Sunday, 19 April 2015

It's Summer! No, wait, it's Spring. Nope, it's definitely summer...hang on, no, it's spring again, wait...

We love to talk about the weather in the UK and with some justification this past week as the temperature has gone up and down like a yo-yo. My Wednesday morning walk to the station at 7am was still chilly enough to require woolly hat, gloves, scarf etc. but it went up to 24 degrees C in London that afternoon. That's warmer than some summers I've had here. Thursday I happily donned a summer dress for work, anticipating similar temperatures, only for it to sink down to about 16 degrees and I was cold all day, huddling in my cardigan and wishing I had trousers on. And so it has gone on, up and down, warm in the sunshine and cold and windy in the shade.

Today we drove DS back to Oxford for his third term, and afterwards we went on to Blenheim Palace for a walk in the parkland - cold! Spectacular views but once again I was huddling in my woolies from the cold wind.

Then when we were back home and out digging in the garden, the sun came out and soon it was t-shirt weather and I had to strip off all my outer layers and go in to get a sun hat.

Garden update

This week we spent the evenings prying up the foundations of the old retaining wall around the Victorian patio. I built a loose new retaining wall re-using some of the bricks and cap-stones and we backfilled with dirt (more digging...). Then yesterday we did two marathon digging sessions and dug up a multitude of 'lawn bricks' from the centre circle and I re-laid them to fill out the curve of the lawn. It's amazing how much bigger the garden looks now that the snowman lawn shape is complete and not cut into thirds by the old patio. One day when we have some money we will replace the temporary retaining wall with one that's actually mortared.

Today we excavated the hard core from the old pathway where there will be new flower beds (near the house, and around the outside of the centre circle where there will be a low hedge). Then we backfilled with dirt. This coming week we will tackle moving the lawn from the new path (between the string lines) onto the old path, and start levelling out the new path/centre circle in preparation for laying gravel. We've also bought an octagonal planter which will go in the centre of the finished circle (although I would love to replace it with a stone font if we win the lottery...).

I'm relieved to see signs of growth on several of the plants we moved, even the apple tree is showing a bit of pink on its buds. So hopefully they are busy putting out new roots and getting used to their new home.

I'm losing hope that our builder is going to give me a quote any time soon on repairing our boundary walls, so I've got three other builders coming round tomorrow to have a look. So it's going to be a busy day, but will be good to get a number established for the cost so that we can work out how we are going to pay for the work.  It's got to be done, the tall brick wall in particular is looking very precarious so I want to get it made safe this summer.

Craft update

On my days off, I finished setting in the background squares and triangles of the Lone Star Quilt and then joined the star points together to make the quilt centre. To my relief, it is all lying really flat. It is pretty easy with this kind of quilt to end up with something shaped like a volcano, which is why I've been really trying to be accurate and precise.  It just needs borders now.  I've measured for them and measured the piece of border fabric provided in the kit.  I can cut the two side borders in one piece, but the top and bottom borders will have to be invisibly joined from three pieces each in order to get the directional fabric all pointing upwards like the original sample in the picture. The background fabric was directional as well, but there was enough provided that I was able to cut all the squares and triangles so that all the flower buds face upwards.

I blocked my Mixalot Socks and have been wearing them to bed. They fit well and I'm pleased with how they turned out (apart from the messy job I did on the short row heels).

I finished the bobbin lace bookmark for DH and he has been using it this week and likes it.  I've started another one in different colours for m-i-l and am about halfway through that. So I should finish it tomorrow during the lace group meeting. I might make a third one because I'm going to a Lace Day soon and will need something to work on that isn't too taxing or I'll make a mess of it while I'm chatting. I'm a bit nervous about the Lace Day because our teacher complained about how cliquey lace people are, particularly the majority who belong to one of the guilds, but hopefully people will be friendly.

I finished and blocked my Reversible Cowl in Fyberspates Vivacious DK.  I joined it as a Mobius but I'm thinking that I made it a bit too long. I'll wear it a while to see, but I may unpick the join and shorten it a bit.

