Sunday, 21 April 2019

Going back to school (at my age, eeek!)

Ever since we got back from Japan, I have been dithering about whether to give up on my Japanese language studying.  No sooner have I decided 'yes, definitely giving up' than I start to waver and think about how much time I've put in so far and the small victories along the way.  I don't think self study was very successful for me because it's too tempting to procrastinate plus it's harder to find opportunities to use the language.  My memory is very selective these days about what it wants to store and if the information isn't somehow a priority, it doesn't make the cut. I had a bit of a google and discovered a university offering evening courses with a new term starting soon.  I've signed up, despite worrying that I am far too old to be back in the classroom (probably with a bunch of twenty-year-olds as well...).  I am telling myself that I've already covered all the topics on my own which will compensate for my slower learning speed.  This will be make or break: 10 weeks to see if I do want to keep on with it, or if I am definitely giving up.  10 weeks with less time to do crafts though.

The first part of this week I had no sewing machine set up so I dug out a little kit I bought on our first trip to Japan.  This is one of those 'easy tuck patchwork' kits where you tuck fabric into lines cut into foam.  I bought two of these kits and made the one with the thatch houses last year.  This one is really cute, and only about 6 inches wide.

It's the long Easter holiday here in the UK, and with my day off I have scored a five day weekend - result!  As DS was going to be away for part of it visiting his girlfriend, we planned ahead to spend as much time on hobbies and relaxing as possible, even laying in ready meals for supper so nobody had to cook.  Here we are on day 3, Sunday, and although it's been fun, I haven't got as much done as I optimistically thought.  Although we have wasted time on going out to lunch yesterday and having a cream tea in the garden today... :)

  • my Janome sewing machine came back, but only temporarily as they've ordered a part so it will need to go back AGAIN in a month to have that fitted.  I haven't tried it yet but hopefully otherwise it is better. Meanwhile I've been using my Featherweight for the first time since I did all the maintenance on it, it seems to be working fine and it's so cute!

  • I spent several hours sewing a snap purse from one of my Japanese books and using some of my Japanese fabrics, only to fall at the last hurdle when I discovered it was too small to sew into the metal snap frame I had.  I've ordered a smaller frame but it won't come until next week now.  I combined a shape from the book, with an applique pattern from another larger bag in the same book, and on the reverse panel I used a piece of cross stitch I bought a few years ago at a jumble sale. It was really lovely to feel I had several hours to just sew without interruptions.  Normally I can't because either I actually get interrupted, or I interrupt myself to go and do chores. I also cut out another block for the 30s sampler.

  • I did a bit more work on my floral bucks lace sample, making a start on the next repeat. So I can look back at the hash I made of the first repeat and try to do better. I also finished the pattern for the little brooch design I am making, so just need to do the joining on that one now.

  • I actually used one of my knitting machines!  I had a free pattern from online to knit a Christmas stocking so had a go at that.  Some of the motions felt familiar and others were rediscoveries like 'oh yeah, that happens'.  While I was knitting, I tried to decide if I was enjoying myself but I wasn't really.  Partly because based on bitter experience, I was constantly stressed that something would go wrong.  I felt like I had to monitor all the stitches like a hawk to rescue stitches dropping on the end (several times), moving the weights up (which is supposed to prevent the stitches dropping on the end), monitoring the yarn feed for tangles (I was re-using some prewound balls from a long ago project), etc. etc.  So no, it isn't restful like hand knitting.  I suppose with practice I would re-gain confidence and it wouldn't be as stressful.  Also the stocking has come out absolutely enormous, it would fit Hagrid,, it didn't look nearly so big in the picture but I guess it was deceptive.  I used a random fair isle card which, as it turns out, has some longer floats which means the stocking wouldn't be suitable for use as a stocking without a fabric lining to stop things catching on the floats.  I've spent some time sewing it up anyway, but still need to darn in the ends and block it before I take a photo.

  • I finished stitching my needlepoint house and seamed it up then stuffed it.  It's actually been seamed and unseamed a few times because I struggled with the three-legged cross stitch recommended to close up the seams, and also found there was far too much canvas left over to get a neat result on the roof.  So I need to unpick the roof now and try trimming and clipping the canvas before another attempt.

