Sunday, 21 August 2016

Autumn skies

I'm looking out the window at yet another grey overcast day.  I should think British sunlovers are in despair at the summer we've had.  It suits me fine as I have to stay out of the sun and overheat easily, but even I can agree it's been fairly dismal.  It's also been very windy the last several days, and some of our trees are already shedding a lot of leaves even though it's still only August.  It feels more like late September.

We were out in the garden yesterday installing our latest addition, which DH has deemed 'interesting' as he's not sure he likes it.  I think it's a bit of fun.

This is the Victorian cast iron fire surround that we bought on our antiques outing to Weedon a few months ago.  On Thursday I finally got around to wire brushing it to remove copious amounts of rust, then sprayed it with primer. On the 'show' side I finished it with a stone effect spray, and I protected the back with some normal metal paint.  It makes a little gothic-style picture frame to look through.  I did investigate buying some acrylic mirror to turn it into a mirror frame but shipping was too expensive.  It's supported by a couple of stakes driven into the ground behind it.  This is probably a temporary location because if we ever get the patio built then I think it might look nicer over there.

Nearby is the obelisk that we bought at the Newark antiques fair. I planted a clematis under it which has obligingly grown up to the top and we might have some flowers soon.

I spent a couple of hours out in the garden on Thursday hacking back weeds and overgrown shrubs, it's all looking a bit rough this late in the season.  We still have some blooms: roses, phlox, rudbeckia, crocosmia, day lilies, salvia, Japanese anemones, fuschia and begonias, but there is more green than bloom.

This week I finished my sleeveless summer top and wore it to work.  I'm fairly pleased with it. My altered facings fitted their destinations which was a relief, and my understitching worked fine so the facings stay inside during wear. However they tend to poke out when putting the garment on, so I have to spend a few minutes faffing about and poking them all back inside which is annoying.  I'm tempted to run a line of top stitching around to keep them in permanently.  The fit is fairly good.  I found when wearing it that the armholes were a little too closely fitted so I've adjusted the pattern for the next time. Also I think the back darts should extend further down at the back so I've drawn that on the pattern for next time.  Anyway, nobody said anything at work so it probably  just looks like a top and doesn't scream 'home-made'.  Quilters will recognise the fabric as an Aunt Grace feedsack print but I don't think there are any quilters on my team.

I've bought some more of the blue fabric so I will make a second top in that.

I've finished sewing all the rows on my Whirligig Trip Around the World and have started sewing them together. The upper panel in this picture is the sewn-together part.

On the knitting front, I've been trying to get the Que Sera cardigan finished during TV knitting and am nearing the end of the second sleeve which is the final piece.  Then it will be blocking and perhaps picking up for a neck band, I can't remember.  I'm just starting the lacy border on the Raindrop Shawl after a bit of jiggerypokery with stitch count. For some reason I ended up with three extra stitches after the final garter border even though I started out with the right number. Not sure what happened there so I had to hide them into some K3togs in place of K2togs. It may have happened during some trauma with a disintegrating KnitPro Symfonie interchangeable wooden tip.  It started de-laminating and catching the yarn on every stitch which was incredibly annoying.  I tried rubbing it down with fine grade sandpaper which seemed to help but soon it was doing it again. Then when I tried to unscrew the needle so I could swap it with the good needle tip, instead of unscrewing, the bad tip just split completely across one of the laminations lower down the needle and came apart.  This happened on the train at the beginning of my trip home.  I spent half an hour knitting 20 stitches at a time onto the broken stub, then feeding them onto the jagged bit still attached to the cable before deciding I wasn't that desperate to knit.  I've had several problems with Symfonie tips and cables, I don't know if it is a quality control issue or if my needles have reached the end of their lifespan after 3 or 4 years.  I had a cable break just at the join the other day, and in the past have had a couple of issues with brand new metal joints arriving mis-threaded so you can't screw on a tip.  And the acrylic Trendz needles seem really fragile, I wouldn't say I knit with a death grip but I've snapped several of the acrylic needles 4mm and under just knitting with them, and also a 3.25mm or 3mm wooden one too. Some of the cables seem to be becoming very stiff as well, when originally they were pleasantly flexible. Annoying because these sets are not cheap and to begin with I was really happy with them.