Other craft activity this week included finishing the plain background square for the next GAA Afghan block, unpicking some vintage crochet lace from the remains of a couple of tablecloths (I bought it that way) so I can re-use it to edge a bed valance, making a pattern for a new sleep eye visor and choosing fabrics, working on Clue 9 of the Battle of the Five Armies MKAL Shawl, and finishing the first of my Basketweave Socks and starting the second one, and I did a tension sample on the knitting machine in preparation for knitting a summer t-shirt.

Work update

The redundancy exercise has finally crawled on to the point of individual consultation and I had my first meeting on Friday. They explained the whole exercise again and how we will be scored to determine who gets made redundant, and said everyone should know their outcome by the end of the month. But it's actually looking a lot more optimistic in my pool.  Several people have resigned for better jobs, and a few have asked for voluntary severance, so the number of people left is only a little higher than the number of available jobs - although it's not that simple as the jobs are located around the country so not necessarily going to match up with where people are based. But I feel much more optimistic that I might actually make it through and end up with a job, although being part-time complicates matters. They said my working pattern will not affect my scoring against others, but realistically I don't know what they will do with the other half of these new busier jobs if they keep me on.  We'll see, but I'm hopeful that I may get to stay now. The survivors will have a difficult time though: with over 20 people leaving the company and several separate teams being shoved into one team, it's going to be almost like starting somewhere new. But not as bad since my manager is staying, I know the commute, I'm familiar with the company etc.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

No more digging - please!

After a week of digging in the garden in every spare moment, after work, every day on the Easter bank holiday weekend, and most of yesterday, my back has given up and said "No more!".  I also have mental digging fatigue. So today we are having a day off apart from I moved the last few bulbs this morning.

But we've done it: we've moved probably upwards of 40 plants and shrubs big and small, including an apple tree and a large Sambucca Niger, plus loads of bulbs, day lilies, irises etc, - hitting our deadline of moving things before they burst into growth in most cases. The concrete path is all gone, the hardcore dug out of the bed areas and we've started to fill it in with 'lawn bricks' cut from other parts of the garden that we've turned into beds.  The future patio area (out of picture to the right)  is now devoid of plants.

You can see the 'snowman' lawn taking shape, and we've marked out the future path and central circle.  We inherited so many plants (which were all higgledy-piggledy on top of each other) that I 've been able to fill out most of the new border area without spending anything, although we did buy one evergreen Juniper Skyrocket to plant in an empty space by the back fence.  The things we've moved in the front and back garden are not obviously dying yet, although some of them are probably still trying to work out what's suddenly different (like the apple tree which did not retain much of its root structure so could be doomed).

So not a lot of crafting this week apart from slumped in exhaustion in front of the telly in the evenings.


  • I've joined together four quarter-stars with background triangles on my Lone Star Quilt, and am starting to add on the corner squares.
  • I've seamed together the knitted Denim shoulder bag, sewed a lining stiffened with fusible fleece, and have partly sewn the lining in.
  • I've turned the heel on the Basket weave socks.

  • I've finished knitting the Reversible Cowl so just need to block it and seam it.

  • I cut the felt armour for the Clanger and appliqued it on using silver metallic thread, and gave him some felt hair so he is now finished. DH really likes him.

  • I'm almost finished the penultimate Clue 8 on the Mystery Battle of Five Armies Shawl. Not sure about this one. It's a half-Pi shawl and seems to be a rather arbitrary mashing together of stitch patterns. Perhaps I will like it better when it's got an edging and is blocked.

  • I've been appliquing the next square in my 25-block hand applique quilt, this is a square from the Rose Quilt Supreme book, scaled up in size. After I finish the other two flowers, there will be leaves around the circle.

