Saturday, 13 July 2019

New sewing machine

The great unboxing event took place last Sunday.  To begin with, I set the new machine (which I am mentally labelling 'the beast') up on top of my sewing table because it is bigger than the cutout that allowed the old machine to sit flush with the table surface.  All the accessories were present and accounted for (I eventually found the buttonhole foot hiding in the hitherto unseen storage compartment) and the lights came on when I turned on the power. 

I decided the best way to test the machine was to make something, and as it happened I had seen a free online tutorial for a zip pouch the night before. I pulled out a bunch of selvedges I had been collecting and had a go at a pouch.  I didn't have the nine-inch zipper called for so used a longer one cut down, but that's made the end-zip corner poke in a bit strangely.

The machine worked well.  It's very similar to my old one in terms of function but smoother and faster. I haven't been brave enough to try the Accufeed yet.  The main difference I am noticing is that it starts off stitching fairly slowly, no matter how hard you press the pedal, and then speeds up to quite a fast pace, faster than my old one.  Later in the week I trimmed down the set-in surround piece of my sewing table to fit the new machine so that I can drop the machine down to table level, but the working surface of the machine isn't completely flat so it's still a work in progress to get a level sewing surface.

The zip pouch didn't test the quarter-inch seam capability so, while the 30s Sampler Quilt awaits its border, I moved on to a new project which is a One Block Wonder (OBW) quilt using six beach panels from Timeless Treasures.  I saw a quilt like this on the OBW Facebook group  a few years ago and bought the panels to make my own version.  So this week I have cut the panels up into 60-degree triangles and arranged them all on paper plates ready for sewing, five hexagons to a plate.  There are a lot of plates.

So now I've started sewing them together using the quarter-inch foot and quarter-inch seam setting on the new machine. After sewing a few, I thought I had better test the quarter-inch accuracy with the usual 'cut a 1.5 inch strip' method, and discovered that it was a bit too fat.  So I've moved the needle one stop and it seems pretty good now.  Just about 150 hexagons to go...

I wanted to show you an embroidered firescreen we picked up at the charity shop.  The style of the woodwork suggests early-to-mid 20th century to me, and the embroidery reminds me of some of the table linens I've collected from the early 20th C.  I rather liked it and the woodwork isn't too bad, but the stitching is in poor shape.  I'm going to take the frame apart and give it a good clean and try washing the stitchery to see if the staining will come out .  If not then I might give it a border in a different fabric.  Somebody a long time ago put a lot of work into this and I think it's rather sweet.

Next weekend we're hosting a daytime party of sorts for the members of DH's club so we need to deep clean the house this week.  We rarely entertain so aren't very practiced at it.  I've been counting mugs, forks and wine glasses to see if we have enough, it's surprising how much is hidden away at the back of cupboards. Hopefully it will be dry and they can go out in the garden. DH isn't sure how many people are coming, it could be 6 or 35.  We've agreed we will plan for 25 so either we will have a lot of leftovers or we'll be sending DS out to the shop during the event for top-ups. I'll have to clean out all my craft projects from the living room so people can sit in there :)

Saturday, 6 July 2019


My Japanese class finished this week and I've received my certificate. I feel ridiculously happy about getting my two evenings a week back because the last few weeks have really felt like a treadmill. I signed up for the course hoping that it would be a better way to learn than doing self study on my own (which hadn't worked very well) but it wasn't a huge difference.  Some things were better explained by the teacher, but the hoped-for practice in speaking did not materialise and not much listening practice either.  Now I have to decide if I will continue in the autumn to the next level (in which case I need to do regular homework all summer) or just give up  and have all my time back again for other things. The autumn class would only be once a week but would be more demanding in terms of homework apparently.  It feels like a losing battle with my ageing and poor memory, I think my brain doesn't feel it is necessary to retain a language it isn't using.  And yet I can remember how to do craft things decades after first tackling them - obviously my brain prioritises craft over language study :)

I did finally get to do a bit of patchwork this week.  It felt odd to be sewing for the first time in a few weeks. I finished the final steps of the jigsaw assembly of the 30s sampler and the pieced part of the top is now together.  In this pic I am trying out the new border fabric I bought with a highlight accent but I'm not happy with it.  I'm going to Festival of Quilts next month so perhaps I might find a better border fabric there.