I've finished the first round on my Idrija Lace doiley and am contemplating whether I have enough thread still on my bobbins to tackle the smaller inner round, or whether I should rewind the bobbins. It's tempting to keep going with the old bobbins but then I will have to deal with the knots as well.

That's about it this week - thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Upgrading from a tortoise to a hare

Virtually no pictures this week because most of my spare time has been spent on installing my new computer and trying to work out what was on my old PC that needs to be copied over, and how to do that.  My new PC makes my old PC look like a Model T Ford, it's lightning fast and whisper quiet. I timed the boot today, in 16 seconds it went from switching on power to displaying the log-on screen with virtually no noise. Whereas my old computer (six or seven years old?) wheezes like an asthmatic and you could go make a cup of tea while it was booting up. Downloads and installations are over in a matter of minutes (or seconds for small files) and I don't have to worry that the graphics card is going to crash after 20 minutes.

It's not all sunlight and roses. It's considerably bigger than my old PC, about the size of a carry-on suitcase, so it doesn't fit in the nice gap next to my desk any more. At the moment it is awkwardly underneath my desk with all my cables trailing across the work surface while I contemplate where I can cut holes to feed the wires through more neatly. And it came with Windows 10, which has made a determined effort to force me to have a Microsoft account by refusing to let me use things like Cortana or download any apps unless I agree that Microsoft can invade my privacy, monitor my every waking moment and take my first born child. No thank you. And it turns out that Electric Quilt 6 (which to be honest I rarely used) can't be installed on Windows 10. I corresponded with EQ customer support, apparently the installer just doesn't work with Windows 10 which a bit of googling of user feedback seems to support. I've still got my old PC so I suppose if I were desperate to use EQ then I could fire it up again (and go make a cup of tea while it was thinking about it). It's still annoying to have purchased this software (and it wasn't cheap) and not be able to install it. If you don't know what EQ is, it's software that lets you design quilts on screen, try them out with various colours/fabrics, then print out the resulting templates. There's a few other tried and trusted bits of software like Resize-o-matic (for resizing images) which don't seem to be available for Windows 10, and some other software that I don't have disks for and can't remember where I got it (Adobe Acrobat 8 Pro for example) which I am now missing. I suppose eventually it will all settle down and I will find replacements.

So I haven't done much of anything crafty this week apart from TV knitting and about five minutes of bobbin lace when I got up early one morning.

There were a few crafty things today. After having my hair done (and fingers crossed I don't wake up looking like a Klingon again in a few days, after the allergic reaction last time to the hair colour) we headed out to Burton Latimer which was having a community garage sale all over town.  You paid £1 to get a map of everyone who was participating, then just wandered from house to house to have a look at what was on offer.  I came away with half a dozen sewing and quilting magazines, a Debbie Bliss baby knits book. an old tutorial book for Torchon lace, a lavender plant in a nice blue ceramic pot, a micrometer (for measuring thickness very accurately, might be useful for dollshousing) and a little glass knickknack cabinet which I have filled with small dollshouse items for display.

After that we headed into Northampton to visit Daily Bread, a wholefood store where I buy bulk gluten-free oats for my homemade muesli. I've been meaning to re-visit Get Knitting, the knitting shop in Northampton, for a while, because I hadn't been there since they opened a few years ago and I keep seeing their advertisements in the knitting magazines. So we headed up there and I had a nose around. They have a lot more stock now, mainly acrylic but a decent salting of pure wool, wool blends, Debbie Bliss, Auracania, Ella Rae, and some nice cottons and even an Erika Knight cotton linen blend  I didn't actually buy anything as I am trying to use up stash but it was nice to fondle various things.  Then we headed over to A Most Marvelous Place to Shop (their name, not my description) in Abington Square because I had seen on Ravelry that an Indie dyer, RiverKnits who apparently lives and dyes yarn on a boat, had stock there.  It's a big building with quite a few dealers stands stocking vintage items and bric a brac but I found the yarn shelves fairly easily.  I was clutching my typical choice of skein in a variety of blues but I forced myself to put it back and pick something a bit different - because I would say 90% of my stash is blue or pink, and the other 10% is purple.  I came away with this skein of Superwash Blue Faced Leicester in colourway 'Paper Flowers' which isn't what I would normally choose but is still in my comfort zone of attractiveness.  The photo's a bit dark, sorry. I also found a vintage tray cloth, a cotton damask duvet cover which I am hoping to turn into a tablecloth, and some great gift tags made out of samples of embroidered vintage linens.