  • Although I do not class it as a hobby, more like a necessary chore to achieve a desired end, I have done a lot of gardening this weekend as well.  We made a trip to a garden centre on Friday and picked up a bunch of plants to replace the ones that didn't make it through the winter, so I've been planting those up, watering, weeding etc.  The garden is growing visibly overnight now, and just over the last few days both the apple and edible cherry tree have blossomed, they are so pretty.  On Friday we also planted a little weeping cherry tree into a new hole in our lawn, which I ordered when we got back from holiday as I was so inspired by the sakura blossom we saw in Japan.  Two of the branches were cracked - not sure whether it happened in transit or when I was wrestling it out of the ridiculous 12 foot high box - so I've splinted them with bracing and duct tape in the hopes they will knit back together.
DH took a couple of photos for me of my Lacy fingerless mitts that I finished a while back.  I like them but it annoys me slightly that the lace pattern is off centre on my large hands.  If I ever knit them again (unlikely, I rarely repeat projects) I would add a few more stitches between the lace pattern and the thumb gusset to help centre the pattern.

Today we made our biannual trip to the Lamport Hall antiques fair.  It was lovely to stroll around in the sun since it's often rains most years at Easter.  The fair is usually a bit same-y, with the same dealers in the same places selling the same stuff (sometimes literally, I picked up a picture last time that I had looked at probably five times until she finally gave up and dropped the price, I guess she got tired of hauling it back and forth to fairs). But this time there seemed to be quite a few new dealers, and old ones were missing. I wonder what caused the shake up? New rents perhaps, or new management? Anyway, it was good for us and we found several bargains.  I got five nice lace bobbins for only £10; a pair of brass roosters; a 6 cup/saucer tea set with matching cake plate, milk jug and sugar bowl; a few other things and DH bought a book.  We used the new tea set for our cream tea.

Happy Easter! I hope the Easter bunny brought you chocolate and that you've been enjoying some sunshine too.

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Blah blah Japan blah blah blah...

Actually I hope that's not what my blog is sounding like!

Today we took my Janome sewing machine on a return trip to the service shop because the visit in February did not cure any of the problems.  On my day off I pieced two more blocks for the 30s Sampler Quilt and the machine was not behaving well at all.  I phoned up to discuss and they are going to have another go at no additional charge. But it means no Janome for another week :(  But I should get it back for sewing over Easter weekend and in the meantime I can use my Featherweight.

I've been working away on my Sanquhar glove this week and have completed up to the fingers and done two of those now.  It's still a bit big but as it is in Jamieson's pure wool, I can give it a slight felting when I wet block which should help.

I've also done a bit more stitching on my tiny needlepoint house.  It's suppose to be a scissor keep but the previous one I stitched, I turned into a fridge magnet by slipping a magnet into the 3-D structure before I stuffed it. I might do that again because I just find scissor keeps annoying.

Dollshouse haul from Japan

Of course when I was in Japan, I kept my eyes open for miniatures that might be suitable for my Japanese dollshouse but didn't have a lot of luck.  Although the Japanese love miniature things, actual dollshouses don't seem to be very common.  I checked out the craft sections in several bookstores and there was usually several books on making miniature food, but I only saw one book on dollshouse scenes.  Gift shops, combini and souvenir stores typically have cute miniature toys or key fobs but not in a suitable scale. Some shops had the Chinese kits for room boxes that you can get through Amazon in the UK.

We hit up the big win on the first day, with a visit to TYA Kitchen, a dollshouse shop in a northern suburb of Tokyo. The owner is famous for his stainless steel kitchen miniatures and regularly visits the Chicago International miniatures show to trade. I had bookmarked the address in Googlemaps in advance, so it was relatively easy to find.
I had a friendly welcome from the owner who speaks some English, and his wife who I don't think spoke any English. The shop is relatively small but absolutely crammed with the most amazing room box displays, many of them highly detailed kitchens and restaurants showing off his amazing work.  Photography is normally not allowed but he kindly allowed me to take some pictures.

The singer on the stage moves about and really sings,
while the television in the foreground is showing actual moving images.

A sushi restaurant, including a 'boat' table floating in a 
pool filled with miniature seafood.