I finished sewing together the machine knitted cushion topper and took it along to my machine knitting club for the competition.  It didn't win but the judge seemed interested in it and it got some positive feedback from other members.  In the subsequent raffle I won a Brother 8310 linker attachment for my knitting machine which I am quite pleased about, it binds off the stitches on the machine for you when you turn a little hand crank. So I look forward to trying that out.

Still haven't unboxed my new sewing machine but I'm hoping to do that tomorrow.  I read through the manual when we were away last weekend and it seems quite similar to my existing machine only with the AccuFeed and some extra stitches.  There's a CD to watch as well which I might do tonight. Of course first I will have to gather up all the paraphenalia associated with my current machine and put that somewhere safe along with said current machine, to make room for the new stuff.

I'm almost finished the second red and white Sanquhar glove, I'm just finishing the thumb.  I've darned in all the ends on the first glove (quite a few as you re-attach for each finger) but not the second glove yet.  This week I have also resuscitated a hibernating project which is the  Shoulder Shawl in Cherry Leaf Pattern by Jane Sowerby from Victorian Lace Today, which I started three years ago.  After knitting the centre section, I couldn't find an edging I liked so the shawl got parked.  I've now found a sawtooth edging in an old issue of Vogue Knitting and have done some repeats of that and it looks ok so that's my 'new' commuter knitting project now.  Since I haven't been watching nearly as much TV due to the late nights with Japanese, I haven't done much on the crochet afghan or the Misty Meadows shawl this week.  And I haven't touched my dollshouse roof since before we went to Cumbria.  Bad dollshouser...

I almost called this post 'Goodbye Corporate World' because yesterday I bundled up the three remaining work suits I had hung onto 'just in case' since becoming a civil servant back in 2015, and took them to the charity shop. I doubt they would even fit me very well any more, but the main point is that 3.5 years out of the corporate mainstream and I think I am pretty much ruined for it now.  I'm too used to going to work in weather-appropriate smart casual clothes to my much-lower-stress job which has flexible arrival/departure hours and best of all, very few meetings or deadlines.  Next task will be to clear out some of the corporate work shoes which I never wear any more either.

Today I helped as a volunteer steward at the Lace Guild's exhibition at Delapre Abbey. It was a great opportunity to see some fabulous lace, there are some really amazing feats of technical perfection and innovation.  So far I don't think they've had the attendance they were hoping for, partly due to how it was advertised perhaps? and perhaps because you have to pay £8 for admission to the Abbey.  We only had about a dozen visitors to our rooms throughout the day.  I know the volunteer organisers have done a huge amount of excellent work behind the scenes on organisation and setting up.  Unfortunately most of the labelling (which I understand was supplied by the Lace Guild) is terse and mostly doesn't explain anything about the lace itself, just what category it was entered in, and there isn't much to explain or popularise the hobby to non-lacemakers visiting, no handouts or explanation of the entries. We stewards explained to each visitor that it was handmade lace, an exhibition from a competition etc. but a couple of big A2 posters like museums put up would have been nice, explaining for example 'what is hand-made lace' with brief descriptions of the various types in the exhibition, 'who makes lace today' etc.  I was working/demonstrating on my Torchon beaded bracelet but I'm running out of thread as I didn't wind enough on the bobbins, and I had foolishly left my thread spool at home.  I made it to going home time just as one bobbin ran out completely.

Sunday, 30 June 2019

I heart air conditioning

We had a mini heatwave over the weekend which hopefully is now over. It went up to 31 degrees yesterday.  We were away at a lace weekend (DH kindly agreed to drive me as it was difficult to reach by public transport) and I was quite worried because last year the same event was held in non-airconditioned classrooms which were like ovens, and every night was an ordeal in the sauna-like bedrooms with windows that only opened a couple of inches.  This year it had moved to a new venue which to my delight was almost fully air conditioned.  So while DH was out in the heat yesterday looking around the area, I was happily making lace in a lovely cool classroom and even putting a cardigan on occasionally.  Margaret Wall came along to sell her bobbins at the event and I bought this lovely bobbin handpainted with lace.

