Then I glued the picture onto the lid with tacky glue and lots of clamps to hold it while it dried.

Then came the fun bit, which was pulling out lots of ribbons and lace and decoration from my stash. I was aiming for a 'more is more' Victorian vibe.  The embellishments are glued on with either tacky glue or superthick tacky glue.

Isn't it pretty?  I had fun doing this, and it is satisfying to turn an unused picture and an MDF blank into something attractive for my mantelpiece in my bedroom.

Today we visited a shop called 'The Range' which I had read about online.  It was like a cross between a Dunelm and a Hobbycraft and I had fun wandering the aisles with DH in tow. I came away with some silicon adhesive for dollshousing and a driftwood wreath which I am going to take apart for a sea themed dollshouse scene, some wooden letters to make a dollshouse sign and DH got a reel of craft wire for his modelling. Tomorrow I am having a day out to London to visit the City of London dollshouse festival where I hope to find some accessories for my various projects, and also heading to the V&A for the last day of the Treasures of medieval English Embroidery exhibition.

Saturday, 28 January 2017


I've spent the entire week being sick so crafting time has been pretty lacklustre.

This is where I've been living since I tottered in from work on Tuesday afternoon, after two days of bravely soldiering on /infecting my colleagues.

As you can see, surrounded by a tidemark of warm blankets, medicine, tissues, knitting, sewing and rugmaking.  It's just been a particularly nasty cold virus and I do feel like I am finally on the mend, although I'm not sure I'll be fit by Monday. All's I can say is thank god for Netflix and for the Amazon Fire Stick I bought earlier in the year when they had a deal on, which has kept me entertained for endless hours slumped in the living room this week.

Wednesday and Thursday were the worst days, and all that I could manage was some applique, which involves minimal movement or thinking, and some plain knitting in the round.  The knitting was to add some more length on to the Leaf yoke top down sweater so I can fine tune the fit.  I did take the stitches off onto waste yarn last weekend, when I still thought I just had a little head cold, to try it on.

It's a lot roomier than I thought it would be, and I love the rich red colour. I'm also glad I moved the button band to the front.

The applique was the next block in my 25 block applique quilt. Under the circumstances, I finished it in a couple of days. It's not entirely symmetrical but I'm going to live with that. The background block is seamed because when I originally cut out the 25 background blocks using specially chosen fabric from America, I ran out. So I ended up having to seam some of the leftovers into the last few blocks. The seam won't be so obvious when the project is quilted. (ha ha ha like that's ever going to happen...)

After I finished the applique block, I needed something else to do which involved minimal thought or movement, and remembered my ancient hooked rug project - which is probably about 20 years old now.  I clamped it to my Lapman cross stitch frame so I can do it on my lap while I watch TV, and I've managed several rows.  It would be nice to finally finish this.

Yesterday afternoon I started feeling a little less comatose and also quite fed up with my cluttered throne in the living room.  So I dressed up warmly with extra layers and wobbled down to the sewing room and sewed up a pair of pyjama trousers that I had cut out last weekend. These are very quick to sew as there are only two pieces (two legs) and I do the seams on my serger.  This is using the altered pattern which I had slashed to add more tummy room.  These are fine but I decided I had overdone the alteration so I reduced the amount of ease and cut out a second pair.

Today I sewed up the second pair. I think the fit on these is about right now, or as right as it is going to get with a simple one piece pattern.  So now I have a pattern that fits, and I can make more pairs in future with just 2m of cotton.  It would be nice to learn how to make a matching soft t-shirt top to go with them.

Also yesterday I finally felt up to doing some bobbin lace. There was only about an inch to go before I finished the outer circle.  So I moved the pillow into the dining room and made the final stitches, and connected the threads back to the starting point.  Remember that when you look at lace on a pillow, you are looking at the back of the lace. So the front is facing down out of sight.  The ends will all need to be darned in but first I need to do the little star thing in the middle.

Our cat has kept me company in a way this week, spending most afternoons snoozing on the sofa next to me as she is not a lap cat. I was amused to see her climbing a little tree in the garden one morning, despite the branches sagging under her weight. She eventually made the leap onto the brick wall.  She also woke me up from a nap on the sofa one morning by making a lot of noise and banging in the basement, but I felt too rubbish to go and see what she was doing. When I eventually made my way down there to feed her supper, I discovered a dismembered small bird and a lot of feathers at the foot of the stairs. She's not much of a hunter but obviously succeeded this time and decided to drag it inside through her cat flap. So that was something for DH to clean up when he got home. The feathers reached halfway up the stairs as if she was trying to bring it up to show me, so I should be grateful for small mercies I guess.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Some finishes

I finished a few things this week which felt good.

I finished the Japanese zipped pouch and I'm quite pleased with how it turned out. Very typically Japanese in the fabrics and design, and a nice clean finish inside and out.

I also finished knittin the Fishtail Lace Cowl, which was a pattern from Simply Knitting magazine that took 1.5 balls of a Debbie Bliss aran yarn.  I've wet blocked it and it's still drying, but I look forward to wearing it. We have an older home with quite a few cold spots and drafts so I do like to have a neckwarmer of some description on even when I'm indoors.

I finished the Japanese Scroll wallhanging  that I made with the panel and fabrics I bought in Tokyo.  I didn't put any wadding inside so it hangs nice and flat like a scroll. I stitched 1/4" away from all seams and in the ditch around the panel, and added a little hanging sleeve. It's displayed on a little side wall in the study, a bit reminiscent of the alcoves displaying hanging scrolls that we saw in Japan.

I finished Block 21 of my long term 25-block applique quilt project.  I felt very inspired by only having four more blocks to do, so I actually put in a morning on my day off to choose the four block patterns, make the templates, and trace out the layout details onto the four background squares. So now I have four block kits which hopefully will speed things up because it's all that prep work that I find tedious. I like doing the hand applique.  So I've started the 22nd block now.

And I'm on my last curlywhirl of the outer ring of my Idrija bobbin lace doiley so the end is in sight as I will soon be back to where I started and can do the final joins.  Then I will just have a little flowery thing (these are technical bobbin lace terms you understand) to do in the centre, which I think is just plaiting and picots but I haven't really looked up how to do it yet.

Having parked my dollshouse shed project, I've moved on to renovating a big dollshouse, the Willowcrest,  that I built about 10 years ago but never completely finished.  It was a long term build so had its own blog here, which I will be updating to record my finishing touches.

It's lovely and cold here right now, going down to a few degrees below freezing at night with dry sunny days. I like this weather which reminds me of the years I lived in Ottawa in Canada. It got a heck of a lot colder there (minus 40 celsius) but was generally very sunny. I've been out digging in the garden lately, loosening the soil and pulling out perennial weeds before the bulbs (hopefully) come up.  There is already one little clump of snowdrops blooming in the sunniest spot, and lots of green tips starting to poke up through the frosty soil. Several hellebores (Christmas roses) are blooming as well under our hazel tree, while the sun-starved winter flowering jasmine is putting on a good but stunted show next to it. Our little ornamental cherry is blooming as well. It did that last year and I thought it was just confused because we had such a warm winter, but now I am thinking it is actually a winter-flowering variety. And the Viburnum Tinis in front is also blooming, it seems to like its spot and has gotten a lot bigger in just a few years. But generally the garden looks pretty bleak and bare. I planted a bunch of new tulips and daffodils in the autumn, I hope they will come up in Spring but I never seem to have much luck with bulbs.

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