  • I finished Pricking 5 in bobbin lace after making lots of mistakes (left in picture). But I'm getting better at spotting my mistakes and unravelling to fix them. I'm taking a break from samples to try a simple two-colour Torchon Bookmark using a design that one of my lace group ladies developed. This one is for DH and I will make another one for my m-i-l. I picked up a few more nice wooden bobbins from an antiques fair we went to last weekend, priced very reasonably at .50p and £1 each. So gradually I am replacing the nasty plastic bobbins. We didn't buy anything else there but had a lot of fun looking - antique fairs/shops are like museums where you can touch everything, it's great.

  • I've started the next square in the GAA Afghan, which requires knitting a plain square first and then a miniature Aran sweater which is appliqued to the plain square.

Actually, now that I've listed it all out, it feels like I got more done this week than I realised.  I think it's because suddenly there is so much television to catch up on, with a lot of shows back from their mid-season break like Elementary, Marvel's Agents of Shield, Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, Suits, Vikings, 12 Monkeys, Mad Men etc. So I'm spending a lot of time on the sofa knitting or sewing.

How is your garden looking?  Are you doing any digging?

Saturday, 4 April 2015

The wrong kind of plants

We've done a lot of digging in the garden this weekend so far, and boy do I feel it.  My back was so sore this morning that I could barely straighten up after pulling my jeans on. My total lack of upper body strength means that I have to take breaks from digging about every 8-10 minutes but even so my arms are stiff from elbow to shoulder today. A couch potato existence knitting on the sofa does not prepare you for sudden intense exercise.

We're attempting to transplant a lot of the plants we've inherited but we seem to have the wrong kind of plants - instead of ending up with a nice round, easy to move, root ball like in the Youtube videos, we always  end up with a huge mess that falls completely apart and all our plants have a tap root heading down to Australia which inevitably breaks off no matter how deep we dig.  I expect we've killed everything.

But for the moment the front garden looks a lot better - we consolidated all the bergenias into one narrow side border where their messy 'elephant ear' leaves look a lot better, and moved several shrubs from the border next to the wall that needs rebuilding over to fill up empty spots in the borders by the house.  In the back garden, most of the path is now removed and I've started to move some of the smaller plants, and I dismantled the crumbling brick wall around the old patio. I also dug a big hole (not in picture) for a big shrubby tree thing that we will try to move (not optimistic).

It's the Easter long weekend here, with Friday and Monday both being holidays - yay!  I've pulled out my small collection of Easter decorations and added a few other spring-themed ornaments. And tomorrow is chocolate-for-breakfast day, one of our favourites. The yellow daffodil doiley is one of my vintage doilies from my collection.

Craft stuff

Have you heard of Sugru? It bills itself as 'super glue meets blue tack' or something like that. We noticed it in B&Q and then I realised it might be just the thing to repair my cracked thread mast on my Janome 6500 sewing machine.  The little plastic cap that held the horizontal thread guide onto the metal mast had cracked before we moved, and cracked off completely during the move so it didn't stay on any more. Kind of annoying.  This Sugru stuff sticks to almost anything and dries as sort of a very firm rubber. I probably could have moulded it more smoothly, but appearance aside, it has done the job and fixed the problem. Now I can fold my mast down when I put the cover on the machine, without the thread bar falling off.

This week I finished the Hanna Burns square from the GAAA Afghan. This was my 16th square so I just have four more to finish and then I can start blocking and sewing them together.

I sewed together the Clanger and added eyes, and felt feet, fingers etc.  If you don't know what a Clanger is, it was a very strange children's programme here in the UK in the 60s or 70s, about aardvark-type creatures living on the moon who communicate by whistling. DH watched it as a child and has fond memories, so this is for him.  However, they wore crude armour so the paper templates in the picture are experimental pattern development before I cut felt for armour. DH is pleased.

I knit a long piece of strap for my denim shoulder bag from Rowan denim yarn. I used the circular knitting feature on my Brother 260 machine, using tension 1-dot. It worked really well. Then I threw all the pieces in the washing machine and tumble drier. This denim yarn fades in the wash and shrinks up quite a lot.  I tried to take a picture to show how the knitting had faded compared to the ball yarn but my camera couldn't capture the difference. Too much blue I guess.