When I got home I finally got into my sewing room for the first time in a week and put in a few hours refining the pattern for the t-shirt I am trying to sew.  I cut out a second toile using the first one as a pattern, and basted it together then made further adjustments before transferring the final pattern back to the tissue paper pattern. Then I had to adjust the pattern pieces for facings so they would match the new measurements.  I think I've achieved a decent fit but proof will be in the pudding.  The really annoying thing is that when I went to cut out the final pattern from the blue cotton I had bought, there wasn't enough. Grrrr.  The pattern envelope says 1 3/8 yards for the size up from mine, and I bought 1.25 metres. So I have 48 inches when they want 49.5 inches, but the tissue paper pieces were hanging off by a good five inches so I think the pattern envelope is lying.  I probably could have gotten away with it if my fabric were not directional, but it was.  This sparked a protracted hunt through my quilt fabric stash to see if there was anything that would be wearable and in sufficient quantity.  I've come up with some leftover quilt backing in a feedsack pattern which I think will work although it might wrinkle a bit more than my original crisper choice.  I suppose I could always go back to John Lewis and see if they still have the bolt of blue fabric and buy another metre.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Finding my tribe

This week I kidnapped a complete stranger off the street and forced her to look at my craft rooms and sit in my living room talking about knitting.

OK, perhaps 'kidnap' is a bit strong.  I was babysitting a parcel which had been left with us by a very inexperienced My Hermes delivery woman, who insisted it was for an office across the road when it clearly wasn't. The intriguing factor for me was that it was from Deramores, a UK online yarn supplier, and was temptingly squishy (I had both DH and DS telling me that no, I couldn't open it to see what this unknown knitter was missing out on). After a few days I thought perhaps the recipient wasn't coming at all, but my doorbell rang on Thursday and there was a woman tentatively asking if I had a parcel for her.  After exchanging our views on the hapless delivery woman, who hadn't even left a delivery card so my neighbour had to track down the parcel online, I said that I had known it was yarn. This led to a brief exchange where we found out we had both been to Fibre East on the weekend so I said she had better come in for a cup of tea.  Which she did, and I found out she is BlueHydrangea on Ravelry and we ended up talking for an hour and a half and supper was very late that night but luckily the family didn't mind.  It's just so nice to talk to someone who understands about yarn and sewing and sewing machines and gadgets and circulars vs straights.  I've met other local knitters in the past but they aren't on Ravelry and are mainly acrylic yarn adherents so not really in my tribe, whereas my neighbour really is.  This week I get to go round her house to see her knitting - which judging by her projects page is much more technically advanced than mine. I'm looking forward to it.

It's been a bitty week for crafts, just some snatched time here and there.  I did get a lot done on the Raindrops Shawl as I went on an all day coach trip with my gardening club on Saturday and there was a lot of waiting around or sitting on the coach.  We went to Wightwick Manor in the morning which was an absolutely brilliant Victorian house full of William Morris wallpaper and Pre-Raphaelite artwork, but built to look like an old Tudor house.

I'm stalled on the sleeveless top because it is just so daunting trying to get the toile to fit me properly.  I knit a tension sample on the machine for a second machine knitted sleeveless tee but haven't managed to start it yet.  My bobbin lace friends came over  so I did do a couple of hours on my Idrija lace mat which is slowly coming along.  I've also had to spend time out in the garden watering so it doesn't all die, and pulling out the bindweed I discovered was swarming amongst the shrubbery.

I brought the finished Victorian gazebo porch and my Canadian dollshouse back into the dollshouse room.  I was sorting out the things that had fallen over inside the house in transit and was puzzled to find a puddle in the bedroom underneath a Chrysnbon plastic rocking chair.  I couldn't work out where it had come from, and was looking up stupidly at the ceiling of my room wondering about leaks, when I happened to touch the handmade patchwork cushion on the rocking chair. It was sopping wet! Not only sopping wet, but sitting in its own puddle on the sodden crochet mat on the rocking chair, which itself was starting to suffer and lose paint.  That's when I remembered that many years ago, I had stuffed the cushion with table salt for a realistic look and weight. It had never caused any problems before but obviously sitting in an unfinished damp cellar for several weeks had proved too much. I had to throw the cushion and mat out, I'm lucky it didn't cause any more damage than it did.  I won't be using salt as a cushion filler again!