But the most amazing thing  was when DH pointed out to me a replica of my Japanese dollshouse that I am building from the De Agostini kits!  I hadn't even noticed it because I was so busy looking at everything else, lol. I had enough Japanese to be able to say that I was building the same house, which is when he revealed that he was the original designer and that house was the prototype!!  When I looked at it properly I realised it is probably the one that was photographed for my kit instructions. What an unbelievable coincidence.  I always thought that a real Japanese person must have been involved in designing the house because of all the authentic details which go far beyond the usual superficial nod to a period.

So I took lots of pictures of the prototype and was able to buy some items to go inside.  I think all of his stock is 1/12th scale, whereas the Japanese house is 1:20, but I found several items which I think will work anyway.  I also found a mold to make really small sushi, as it turns out his daughter Asami makes amazing miniature food.  Apart from all of his work on display in the room boxes, I didn't see a lot of 'loose' stock by him but I did buy a modern saucepan to go in one of my bigger houses. He had some lovely baskets which will work well in my kitchen, and I picked up another Japanese style kettle and a little porcelain serving spoon.  I found a lasercut wood kit for a 1/12th screen which I will find a home for, perhaps in my Art Nouveau roombox.

And he had several Japanese miniatures books including this one on making miniature food which features work by his daughter.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable visit, I wish I could have communicated better. I'd love to go back to the Chicago show again to see his stock on display.

Also in the photo above is a set of wooden dishes I found in a antiques and bric-a-brac store, again 1/12th scale but I can use as bowls and cauldrons for my house.  The package of green is from a model store we found for DH, and holds three 'cloud pruned' trees intended for railways which will go into my house's garden eventually.

When we were on the island of Shikoku, we visited the Ryozenji Temple. As it is #1 on the 88-temple pilgrimage route, it has a shop selling various supplies to pilgrims like white tabards, staffs, conical hats etc.  In the annexe there was a little display of resin or plastic miniature scenes set in plastic cubes, with a sign in English saying '9 available'.  I couldn't see them on display so I sounded out the name in Japanese and went into the main shop to ask where they were.  The woman looked confused, then light dawned and she asked a colleague.  Then she asked me in Japanese to wait a minute and took off out the door and literally ran across the courtyard to another building.  After several minutes she came back and asked me to wait some more, and then finally a man appeared and walked over holding a box.  The box turned out to be dusty and decrepit and inside were several of these little miniature scenes, with all their boxes looking pretty dusty and battered as well (one of the ones I bought was actually mouldy inside!).  So I kind of think I was the first person to ask about these scenes for a long time! Anyway, they only had about six different ones and I chose the three that I liked best. I took the plastic cubes off for the photograph. There is a garden scene, a temple scene and an interior, and each one is about two inches square.

Some time later, in a gift shop in the Dogo Onsen area in Matsuyama, I succumbed to one of the Chinese kits - this one is to build a Japanese street stand selling tea.

Apart from that I picked up a few more tiny lucky cats, and some nice washi papers and postcards that I might be able to use for interior decoration.

I was delighted to see many real-life examples of period features included in my Japanese dollshouse kit.  We saw many stair-cupboards and even got to use this one to climb to the second floor in a historic house.

The carved fish hanging over a firepit was also a regular sight in the historical houses, and I actually got to see one in action when we dined in a traditional Japanese inn, or ryokan. The waitress brought a kettle of hotpot and adjusted the height it would hang over the coals of the firepit by lifting the fish, raising the iron rod up into the bamboo hanger, then lowering the fish again which acted as a brake.
DH wandering past another fish /firepit in an old samurai house.

The traditional cooker just like the one in my house

Antique cupboard with sliding panels, just like the ones in my kit.

So I took loads of reference photos in old houses and museums which hopefully will help with finishing details for my house.  I also took pictures of Japanese garden features and typical scenes to help me when I do the garden.