I forgot to include in last week's post that I've finished the Mixalot Socks,  just need to block them.

I said I would include the names of the two projects I started last weekend at Skipnorth.  The socks are 'Basketweave Socks' from the March issue of Simply Knitting magazine by Rhian Drinkwater, and I am knitting them in Mirasol Tupa which is 50% merino and 50% silk. Sorry the pic is a bit fuzzy, and the astute will notice that my third needle fell out of the stitches when I picked the sock up so I need to fix that.

The reversible cowl in Fyberspates Vivacious is the Zig-Zag Cowl by Zoe Clements in Let's Knit magazine. You knit it flat and then join, and I'm planning to join it as a Moebius loop.

Other than that, I've sewn a bit on my applique block and done a bit more on my latest bobbin lace sample.

Other stuff

We continue to get driblets of news at work. We were told on Thursday that my boss and his boss have been appointed into their positions, and that we will have our first personal meeting about our own circumstances starting from the second week after Easter. They expect that everyone will know what's happening to them by 1 May. So it's dragging out longer than they expected, but it means we get paid a little longer.

Yesterday we went sofa hunting, which might as well have been snark hunting for all the success we had. We went to Milton Keynes which is our nearest big shopping hub, and we must have looked at over 200 sofas in several stores. I would say 35% were hideous, and the next 60% were bland and completely unsuitable for our Victorian/Edwardian interiors.  I lowered my standards considerably and started sitting on anything vaguely passable but almost all of them were really uncomfortable or felt competely flimsy.  Considering how much sofas cost, it is astonishing how rubbish most of the fabrics and construction are, and how short-lived the softly squishable cushioning is likely to be. Of course the only ones that felt both comfortable and well made were Parker Knoll which were the most expensive sofas we saw.  You could buy a whole living room suite in most of the stores for the cost of one Parker Knoll sofa.  Sigh.  Looks like our 11-year-old IKEA sofa and its lumpy cushions is going to have to last a while longer.

Happy Easter everyone!!

Monday, 30 March 2015

SkipNorth in rainy Yorkshire

I was away this weekend for the annual SkipNorth knitting retreat. While it didn't snow this year, it was rainy and blustery for most of the weekend so didn't exactly feel like a holiday in weather terms. I feel a bit coldish and fragile today so don't know if I have caught a bug.

I still enjoyed it, nice to see old friends again and it was a smaller group this year so felt more intimate and friendly. I also had a nice surprise from my friend Quitecontrary who brought me some lovely wooden bobbins that she had been treasuring for years, she thought that I could make better use of them now that I am learning bobbin lace.  Thanks Mary!

Friday afternoon is traditionally workshops and it was quite amusing to see some ladies getting mummified in duct tape to create their own duct tape mannequin forms.  I learned how to make stitchmarkers and produced four which aren't too bad. You make the hoop part by wrapping it around a pen barrel - the first time I used a Bic which of course is more polygonal so I ended up with a bumpy loop - fail!

Friday evening is the traditional p/hop swap where we all bring our unwanted yarn, books, patterns etc. and do a big swap on the condition that we will donate to the p/hop charity afterwards.  The last couple of years I have hauled back loads of stuff but this year I only took a couple of skeins and a few patterns. It's like being a kid in a candy shop with all the 'free' goodies laid out, but I was strong and only took things that I really thought I would use. I brought along several orphan skeins or leftovers from projects, it felt good to have a clear out of my stash and see some of it go to new good homes.