I've started trying out furniture to fit on the porch. I have some wire sofas which I will spray paint and make cushions for, and a pretty little pink wicker set which I think I got on sale a while ago.

I got out the Windolene and cleaned my new glass cabinet in my dollshouse room, and ordered some plastic strips for the front corners to dust proof them.  I've brought down the smaller houses which were upstairs in a dark cabinet, and also installed some of the items which have previously lived under cling film dust covers.  It's lovely to be able to see them all now, safe from most of the dust anyway.  I can display my 1:48 New Orleans house open for the first time, and some of my 144th scale houses.  And I finished the 'secret book' kit. I've got a friend in France who owns a miniatures museum (Hi Anita!) and this cabinet makes me feel like I've got a little museum of my own.

I've been doing some 1:1 scale decorating as well.  I bought a little table for £5 from a secondhand shop, and I've given it a couple of coats of chalk paint (not Annie Sloan).  I'm pleased with how it is turning out, after I give it a coat of wax then it will go up on the upstairs landing.  Perhaps decorated with a cloth from my vintage linen collection although that is just asking for trouble from our cat...

Sunday, 31 July 2016

I passed!

My big news this week is that my line manager called me in on Friday to tell me that I have passed the training course in my new job and am now being given my authority. I'm quite pleased and yet at the same time it's quite scary as now my work won't be checked so any mistakes I make are going to be my own responsibility. I'm in the first one-third of the recruits to be signed off and only the second part-time person to pass (the other was a former barrister!) so I feel I've done well. So it was Prosecco all round at home on Friday night.

We're also very proud of DS who achieved a 2:1 on his big exams at the end of his third year studying Chemistry at Oxford.  He's a very clever boy although you wouldn't know it from this afternoon's exchange.  I was fast asleep enjoying an afternoon nap after a tiring morning excursion to the Fibre East yarn festival in Ampthill when his bellow snapped me awake: "MU-UM, IS MY RAILCARD STILL VALID?" This would be the railcard that's in his own room that he was apparently too lazy to go and find.  Much hilarity ensued and by hilarity I mean yelling...  Then he had to walk to the station and renew his own railcard and no I didn't pay for it, that's why he has a job.

I did enjoy my annual visit to Fibre East which is always good. I think it is probably bigger than Unravel and there is a really nice mix of indie dyers and makers, books, various textile crafts and fibers, guilds etc. There were some lovely ceramic yarn bowls on several stalls this year, although I am lucky to already have one. I fondled lots of lovely yarn but was able to resist by thinking of all the lovely yarn I already had waiting in my stash. Until I came to the Coastal Colours stall, dyers in Lancashire, who had some absolutely gorgeous colourways. This 400m skein of 85% Bluefaced Leicester with a 15% Donegal Nep came home with me at a very reasonable price.

I flirted with some gradient skeins from Knitting Goddess but in the end, it was only the single skein above that came home with me.  I had a nice chat with the people on the machine knitters' Guild stall, and with the medieval re-enactment textile group, and saw a lovely sample cardigan on one stall called Siri which is available as a Ravelry download which I might have a go at.

Yesterday was my monthly sewing day, although I only stayed 4 hours because I had an outing with my dollshouse club in the afternoon.  In four hours I managed to cut, press and trim 184 half-square triangles in mixed indigo prints that I had previously sewn using Thangles papers.  This was an incredibly tedious job which I would never have stuck at if I were home. They will be a sawtooth border around my Indigo Bears Paw quilt.

This week, inspired by the weather and the Great British Sewing Bee, I actually went out and bought a sewing pattern. I dabbled rather unsuccessfully at clothes making many years ago, but I thought I should be able to manage a simple sleeveless top. I now remember why I don't like sewing clothes, as I am bogged down in trying to get the pattern to fit my measurements which wander across five or six sizes on the size chart.  Luckily I have the mannequin I made last year so I've been able to adjust the bust darts and all the seams, and add some back darts. The challenge will be to transfer the new positions back to the paper pattern and also to adjust the facings to match. I've bought a nice denim blue printed cotton to use for the actual top, but this toile is cut from old sheeting.