I was trying another piece of Floral Bucks lace, this one out of Alex Stillwell's book.  It's much simpler than the edging I have on my other pillow, but still had some puzzles to solve.  I'm fairly pleased with how I got on, achieving a full repeat over the weekend and picking up lots of tips.

On the way up, we stopped into the Ferrers Centre  in Leicestershire which had been recommended by a colleague.  It's a converted Georgian stableyard with several artisan studios and a nice tearoom.  It was rather hard to find, being pretty much in the middle of nowhere and quite poorly signposted, but we got there in the end.  I was pleased to find a little quilt shop in a corner unit, Country Cottage Crafts.  I'm still looking for a border fabric for my 30s Sampler Quilt but the shop assistant just looked blank when I asked about 30s-style fabrics.  I did find this, which has geometric shapes that are reminiscent of 30s.  It looks alright with the quilt top, not sure I love it.  I'm going to give it a few days and see if it grows on me.

I was out last Sunday on a coach trip with my gardening club to visit the Rose Festival at  Peter Beales Garden Centre  and the Water Gardens at Gooderstone (both in Norfolk).  Peter Beales are multi-Chelsea Flower Show award winners and the show gardens were stunning - albeit rather cluttered up with marquees and people for the craft show cum festival going on. I'd like to go back again another time when it's not so crowded.  They were offering 15% off for the festival so I came away with a lovely flowering carpet style red rose which I now need to find somewhere to plant in the garden. Apparently they grow 1100 varieties of roses and there is lots of companion planting as well.

The Gooderstone Water Gardens were quite charming, very naturalistic, with little formal planting.  Various canals and ponds were excavated many years ago and then planted all around, and there's also a nature trail through the adjoining Fens.  These two swans were resting right next to the garden path and weren't the least bit bothered by the visitors.

The best bit though was a kingfisher hide on the edge of a big pond.  When we were Cumbria, DH glimpsed a kingfisher briefly near our cottage, and I looked fruitlessly the rest of the week to see one.  After only a few minutes in this hide, a PAIR of kingfishers flew up and landed on a branch not too far away, and one obligingly hung around to have his photo taken by everyone in the hide. Beautiful birds.

Our strawberry patch has started producing this years crop and we managed to save some from the slugs and woodlice.  We never get more than a few handfuls but they crop most of the summer.

I've had very little time lately due to an exam in my Japanese class and all the time away from home, but I did modify the punchcard for my self-designed machine knit cushion and did a tension sample which was obviously off because this is the end result which came out half a repeat too long.  It's the right width though, so I'm going to sew across to secure the stitches and cut off the excess, then turn under the edge.  I'm fairly pleased with it.  The cushion I bought at B&M has four buttons so I may cut them off and resew them through the knitting, otherwise there would be odd dimples.

Saturday, 22 June 2019

A week in Cumbria with much craft acquisition

This week we headed north to the Eden Valley, returning to the same nice cottage we hired last year.   We intended to travel via Sewing Machines Direct in Wrexham so that I could look at a potential new sewing machine, but we almost didn't make it: the M6 motorway was closed because of an accident, and every detour we tried to make was similarly blocked by roadworks, traffic queues, convoys of lorries, tractors and on and on.  DH was getting quite grumpy and there was a lot of muttering about how much quicker it would have been if we weren't going so far out of our way.

But we made it to Wrexham eventually after about five stressful hours including a break for lunch.  It was well worth it (to me anyway): loads of machines and a very knowledgeable staff person who listened to my requirements and talked me through the two Janome machines he thought might suit.  I chose this supplier after reading many positive reviews on the UK Quilters United Facebook group and I wasn't disappointed (at least, not so far :)  ).  There was absolutely no pressure, I could try out the machine as much as I liked and ask questions, and was offered a good price with free delivery.

So this coming Monday, my new machine should arrive.  I went for the Janome MC8200QCP Special Edition, as it seemed to echo the desirable features of my current machine (Janome 6500P) with the added bonus of Accufeed and an 11" throat. Hopefully it will be a reliable workhorse for many years to come.  DH is surprised I'm not more excited but having been through the new-sewing-machine learning curve several times in the past 25 years, I am bracing myself for frustration and potential troubleshooting.  Maybe I'm wrong and it will all be brilliant - let's hope. I am looking forward to having a reliable machine that doesn't stuff the fabric down the needle plate at the start of a seam.