Oh, and capsule toy machines are a big thing in Japan, with some 'shops' in malls being nothing but dozens of these machines stacked up. Basically you put in coins from 100 yen (c. 70p) up to 500 yen (£3.50), turn the dial, and a plastic capsule pops out.  Inside will be a random toy from the selection pictured on the machine.  Most of them are anime characters or cutesy toys (I saw several featuring fabric costume hats to put on your cat), but there are also ones that vend components for complicated scenes.  They can be very cute but you are basically gambling that you won't get duplicates.  I wasted about £12 trying to get a perfect 1/12th scale sewing machine out of one vending thing but had to give up in the end after ending up with four things I didn't want, two of them duplicates.  But when I had a go at another machine vending the three components to make a miniature Dogo Onsen (the oldest and famous wooden bathhouse said to be the inspiration behind the bath house in the Studio Ghibli film 'Spirited Away'), I managed to get all three in just three goes, much to DH's amazement as he was gloomily predicting three duplicates.

This picture is missing the tiny white heron which should be on the highest tower as I had completely overlooked it in the packaging. Luckily DH asked where it was so I went back and looked and found it.

I haven't actually touched my Japanese dollshouse since coming back but I'm hoping to get back to work on the roof over the Easter weekend.

Monday, 8 April 2019

Normal business resumes

I'm a bit late posting this week (last week really) because I was busy all weekend on a bobbin lace weekend.

Japan is already starting to feel like it was a while ago.  I survived the first week back at work, albeit in a bit of a brain fog on the first Monday. I went to machine knitting club on Thursday night which was well worthwhile as they were giving away dozens of patterns and pattern booklets, so several of those came back home with me.  I am hoping to actually dust off one of my knitting machines on the long Easter weekend and have a go at something small.

Friday night I joined the bobbin lace weekend, where I was working again on the Floral Bucks Point edging that I started in September.  As it's my first attempt, it is full of errors and eyesores but it is actually lace and I haven't felt like giving up.  I can see a visible improvement in what I did over the weekend compared to what I did in September although I am still making loads of errors.  It's a much more freeform lace than doing geometric bucks point, so you have to learn by encountering different situations and trying solutions to see what they look like (generally not great in my case but I'm getting better).

Sunday finished in mid afternoon so I had time when I got home to sew myself a new camera pouch/bag for the point and shoot we took to Japan, because the bag I made for the previous camera was a bit small for this new one.  I looked around online until I saw one on Pinterest that looked fairly simple, then drafted a pattern using scrap fabric.  I cut two pieces from singlesided Bosal foam and fused the foam to some of the linen weight fabric I bought in Japan.  I finished the edges with normal quilting weight cotton.  It felt nice to be sewing again. I like the cats, they're cute without being cutesy.

I bought a good collection of textiles in Japan.  We hit Nippori fabric town on the first full day, and I got to spend more time there this time round.  There are so many great fabrics but most of the places only do 1 metre minimum cuts so the bulk and weight soon adds up when you are conscious of getting it into a suitcase. So I couldn't go mad. I picked up several character fabrics in a linen weight thinking of making bags and pouches, and a lace print on blue which has already been made into a cover cloth for my lace pillow.  The Liberty print at the bottom left is a lightweight jersey destined to be a t-shirt. I subsequently happened upon several more fabric or textile shops in various shopping malls, and even some gift shops on Shikoku were selling bags of scrap fabric.  After picking up two quilting books in BookOff (a big secondhand book chain), I purposely started trying to buy the subdued taupe palette that is so characteristic of Japanese quilting, and some indigo print scraps.

These are the two books.  I can't read much Japanese but their quilting books are full of diagrams and measurements (and inspiration).

Another tempting textile you see everywhere are little fabric bags, generally intended for putting gifts into as the Japanese are big into gift giving.  Sometimes they are meant as little bags to be carried with summer kimono.  Naturally they all look like knitting bags to a knitter, so several of those came home with me as well (some for gifts).

We saw loads of  shops selling textiles for the home, such as wall hangings, pretty towels in many sizes and fabrics, wrapping cloths, table linens, door curtains etc.  All very tempting.  I bought a few wall hangings but without the scroll fittings at the top and bottom, to keep them more portable.  I don't know if I will make my own scrolls or incorporate these into quilted wall hangings.

 This is a door curtain which is now decorating the top of our ensuite door frame, hanging from a length of bamboo.