TV watching craft time this week has been split across several projects.  I'm knitting the skirt on the Sirdar Baby Crofter baby dress, which is knit top down from a ruffled yoke. This yarn is really nice to knit with.

I'm about two thirds of the way along the Multi-way wrap and also added a few more inches to the Que Sera cardigan sleeve.  And I've done some hand applique on the next block in my 25-block applique quilt.

In dollshousing time, I've become sidetracked onto one of the kits I discovered when I was going through my cupboards.  This is a Robin Betterley secret book kit, which is sort of 'no scale' but I suppose closest to a large 144th size.  The kit comes with the artwork and the laser cut pieces for the book itself and the tiny furniture.  I've completed the book which has a spine which slides out to reveal two rooms.  I'm currently working on the furniture for the upper room. I think this must have been an impulse buy at a dollshouse show.  I'm torn between thinking 'how cute!' and 'what am I going to do with it?'.

Computer obsolescence

My 'new' computer is now several years old and has been getting increasingly creaky and slow. I had a scare a few months ago when it wouldn't boot up, and another when it repeatedly blew the fuse on my power bar a few weeks later. Thursday morning the graphics card decided to go on strike. I took the case apart and hoovered out the graphics card fan which was rather gummed up with dust bunnies.  After that it would grudgingly run for between 10-20 minutes before fritzing out and the screen going black. I used my ipad to look into a replacement graphics card but it's difficult because of the PC being so old and it looked like a new card was going to cost in excess of £100. After three hours I decided 's*d it' and started researching (in 20 minute gaps) for a new computer.  I've now ordered a general purpose machine which is supposed to be good enough for both a home office and a non-serious gamer so hopefully that will turn up in a few weeks and won't be too hard to set up.  I will need to look into how to get everything off my old PC and onto the new one, without cluttering up the new one too much. I also need either a partition or a virtual machine as my financial software will only run on Windows XP (currently I have a partitioned drive). In the meantime the weather has turned cooler and the graphics card is mostly cooperating with only the occasional blackout.   If the new machine is too good for gaming then I may be having to beat DS off with a stick when I want to use the PC.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Too hot

Summer has hit with a vengeance and it was in the low 30s C at the beginning of the week. I hate hot weather as I overheat easily and sunburn in minutes.  My office has air conditioning but it is almost never put on because some people complain about drafts or being too cold.  They had to turn it on for three days, but chose not to turn it on until 10am by which time I was just about to throw up on Wednesday it was so hot. On Tuesday they turned it off at 2:30pm because some people said they were too cold, and when I left early at 3pm it was already an oven and apparently the people working until 5 or 6pm were just roasting. It's crazy.  Then it broke down altogether on Thursday but luckily Friday was cooler when I was back in the office and I could tolerate the temperature with the help of my desk fan.

When I finally tottered into my house Tuesday afternoon after walking a mile from the station in the roasting temperatures, I shut the door, put down my bag, and just lay down on the deliciously cool Victorian tiles of our hallway for about 10 minutes, spreadeagled, soaking up the chill.  The cat was rather mystified and kept walking around and over me, meowing. Luckily our house, being older, has quite thick walls and the lower ground floor stays wonderfully cool. So I spent most of the evening down there working on my dollshouse porch.

I've now finished all the shingling. I ended up removing the top row of shingles and reapplying longer ones for a better fit against the house. I've given the roof several coats of acrylic paint and nothing warped so the sealer did its job.  It looks good.  Since taking this picture, I've sealed over the acrylic paint to protect it. The construction is now basically finished, I just need to apply some trim to the dormer. Then I can move the house and the porch back into the dollshouse room and put in some furniture and perhaps make some hanging baskets.

I also did some sewing on the hot days because my sewing room, while not as cool as the workshop, is still cooler than upstairs.  I've completed several rows of Whirligigs now but haven't sewn the rows together yet. That's why they look a bit skewed in the picture.

I was lucky on Thursday, my day off, because it was overcast and a lot cooler. I was able to go into my attic knitting room and knit the neckline onto my machine knitted t-shirt and seam the big seams on my linker.  Then I sat in the relatively cool living room and finished the seaming and backstitched the neckline.  It has turned out quite well, perhaps slightly snug but I think it will relax a bit with wear. I haven't pressed all the seams and hems yet which is why the hems are flaring a bit in this picture. It will be a nice transitional garment as it is 50 cotton/50 acrylic.