We had a lovely week, with fairly variable weather. The landscapes are so beautiful up there.  We went for three easy walks, one of which was in the Teesdale valley to visit three waterfalls: High Force, Low Force and Summerhill Force.

Low Force - we walked up alongside it after taking this picture

DH standing in Gibson's Cave behind Summerhill Force

After the Teesdale walk, we stopped in Middleton-in-Teesdale to visit a craft gallery I had picked up a leaflet for, and saw some very elaborate yarn bombing along the main street.  I'm not generally a fan of yarn bombing but some of these  creations had a huge amount of work in them.

Another walk was alongside Ullswater in the Lake District.  At the start of the walk near Patterdale, I was intrigued to see a handwritten sign at the corner of a lane of cottages, saying 'Wool Farm Shop' with an arrow.  We walked a little way down the lane but couldn't see anything.  After the walk we asked at the tearoom, and they said there was a little shop at the end of the lane and the lady who owned it had just poured out the tea for Prince William and Kate when they visited the area few weeks previously!  So after lunch we took the car and drove down the lane for some way, wondering if we were on a wild goose chase.  Then we spotted  this sign:

And we drove some more until we came to a farm.  The road appeared to end there, but there was another sign urging us to keep driving.

So we drove through the farm and on down more lane, feeling like we were on a treasure hunt. Eventually we ran out of road altogether and we were there!

The wool shop is a small room in an outbuilding, featuring hand knit lacy shawls in mohair, sturdy woolen socks, woolen hats, and a small selection of upmarket independent brand yarns in wool, mohair and one lovely wool-silk blend.  The owner was away but her amiable husband let me look around.  I treated myself to a Doulton Border Leicester pack of mini skeins with an accompanying pattern for fingerless mitts, as a souvenir of our adventure.

We visited two excellent second hand bookshops in the week: one in Penrith and one in Sedbergh. Both had decent craft sections where I enjoyed much browsing, that's where I got the charted initials book in the middle below.  We also stopped at Fairfield Mill in Sedbergh which has a specialist textile secondhand bookshop where I got the other two books. They had a fabulous range of books but were very pricey. Lots of American books and books I recognised from the 90s patchwork boom, but most of them were priced much higher than I was willing to pay.

We came across a decent fabric shop in Penrith, Just Sew, where I picked up two cute patterns in a linen-canvas weight tapestry fabric for bagmaking, and a cute sewing-themed cotton fabric. I'd like to make more bags and containers, it's just finding the time.

We stopped into a plant sale that we passed, being held at Dalemain House which we visited last year, very grand.

I bought a clematis there for our garden and also this unusual bit of garden art from Westmorland Folk Art, who specialise in making items incorporating reclaimed materials. That's a bit of a brick that the hand-forged flower is wrapped around.

Also for the garden, an ex-chimney pot that we discovered in a stableyard barn at Winderwath Gardens amidst a museum collection of what purported to be 'secondhand tools for sale' - but I think a lot of them dated back to the Victorian era. DH had a great time finding various rusty instruments of torture designed for lawn edging or spiking amidst the cobwebs. The chimney pot is enormously heavy - we wedged it into the side of the car with a plastic box of paraphernalia that DH keeps in the car so it wouldn't roll around, and by the end of the holiday the chimney pot had successfully pulverised the plastic box into multiple pieces.  Luckily we have a sack dolly at home so DH was able to manhandle the chimney pot into the garden where I planted it with some bedding plants today.  I used some lobelia which hopefully will trail down the sides.

Another day we visited Brougham Hall which has a courtyard of small artist studios including Gwen Bainbridge Ceramics who had several lovely pieces of white bisqueware decorated with 'lace'.  I bought a single lovely plant marker, which has such a tactile feel to it. Far too nice to put in the garden.

I took lots of projects with me so in the evenings at the cottage I was knitting the Misty Meadows Shawl, crocheting the Giant Granny Square Afghan, doing a bit of bobbin lace on the Torchon beaded bracelet, and I took along a little cross stitch needlebook kit that came on a magazine recently. I was also studying Japanese as we have our end of term exam coming up this week.