This is a wrapping cloth, or furoshiki.  These come in different sizes and all kinds of gorgeous prints, and can be ingeniously folded or tied to carry or cover all shapes of items.  I bought two fittings to go with mine: hoop handles and a strap, but I need to learn how to tie it still.

And of course there were the gorgeous kimono shops which I didn't even dare go into, as they didn't look like places that would welcome gawping foreigners who weren't going to buy.

But I did go into a few secondhand kimono shops, and in one I picked up a kimono jacket because I liked the patchwork effect. I think this is called a haori and is worn over a kimono.  I'm going to give it a wash and see what it looks like with work trousers. It's not cotton, it has a bit of texture to the fabric, not sure if it is polyester or perhaps a silk blend.

I had my own textiles with me as I was knitting on the red and white Sanquhar glove on the plane and on train rides, and I also brought a little needlepoint scissor keeper to work on as well for a change.  A couple of our shinkansen (bullet train) rides were three hours so it was pleasant to have some crafts to work on while we watched the scenery whizz by.

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Post holiday brain doze

I apologise for the blandness of my last two posts, which were scheduled placeholders while we were in Japan.  I didn't want to leave a three week gap in the blog because I know some of you would worry, and I also don't like announcing "hey, we're away on holiday!" online even though DS was house-sitting.  We had a wonderful trip, my excessive over-planning paid off and everything went really well. To my relief, all the bookings I made in advance for hotels (two of them in Japanese using Google Translate), the car, the sumo tickets, the pocket wife etc. all worked out fine.  We flew in and out of Tokyo so had a few days there, then went to Osaka to watch an afternoon of the sumo tournament before heading to the island of Shikoku for a week and a half which included a five day driving holiday.  We returned to Tokyo via Himeji to see the stunning castle there. The spring weather was similar to the UK, varying between a chilly 6C to a sunny 17C, and we only had a few rainy days.

We got back Friday night after being awake for 22 hours, but as per our last Japan holiday I haven't had too much physical jetlag travelling east to west (Japan is nine hours ahead of the UK).  What I do have is mental fog which I think is partly a feeling of  anticlimax now that the big holiday is behind us, and partly trying to adjust to not seeing amazing things and tackling new situations all day every day.  Instead I've spent the weekend doing several loads of laundry and sorting out the paperwork that piled up while we were away, plus making a start on tackling the spring tasks in the garden and re-stocking on groceries. And tomorrow I get to go back to work - yippee! But it is great to be back home, I especially appreciate all the space after living out of small hotel rooms for so long, and my comfortable bed: Japanese beds seem to be quite hard and the pillows are just thin slabs (one hotel pillow had about two inches of padding on top with the underside of the pillow being stitched channels filled with hard beads - why????). It's also a treat to wear clothes that didn't come out of my suitcase.

But we saw many amazing things, ate lots of wonderful food (sometimes without knowing what it was exactly), tried new experiences, marveled at the history and beauty, shook our heads over all the concrete and overhead wire tangles, and enjoyed much shopping (to be fair, this would be me more than DH). 
My table full of loot after unpacking

I'll blog some of my purchases over the next few posts.  I visited a great dollshouse shop in Tokyo, paid a return visit to Nippori Fabric town and Tokyu Hands, and also stumbled across several other fabric shops, and bought a fair number of souvenirs, gifts and some craft books.  I did find a knitting shop in Himeji but I didn't buy anything because I still haven't figured out the Japanese sweater pattern I bought last time.

While I only remembered a fraction of the Japanese I studied the past year, it really helped us out especially on Shikoku where there is much less English spoken.  It made a real difference to be able to ask simple questions, order things in restaurants, ask for a full tank of petrol and make polite remarks. We were still functionally illiterate as we can't read kanji, which could be frustrating, but I could sound out kana script (Japanese has three written scripts) which led to small victories when I could identify what the next train stop was or make an educated guess as to what the food was in the window of the restaurant. You don't appreciate how much you take reading all the text around you in daily life for granted until suddenly you can't read most of it. I haven't decided yet if I will keep studying Japanese. On the one hand, it seems a shame to give up after I've invested so much time. But on the other hand, it is such a difficult language that I know I will never be anything like fluent and there aren't many opportunities to use it here in the UK.