Commuter knitting has been the Rainwater Shawl, which I am enjoying. The yarn is lovely, it's a heftier fingering weight that came with my KnitCrate subscription a few years ago, really bouncy and squidgy and lovely tones of pink from an Indie dyer. The stitch definition is great.

Today I acquired what I think is an IKEA Detolf glass display cabinet, for about 30% off from a local shop that is closing down.  It just fits into the gap by the door in the dollshouse room. After I give it a clean, I am thinking I will bring my 1:48 houses down from the dining room where they are hard to see, and put them in here instead. IKEA sells spotlights for these at £5 so if we are ever down at the IKEA in Milton Keynes I hope I remember to pick one up.

TV knitting this week has been the toddler dress, where I have completed the gathered yoke and am now facing a lot of stockinette for the dress skirt.  I also kitted up the next applique block for the 25-block applique quilt and have done a bit of stitching on that in front of the telly.  After visiting Castle Howard on our Yorkshire holiday, we are watching our way through the original Granada drama series 'Brideshead Revisited' which I don't think I ever saw and DH doesn't remember.  I was enjoying it to begin with as it was all lovely architecture in Oxford, Venice, London and Castle Howard, but now we are about 2/3rds through and it is all getting very black.  No spoilers please  :)

I've done a bit more on my dollshouse inventory this week but I've also been working on my itinerary for a holiday to Japan.  There are loads of blogs online listing great craft shops in Tokyo, but it is a job to work out where they actually are and to try to plan an itinerary that won't make DH's head explode.  And of course I want to fit in some actual sights as well, I'm not sure DH is going to think Nippori Fabrictown to be a highlight of his trip, ha ha ha.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Trawling the past

I've spent a lot of time the last few weeks trawling through  nine years of blog posts, eight years of financial records, and searching through my email account of several years. And I've been opening a lot of cupboards.  After years of procrastinating since we got burgled in 2011, I'm finally making a start on putting together records of my dollshouse collection for both insurance purposes and posterity. The insurance adjuster who visited about our burglary said that it was worth doing even if a lot of the collection is irreplaceable and even if I don't have receipts. He said a detailed written estimate of what every item cost, plus photographs, would support my claim in the event of loss due to, say, fire. Obviously it is a huge job to do retrospectively and thus the procrastinating.

The cupboard opening was because the research revealed various purchases which I didn't even remembered making, such as a complete kit for a 1:48 Debbie Young quilting studio with all the furniture kits to go with it. So I've also been started a list of all the kits waiting to be made up.  It's all been a tad depressing, both at the amount of money I've spent on things that are in cupboards, and the amount of things that are in cupboards waiting to be made up.  It will be an ongoing project  because eventually I am going to have to photograph all the individual rooms and make lists of what's in them and how much I think I paid for them.

I had a few days off this week which I spent between tasks on my 'to do' list and enjoying my crafts.

Tuesday I spent the entire day in the living room taking apart the Edwardian screen and recovering the panels with the fabric we bought in Yorkshire.  It was a huge job, not least because after coaxing out the various screws (including having to dig one out that had been buried in filler) I had to remove probably over 100 staples that were holding the previous fabric onto the panels.  It is quite a clever construction, the outer pieces unscrew to reveal inner wooden frames which have the fabric stapled around them.  The outer pieces hide the raw edges as long as these are cut close to the frame.

The first two panels went well, and I managed to cover them fairly smoothly and keep the edges neat.  The third panel was more of a problem because I didn't have enough fabric for an exact match of the repeat and also there was a bad historical break to one side piece. Previous owners had obviously had a go at repairing the break in the past, with ancient glue, and lots of staples.  It held together fine while I recovered the panel but of course as soon as I went to reassemble the frame, the breakage suddenly gave way.  Then I was faced with trying to mend a break that I couldn't get at because I had stapled all the new fabric on.  I had to take out enough staples to get at the broken part, restaple the two wooden pieces together, then try to restaple the fabric back on neatly. Annoyingly it didn't work very well and there is a bulge and some ripples around that area.  By that time I had been at the job for about seven hours and I was too tired to try again. Some day I may have another go and disassemble the screen, remove the fabric from the panel and try to make a better job of fixing the break.  Apart from that, the overall appearance is very effective and the television just disappears now which is what I wanted. It makes the fireplace the focal point of the room as it should be.