The night before we started the holiday, I managed to finish the final block of the 30s Sampler Quilt (not sure why it looks so crumpled in this picture) so now I can finish putting the centre of the top together.

And last but certainly not least in this litany of extravagance, the wonderful sideboard that we bought the previous weekend was delivered while we were away.  We love this style of furniture which luckily for us is so far from the modern taste that examples of it are ridiculously cheap. This cost less than a disposable foam and chipboard IKEA sofa, it's unbelievable. The marquetry is lovely and the mirrors have deep bevelled edges, each gallery is flanked by posts with turned finials.  After I cleaned and waxed the piece, I had a good rustle through my collection of vintage linens looking for mats the right size to fit the various areas. Our dining room looks very elegant now.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Is it time to build an ark?

They were calling it 'monsoon June' in the papers this week because it just wouldn't stop raining.  Earlier in the week we had a strong wind storm overnight along with rain, and the next morning the garden was all smashed flat:  the foxgloves were snapped off or sprawling, delphiniums fallen over, alliums snapped or drooping, rose flowers shattered into petals and one rose bush just sprawling flat on the lawn - obviously my staking and plant supports had not been at all sufficient so I've had to go out in the rain and try to prop things up again.

But this plant support for the drooping rose bush has arrived, so once things dry out a bit I will see if I can fit it over the rose bush after the fact. Obviously it would have been much better to have this from the beginning so the rose could grow through it. It seems decent quality even though it was one of the cheaper ones I found online, and it will gradually rust which will look nice.

The wet environment is not helping our wall and ceiling to dry out.  The worst bits are staying stubbornly around 18% damp readings (compared to 3% on the dry walls).  But the repair job on the original leak seems to have worked so that's good.  As Daisy pointed out in the comments, at least the leak didn't happen while we were in Japan.

The trains were better behaved this week so Monday night I had time to cut out the pieces for my final applique block and start stitching it over this week.  This one features three hexagonal flowers (hollyhocks?) growing from a pot.

I've done some more rows on the granny square afghan this week.  The rows are getting longer so each one is taking more time to complete.  I like the colour scheme, which is outlined in the pattern so you know which colour to use for each row.

I'm just finishing off the little finger on my red and white Sanquhar glove.  I pulled it out at work for our little monthly craft club (30 minutes in the middle of the day) and completely boggled the other ladies who either don't knit or don't knit with double pointed needles.  It was because I had left the main body of the glove on two long needles (basically using them as stitch holders) while I knit the little finger first with four short glove needles, so the whole affair looked a bit pincushion-y.  I hadn't really thought about it apart from feeling too lazy to put all the stitches on waste yarn when I am going to need them again immediately after knitting the little finger, because you are only ever knitting with two needles at a time. Once I get to the main four-finger part, then I will put all the stitches on waste yarn as I will only be knitting small groups of stitches at a time.

I'm trying to design a fair isle cushion cover featuring bobbin lace motifs, which will serve the dual purpose of being my entry for the machine knitting club's cushion competition, and give me something to sit on at Lace Days.  I used an Excel grid to design a 24-stitch machine punchcard, and I did make the squares taller than they were wide, but the first knit test has revealed that everything looks a bit compressed and squat so I've got to do some tinkering.

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Space age knitting machines

I visited Yeoman Yarns on Friday for the first of their two open days. They have recently moved into Leicester just outside the city centre so it is now walkable from the train station. The 'mill shop' is really a small warehouse with metal shelving piled high with boxes, not much to see but they have knitted samples of their yarns to look at/feel which is great and also some bargain end of line yarns. They sell coned yarn for machine knitting, and I picked up a cone of Fusion Panama (cotton acrylic blend) thinking of making a short sleeved summer tshirt if I can find a pattern.  It's good to know where they are in case I need anything else.