In the last few days in Japan, we finally started to see some Sakura, or cherry blossom, which was what I had hoped for when I planned a spring trip.  The Japanese go crazy for it, there were huge crowds in the Tokyo park we visited on our last day, with probably a hundred photos being taken every minute of every possible aspect of blossom.  It felt like taking part in a national celebration.  The trees were beautiful even though it was a grey day.

We also stopped to walk around this lovely canalside cherry grove in Uchiko on Shikoku, along with many locals all stopping to take pictures.

It's good to be home.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

One block at a time

Is anyone watching the Great British Sewing Bee?  I keep hearing an ad for British Gas on the radio when I'm working on my dollshouse and I'm sure the voiceover artist is the comedian presenter from GSB.  While it is a rare treat to see crafts and sewing on British television, I'm not keen on the emphasis on speed over quality, and I just fast forward through the transformation challenges as it's often just fancy dress made out of bin bags etc.  But it is amazing how much they can achieve in just a few hours.  It would generally take me longer to cut out the fabric than it does for them to sew an entire dress. I feel envious. And their dresses fit their models.

Meanwhile my sewing proceeds at a snail's pace and I have cut out but not yet sewn another 6.5 inch block for the 30s Sampler Quilt.  Much as I find sewing repetitive block quilts quite tedious, there is a lot to be said for production cutting and sewing of a limited number of blocks all from the same set of fabrics.  It is much slower to work on a scrappy quilt where every block is different,  has different fabrics which have to be selected, pressed, cut into different shapes than the previous block, and assembled in a different way than the previous blocks.  Although it does mean that you get to fondle much more fabric and play with many more colours.

Very unseasonably, I have finished the next room in my Christmas House Cross-Stitch, the parlour with a fireplace and stockings. I've just got the attic to stitch now so hopefully this should be ready to display in plenty of time for next Christmas. I need to decide how I am going to decorate the house-shaped wooden frame.  The kit picture shows it painted solid red but I was wondering about going more down the dollshouse route and differentiating the walls from the roof. I have some brick-effect wallpaper I could use.

Now that I've finished the Bucks Point hexagon, I retrieved the Floral Bucks Edging from the attic, the one that I started on the Knuston course back in September.  I spent some time looking at it and worked a bit of ground, but it's hard to remember what I was doing with the main part.  I did write some notes at the time and have reviewed them, but I think it's going to take a while to get back into it. I now have a copy of the Alex Stillwell Floral Bucks book which my teacher recommended, I should probably look through that again.  Annoyingly, at some point the pillow must have taken a fall because several bobbins have snapped their threads so I have to work those back in.  Luckily it's only a sample.  I've heard dreadful stories of pets knocking over pillows containing works in progress with hundreds of bobbins ending up in an unworkable tangle.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Lessons in aida

I finished the Victorian-style pincushion that I blogged about a few weeks ago.  The supplied aida cloth wasn't very wide, resulting in the stitching being within a few rows of one side, so I trimmed the other sides to match.  This turned out to be a big mistake as the narrow edge of the aida cloth just shredded apart when I attempted to sew the pincushion right sides together on the sewing machine and turn through.  I guess you have to leave a much deeper edging with aida cloth to avoid fraying, or perhaps I should have zig-zag stitched along the raw edges first before seaming.  I was able to rescue the project with hand stitching but the edge looked terrible, so I stitched on some trim to cover it which I actually think sets the pincushion off rather nicely. It's almost too pretty to use.

In between working on the roof of doom on the Japanese dollshouse, I have done some more work on the Tansu step chest and it is mostly assembled now apart from I haven't put the handles on the drawers yet because I want to apply some ageing paint shadows.  I've also had problems with the bottom sliding doors, it was very difficult to get them to fit into the cupboard and one of them popped out again when I was working on the drawers so I am going to have to fidget it back into its grooves.  The topmost drawer is the one I lost and had to recreate.  This was quite a fiddly piece of furniture to work on, with two sets of sliding doors and all the drawers to get to fit in and open/shut easily. But it's going to look effective in the room and we saw cupboards like this in some of the historic houses we visited in Japan.