Wednesday I finished putting together the Spinning Pinwheels panel of charm squares, and started cutting out the pinwheels.  Since then I've made up four rows and it is looking good.  I am sewing each row as I cut it because there is a high risk otherwise of getting the pieces mixed up.

Over the few days I also put together a kit for a 1:48 'wrought iron' table and chair set, which is actually laser cut card.  It is so tiny and fragile.  I bent one of the table legs just getting it out of the motherboard. But it looks quite nice now that it is made up. I put a high gloss effect on the medallions on the chair backs and on the table top.

I said last week that I was knitting a striped toy bunny from a pattern from Let's Knit magazine.  I enjoyed putting him together but I found my choice of colours meant that the black eyes and nose detail don't show up very well.  I stitched around the eyes in pink to make them a bit more visible.  The bunny has a baby-safe pompom for a tail which I made using these instructions here.  This is for a colleague at work who is going on maternity leave at the end of August, so I am ahead of the game.

It was nice to knit in DK after starting a lot of projects in finer yarn so I've now started a Toddler dress in Sirdar Baby Crofter using a design called Caesia by Georgina Hallam.  This week in TV knitting I also finally finished the first Lallybroch sock.

Also on the knitting front I have machine knit all four pieces for a machine knitted tee in Panama cotton/acrylic coned yarn this week, and I blocked them today. Knitting the practice t-shirt really helped and the real one went fairly smoothly. Hopefully it will go together well and I will end up a nice wearable garment.

I've finished sticking all the shingles on the Victorian gazebo porch. After spraying them with sealer to help reduce warping, I've given them a preliminary coat of green paint.  Shingles are such a textured 3-D surface which makes painting a long job: every time you shift your sight line, you see a bit that you missed.

In another blast from the past, I dug out the summer top I knit in 'Breeze' last year.  I've almost never worn it because it was too cropped and the sleeves are a bit clunky. I still have several balls of yarn left so I picked up all the stitches around the bottom of the shirt and knit a few inches of 2x2 ribbing which I think makes a vast improvement on how it fits.

It felt very odd to be back at work on Friday just for one day, I kept thinking it was Monday.

I hope you've had a crafty week also. Summer has suddenly arrived at last, with temperatures up to 25 degrees today and predicted to be hotter still this coming week.  Not looking forward to my non-air conditioned office tomorrow.  At least, there is air conditioning but they never turn it on because of the people who moan about drafts, so we all sit there and bake instead.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

I'm too young to go grey

I spent the early part of the week looking a bit like a Klingon after having an allergic reaction to something - probably the hair dye applied on Saturday at the salon. My eyelids puffed up so much that the inside corners of my eyes were almost closed, giving an odd leonine look to my face and making my nose look really wide.  It wasn't itchy but it felt peculiar, like I had masking tape stuck on my face. A course of antihistamines reduced it back to normal by Friday, by which time three different people at work had regaled me with tales of someone they knew who mysteriously developed an allergy to all forms of hair colouring and were forced to go grey.  I've been having the same product applied for years, and it's a semi permanent because I am sensitive to some ingredients in permanent colour. I talked to the hairdresser today and she wants me to come in and do a sensitivity test (which I haven't had a problem with in the past) before my next appointment.  I don't know what I'm worried about more: having a more extreme reaction next time, or having to go prematurely grey before I'm ready.


I had ordered a stretcher frame from the same place I used before, as they will cut bars to bespoke sizes with a clever mitre joint at each corner that doesn't need any glue. The bars cost pennies but they sting you on the postage so the frame for my Venice picture cost about £10 in total - but then I'm saving on the cost of wadding, backing fabric and binding.  I fused on a few more leaves in a lighter green to lighten the foliage effect, then stretched the picture over the frame and stapled it on the back.  It looks good, I'm pleased with the effect.  I emailed one of the women who contributed a panel back in 2007 to let her know I'd finally finished it and sent her a picture, she couldn't even remember which panel she'd done, lol.

The back, showing the staples

I've now only got three old UFOs on my list: the Hawaiian applique quilt, the Bear's Paw quilt, and the 25-block hand applique quilt. So I am moving onto the 'projects in grocery sacks' which are non-started projects, some of them also quite ancient.