The reason they have moved into Leicester is because they've been bought by the owners of a design/knit studio across the road, which was also open to visitors for the occasion.  That was fascinating: they have about a half dozen industrial knitting  machines (Stoll) which are about as far advanced from my home knitting machine as the space shuttle is from a paper plane.  Apparently these machines start from $30,000. The studio specialises in small production runs and designer samples, taking the designers' concepts and translating them into software the machines can understand.  They had various gauge machines, one had four carriages which could knit together doing four rows at a time or each carriage could knit separately in a separate colour/stitch/technique.  The machines can not only do multiple colours (I think he said one could handle 32 colours?), they also do intarsia, plating, fair isle, textured patterns like cables, casting on/off and shaping all automatically.  They can even knit some garments all in one go: he showed me a cardigan with pockets and set in sleeves which had come off the machine ready to wear apart from sewing in some ends.  They had tons of samples on display, many of them high-performance fabrics that felt more like neoprene or canvas.  For example: high performance knitted trainer tops (sneakers), automotive seat covers, speaker grille covers, quilted high-tech fabrics, fabrics with three connected layers each in a different colour but patterned so that the different colours showed through in different places, chunky rustic knits that I would have sworn were handknit, all kinds of stuff. My guide showed me the design he was currently converting to software: a traditional fair isle cardi but the machine will knit on a moss stitch front band at a different tension at the same time as it is knitting the fair isle body and doing the shaping.  What I particularly coveted was the steaming table in the finishing room:  a padded table that emitted steam when you pressed a pedal, then pressing another pedal would suck the garment dry. That would make blocking easy!  A really interesting visit.

I've just come in from a couple of exhausting hours hacking the garden back.  We've had a lot of rain the last few weeks and the plants are going bonkers.  You blink and suddenly something has grown two or three feet and is blocking the light to other plants.  Unfortunately the bindweed and other invaders are also enjoying the season.  DH took a car load of jungle to the dump afterwards.  I've also sprayed the apple tree and roses for fungus (no, I'm not organic) - the roses are struggling a bit with all the wet and there was some white mildew starting on some stems.  The Chianti rose we planted in spring 2018 gave up completely in the rain and just flopped sprawling onto the lawn, I've propped it up with some supports but I think really it needs one of those circular rose basket supports you see in fancy gardens.  I've cut several stems off of it before they go over, and added some of the other roses to make an arrangement for the hallway.

I finished the second applique block for the 30s Sampler quilt. Just one more applique block to prep and sew and I'll be done all the blocks.

Meanwhile I've been following the assembly steps for joining all the different sized blocks into every-growing panels.  It's going together much better than I thought it would. There's a few floating or cut off points but generally things are fitting together fairly well.  DH doesn't like it, he thinks it's too busy.  I think the border is really going to frame it and tame it (once I find the right border fabric).

I went to my local lace group yesterday and worked on my Torchon beaded bracelet.  It's going fine, it's relatively simple once I remind myself each session how to do Torchon.  I've got some lace friends coming over today so I will be doing some more work on my Floral Bucks edging but I've also been winding bobbins for an upcoming weekend where I will be attempting a different floral bucks edging.  I'm popping the wound bobbins into the bobbin carrier that I made a while ago, that fits into its own little bag.

I've made it to the start of the little finger on my second red and white Sanquhar glove and I'm knitting a lace section now on the Misty Meadows Shawl.  I haven't touched the dollshouse roof this week because I was late in almost every night: Monday a person went under a train so all trains were delayed and I didn't get home from work until c 8:30pm, Tuesday was Japanese so home 9:30pm, Wednesday was Japanese but also a broken rail disrupted the train service and DH actually had to drive all the way to fetch me so not home until c 10:30pm, Thursday was machine knitting club (home 9:30pm again) so I spent most of Friday trying to catch up on housework and paperwork instead of crafting and the plumber came to fix the leak.   Japanese finishes at the end of the month so I will have more time then.

The leak is fixed (hurrah). He thought for a while he might have to replace the toilet because of the odd cistern which made it hard to find a flush unit to fit, but then he did find one and fitted it on Friday. So far (touch wood) the leak is stopped.  However it may take weeks or even months for the walls and ceiling to dry out.  I bought an inexpensive damp meter from Amazon which probably isn't entirely accurate but suffices for comparative readings.  It's been two weeks now since we stopped the leak and the worst affected areas have slowly decreased from c 19% damp to c 17% damp so we are heading in the right direction. Comparative tests on nearby external walls are only c 3% so we have a ways to go.  So the dining room is going to look like this for quite a while. 