In sewing, I cut and sewed another 6.5 inch block for the 30s Sampler quilt.  Both the repro fabrics have bunnies on them.  I forget where I'm up to now, I think this is around block 28 from 42 blocks.  And yet I have made no noticeable dent in my stash of 30s fabrics.

I was watching a few Youtube videos on how to make a jellyroll rug - have any of you done one?  The rugs are really pretty but the assembly process looks incredibly tedious.  Basically you create a long folded strip of fabric wrapped around wadding, then zigzag it round and round (in either an oval or a circle) to create a rug which has probably cost you about £100 if you bought two jelly rolls (£35 each), two packs of pre-cut wadding (£13.50 each) plus all the thread you will use up.  Or you could cut 80 strips worth of 2.5inch strips from your own stash plus cut up wadding scraps but the end result would likely not be nearly as pretty and colour co-ordinated. It also looks like there is much potential for sewing a giant fabric bowl-shape if you don't get the strips lying exactly flat!

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Meeting my tribe

Back in the 90s when I was into machine knitting in a big way, I used to go to a machine knitting club once a month in Surrey.  I enjoyed it and learned a lot but also did very well there because most of the quite elderly members were downsizing so I came home with bin bags of yarn, books, machine bits etc. Eventually with the virtual death of the machine knitting hobby and the shrinking size of the membership, the club folded like so many others. Recently I discovered a small machine knitting club that is still going and I went along to see what it was like.  It felt very familiar, with some similarly elderly members, a few members crocheting while they listened, show and tell of knitted items etc.  It was like revisiting a tribe I used to hang out with. They had two machines set up and made an effort to involve the beginners, plus there was a demonstration on how to use the garter bar.  I enjoyed being exposed to the hobby again, perhaps if I keep going it will get me re-interested in my own machines.  I feel it's a bit of a waste to have part of the attic tied up housing my three machines and their associated stash and gadgets when I've barely touched them for years.  I'm in a curious position of not being a beginner but not really remembering how to do it properly either. These days I never feel the urge to machine knit because, since the 90s I have learned how to handknit properly and now find it so much more relaxing to ensconce myself in front of the telly with my handknitting.  Machine knitting is not relaxing.  It's more like horseback riding: challenging and lots to remember, and the moment you start to relax and think you've got the hang of it, the horse shies at a butterfly and you end up on the ground.  Or in the case of machine knitting, with your knitting and weights crashing down on to your toes.  We'll see.

I've finished gluing all the struts onto my Japanese dollshouse roof eaves.

A view with the top porches open.

However when I took a shot looking upwards with the porches open like this:

... the eye is offended by the unfinished gaps around the underside of the roof projections.  I looked ahead through the remaining 20 or so packages and I can't see any steps for remedying these, so I guess I had better do it now before the black paper gets glued on and I can't turn the roof upside down any more. Also planning ahead, I have predrilled holes in all the corner beams ready for the six lanterns that will eventually hang from them.  And as I've decided to leave the roof loose from the house, not glued on, so that the house will be easier to transport in future, I have glued on some locator blocks to the top of the house while I can still reach through the interior structure of the roof. I put three on each side of the house. So hopefully I can lift the roof off or drop it back on, exactly into place.

I've reached the thumb again on the re-knit of the second fingerless lace mitt.  I occasionally count my lace repeat to make sure I still have 17 stitches this time round.  I've almost finished one sleeve on the Drops Leaf Yoke jumper, I'm just knitting the garter stitch hem but had to pull out a little as it's hard to remember that you have to purl alternate rounds when knitting in the round, in order to produce garter stitch.

The garden has definitely decided it's spring now.  The magnolia tree has great fat buds all over, and even the apple tree has started to produce tiny buds.  The rhubarb is peeping up out of its winter manure blanket and we have quite a few daffodils and crocuses.  I was annoyed to find that slugs have decimated several of the pretty primroses I planted only a few weeks ago, hate those things.  We went out and laid out our three drip hoses before the plants get too high, as I had learned my lesson last year when we didn't lay them until about May and it was a nightmare trying to settle the hose down to ground level without breaking off too many plants.  The drip hoses were such a timesaver in last summer's heatwave because I could just hook the garden hose up to each in turn and go do something else while the garden watered itself.  Is your garden bursting into life?

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