Saturday is shopping day but I was careful to be quite restrained this weekend given the financial situation.  We went to Skipton, which was lovely, to the very elegant Purl and Jane knitting shop, and had time for a good walk around including a visit to a fabric remnant shop called the Fent. I love all the stone buildings and grim Victorian architecture in these Yorkshire towns.  I bought three little black buttons to use as eyes for the Clanger I am knitting for DH. Then we were off to Leeds to visit BaaRamEwe with very welcoming staff and I bought a Kate Davies pattern called Peerie Flooers to make a fair isle hat and mittens set.  Then it was a return visit to The Skep in Farsley (knitting and quilting) where I bought the sheep fabric in the picture above, which was on sale, to make a project bag with. And I walked up the hill for a look at the Aladdin's cave of haberdashery, Bond's, but didn't buy anything this year.

Sunday the main group was off to Wingham's Woolworks but I didn't want to go again, so my friend Vincakent and I walked into Haworth and struggled up the steep hill to the Bronte Parsonage in the rain. We just did the gift shop there and then shopped our way down the high street, stopping occasionally for coffee or lunch. I was wondering why there were so many miserable looking families out in the wet weather then realised it was half term break from school.  We seemed to be jinxed - everytime we went inside it would stop raining, and then the moment we came back out it would start again.

Then it was back to the youth hostel for some more knitting and chat with the main group before saying farewell for another year.  It was quite a long train trip home but I had time to wander around Leeds while waiting for a connection. I hadn't been there for 30 years and was amazed at the enormous shopping district near the station, all malls and walkways and new arcades and Victorian arcades and broad pedestrian avenues. And all very busy as well right up until the shops shut at 5pm, unexpected for a Sunday afternoon. Quite a change from 1982 when it was all rather scruffy and low-rise.

As well as knitting on the Clanger, and experimenting with strap designs for my denim bag (think I'm going to knit it on the machine now, life is too short to knit 150cms of cable on 3mm needles), I started two new projects over the weekend:  a pair of sloppy basketweave pattern socks in a lovely soft pink yarn and a reversible cowl in a Fyberspates Vivacious DK yarn. I'm feeling too lazy to go find the project bags and actually put the proper design names in, will have to do that next time!

Earlier in the week I cut out the background setting squares and triangles for my Lone Star Quilt but haven't actually done any sewing on them yet.  And I'm well underway on my current bobbin lace sample, which has 19 pairs of bobbins so is my most complex attempt to date.  It's going alright except that I've realised half way through that I was making a mistake on one of the motifs - I've made the same mistake every time so now it is a design feature :)  I think when I finish this sample I am going to take a break and make a bookmark, I feel it's time to actually make something instead of always practicing. Our group has been contacted by another woman who wants to come so I will be welcoming four ladies after Easter - it's nice to have company and it motivates me to keep working on my lace so I have something to show (also makes me tidy up the house which is also good).

It's the Easter long weekend coming so I will only have to work two days this coming week - yay!  We are planning to visit a few historic houses over the weekend, weather permitting, and do lots more work in the garden.  I think it is safe to start moving some plants around now, the ground is warming up and I don't want to leave it too late as everything is starting to bud/sprout/grow. DH is getting on quite well with smashing up the concrete path, it's more than half gone now.  I had a go with the sledgehammer as well, which went fine apart from a piece of concrete hit me in the leg and gave me a big bruise, but my shoulders were so sore the next day that I think I might leave the rest up to him. I've been looking online at easy DIY garden paths where you just bed bricks into sand instead of having to use mortar, so we might have a go at that with some old bricks we have.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Dodged a bullet

I had a job interview this week so preparation rather dominated my free time over the past several days. It's been a year and eight months since I last had to job hunt so it took me quite a while to get back into the right head space, learn my 'elevator speech' again, remind myself of interview techniques etc.  I was rather dreading the interview which included a test, but both test and interview turned out to be rather easy.  That's not to say that I did brilliantly - I certainly could have answered several questions much more actively and succinctly.