Sunday, 2 June 2019

An escape of water

So this happened:

The insurance company tells me it is classed as an 'escape of water'.  Basically the fresh water feed into the toilet cistern started a leak, probably some days ago.  We didn't know anything about it until we started noticing a strong damp smell in the study which is the room below and one room over from the ensuite.  It took a couple of days of going 'what is that smell?' before DH finally thought to look upwards and saw the big damp mark on the ceiling of the study. Then we discovered the wallpaper on the outer wall was soaked through and falling off. At first we thought it must be a leak in the waste water pipe from the ensuite shower and sink, that runs along the line of the damp mark. It was only yesterday that I discovered the leak from the water pipe and only because I heard a very faint hissing noise like a baby snake.  The ensuite floor was soaked so I had to pull up my 'new' lino floor to let the boards dry out.  The study ceiling is showing damp marks in several places so it appears the water was running into the wall along the water feed pipe, and then presumably falling onto the aforementioned waste pipe and running along that across the study ceiling.  Very fortunately the leak was above the stopcock valve so we've been able to shut off the water flow. So DH has had to move out all his books from the affected bookcase and we've got fans running trying to dry everything out.  DH wants to rip out the bookcase to let things dry but it's all built in with mouldings and would wreck the whole unit so I'm hoping we don't have to do that. The mouldings in the ensuite are all swollen and cracked away from the wall as well. The plumber is coming tomorrow morning. It could have been a lot worse, at least the leak is easy to fix and the ceiling hasn't actually fallen in.  It's good drying weather at least, being a nice warm weekend.

Also this week I have sanded down some peeling paint on our garden gate and on a few windows at the back of the house, and repainted them. I've got to do one more coat on the windows, it's just the bottom part where I guess they get hit the most by weather. I was on a DIY roll so I also took apart the cross-stitch frame I bought last weekend. The reason the embroidery looked so loose was because it was just stuck down with doublesided tape rather than being sewn on. I was able to peel it off but didn't have any luck separating the matboard from the foamboard spacers that were creating the ugly shadow gap around the embroidery. Instead I was able to cut down the board supporting the embroidery so it dropped into the foamboard 'valley' because luckily the matboard went further into the middle of the frame.  Then I could sew the embroidery onto the board, padding it with white felt to better disguise the thread ends and stretching it properly.  Then put it all back together.  It looks a lot better now and I've hung it in the bedroom.

I finished the first applique block for the 30s Sampler Quilt.

And I've started the second applique block.

I've started the lengthy process of sewing all the different sized blocks together.  The instructions have you do it in stages and there will be a lot of partial seaming involved I think. It's fun to look at all the pretty colours and fabrics again close up.

Last weekend I felt like doing something different so tried out the Kismet Trinket Box which is a PDF pattern from Sew Sweetness. I changed the size slightly to make it big enough to hold the spare roller for my travelling lace pillow, and therefore made it in the same outer fabric to match the pillow.  This is one of those projects where you read through the instructions and think 'yup, that's simple enough' and then it turns out to be a nightmare to achieve.  The worst bit was trying to get the zipper sewn onto the lid smoothly between the layers of outer fabric/stabiliser/lining fabric.  The zip tape just did not want to bend smoothly around the curves, and insisted on pleating at the corners and getting caught by the lining stitching (when you can't see the zip tape because it's hidden inside the layers). I ended up unpicking the corners several times and the end result is still not great but it's functional and does what I wanted.  Hopefully having made one, I could do a better job if I made it again.

I've progressed a few more steps on the Misty Meadows Shawl and am currently on the double moss stitch section. Still not loving this yarn, I'm hoping it will soften and bloom once washed.

I have forced myself to keep going on the roof of doom for the Japanese dollshouse, by breaking it down to achievable 'I'll just do this for an hour' steps then rewarding myself by escaping to something nicer. The front and back curved sections are all shingled now and I'm just working on filling in the rear roof gables so that I can add the wooden decorations to those.

improvised weighting to hold the warped shingle strips down while the glue dries

(By the way Peggy, if you read this, I tried to send you some photos of the prototype using the email address on your bento blog, but I don't know if you received them?)

The garden is looking very lush, almost unkempt, having greatly enjoyed the spell of rain we had last week. The roses are starting to come out on the arch and pergola, and it felt very private inside the pergola when we were sitting out there yesterday.

It's hard to remember that it looked like this two years ago:

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