I've started out with three packs of charm squares in red, white and green which I picked up very cheaply at some long ago American quilt show.  They are a bit wishy-washy in colour value - actually they look better in this photo than they do in real life..  I'm sewing together 11x11 squares in a Trip Round the World layout. Then I am going to try the spinning pinwheel effect which I did on a small scale several years ago, where you cut smaller squares from the panel at an angle then re-piece into pinwheels.


I've continued to stick on shingles, and have almost completed the gazebo roof now.  It's slow going because of having to cut all the angled shingles. I'm a bit worried about painting these flimsy shingles in case they warp so I'm considering spraying with sealer first (after masking off all the white areas).

I put together a little kit for a 1/24th scale knitting bag which I sent off, along with a printie, for an online swap. I hope they like it.

I've been dealing with some of my recent miniatures purchases to get them into their intended residences.  I added some accessories to the little vintage tinplate cooker and have installed it in the French gatehouse. It looks interestingly foreign and not obviously blocking access routes although someone coming in the (non-working) door would be in the way of the cook.


From time to time I go through a toy-knitting phase, and I seem to be in one again. I started a free magazine kit for oddly-shaped farm animals on the drive to Mablethorpe last week, and I've spent this week knitting all five and putting them together. I can't decide if they are cute or just weird but hopefully some child will like them. I think I've got some printed farm fabric somewhere, so if I can find that I might sew a drawstring bag for them to go in.

I still feel like toy knitting so I'm going to start a striped bunny pattern that was in Let's Knit magazine, as someone at work is going on maternity leave in September.

I've given up on the Lallybroch socks as commuter knitting and have demoted/promoted them to TV knitting. I went wrong on the sequence of the double moss stitch again and spent 20 minutes of my train journey unraveling stitches and peering nearsightedly at my knitting trying to work out where I had gone wrong, and realised that I just wasn't having fun any more. I don't know if it is the fine gauge of the yarn, the mottled colour, or just the morning light on a train, but I can't see the stitches clearly enough to knit with 2.0mm needles accurately.  So I've started a new shawl in some heavier fingering that I got through my KnitCrate membership a few years ago, in a tonal pink colourway. The pattern is Rainwater Mint by Sally Oakley Designs and I chose it with commuter knitting in mind, so it's not too hard but not too boring either. And it starts from the back neck which I prefer.

Other stuff

I'm getting along fine on my Idrija bobbin lace mat and it seems to be working using a photograph instead of a pricking.  I had a brainwave and started using a soft plastic sheet protector with a hole cut out of it to cover up the pin heads, instead of the three cover cloths that the Lace Guild instructor told us to use.  It's much quicker to reposition the plastic sheet and I can see the pattern which helps with 'steering'. You  need the cover because you are constantly rotating the work and the threads will catch on the pinheads if they aren't covered.

I played around with the practice machine knitted tee which had come out too large. I decided that the sleeves and shoulders fit me fine, I just needed to take two inches of width out of the front and back. That was easily done by moving the centre line of my Knitleader pattern over by one inch (it's a half-pattern). So I've knit a tension swatch in the Yeoman Panama yarn that I bought, using T7 which is what I used to knit Panama on back in the day. I've washed it and it's drying, then I will measure it. Hopefully I might even get the summer tee knitted while it is still summer ... :)

I picked a handful of cherries off our baby cherry tree today, and our apple tree is laden down with toddler apples.  However all the pears that were growing on the pear tree have vanished, apart from four around the back of the tree.  I google'd a bit and apparently it might be due to all the cold and wet weather, the tree decides it won't be able to nurture the fruit so it drops it. We've had three lots of strawberries out of the strawberry patch but picking them is killing my back. I'm considering installing a raised bed to make it easier to pick them next year.  And the rhubarb has done very well, I was picking about a kilo every weekend through June but I'm giving it a rest this weekend and will stop altogether soon so it can build its strength up for next year. I never thought I liked rhubarb but I think it's probably because my mother didn't use much sugar with hers as she doesn't have a sweet tooth. I make a nice recipe for Rhubarb Crumble out of the baking book 'Saved by Cake' by Marian Keyes, she adds some ginger to bring out the flavour, and a decent amount of sugar (and I add a bit more as well, hee hee).

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