But I wasn't that enamoured of the job which sounded repetitive and lower level than my current role, the office was small and old fashioned and overlooked a busy noisy road, and worst of all it was about 100 degrees in the room where I would be working.  Nonetheless, I was kind of talking myself into to being ready to accept should they offer me the job, as we need my income.  Luckily they didn't offer me the job so I feel like I dodged a bullet as they made the decision for me. Still, it was good practice to gear up for an interview and hopefully I will do better on the next one I get invited to.

Still no real news at work, although the mood is getting grimmer every week as people start to panic. They are still saying that they plan to issue notices in early April, yet there is no real news on how they will select people etc. There's a new twist which is that they've decided they have to place my job-share partner currently on maternity leave into an unspecified role, but they had no information on how that would affect me as her jobshare partner nor the contractor currently doing the maternity cover.

Gardening time

It's starting to feel much more like Spring, things are starting to bud in the garden, we've got daffodils and crocuses blooming.  We don't have any money to spend on it but there are things we can do that won't cost much.  Last weekend DH and I measured the garden and then I drew it on graph paper and started playing with designs.  I'm thinking of something like this, with a snowman-shaped lawn on the diagonal, and a patio on the right behind a trellis privacy screen as we are very overlooked.

So today we went out with a can of line-marking spray, some pegs and string, and measuring tapes, to draw out what it might look like for real.

We bought a sledgehammer and safety gear and DH is currently pounding away outside to break up the unwanted former concrete path down the middle of the lawn. It's going to be a long job, in one hour he only managed a little nibble but I expect there's a learning curve.  He seems to be finding it quite satisfying but I bet he will be stiff tomorrow. In a few more weeks when it is warmer, we will start digging the new beds and moving existing plants around. I'm still waiting for a quote from the builder on repairing our crumbling boundary walls, although he did say he might bring a mason around this coming week to have a look. We can't do anything about the patio until the walls are repaired.


This week I was working on an old project, a Lone Star quilt kit that I bought at the Chicago Quilt Festival in 2008 from Karen Witt of Reproduction Quilts. It's called 'Suzanna's Star' from c. 1870, and included all the fabrics and some quite minimal directions which didn't even specify all the cutting sizes. Luckily I have the excellent book by Jan Krentz 'Lone Star Quilts & Beyond' which has comprehensive directions for sewing accurate lone star points, blocking them, and calculating how big to cut the setting squares and triangles.

It's taken me a long time to sew the points, because each strip segment requires matching 7 seams accurately, so 56 seams to match every time I added one of the eight segments to each of the eight points.  But this week I finally finished the last of the eight points and was able to draw out a blocking diagram on some scrap fabric based on average measurements of each diamond.

Then I pinned out each point in turn, starched it, and pressed the seams open.

Which yields eight points which in theory are all exactly the same accurate size.

Then I had the fun of putting them up on my display wall to get the full effect for the first time. Wow!

Bobbin Lace

I'm meeting every Monday with some former classmates from the lace class for mutual encouragement. Last Monday I finished pricking number three from the Pamela Nottingham book. It's got several mistakes and I wasn't tensioning the 'fans' very well to begin with, but I was getting better by the end of the piece (where the loose threads are).

Then I moved on to pricking number four, which is a short piece with fans and spiders.  I was doing the edging wrong for a while but I worked out my mistake and was able to correct it from then onwards (about halfway through the square corner, heading towards the loose threads). Some of the other students repeat pieces again and again until they get them perfect, but I feel I am learning more by pressing onwards and learning new concepts. I don't see a lot of value in repeating something I already know how to do, just to get it absolutely right with no minor flaws. I will repeat if I genuinely didn't understand, or was using the wrong thread or something. My plan is to complete the half dozen samples in the Torchon chapter and then have a go at actually making something like a mat.


I'm quite pleased with my finish this week on the Capelet from Let's Knit Magazine, designed by Jan Henley (which let's face it is basically a poncho). It's come out the right size, feels light and springy and cosy, and unlike a shawl it stays put and keeps me warm.

TV knitting has been another square for the GAAA Afghan, which I'm enjoying as it seems fairly easy after slaving away on the Aran Sampler Sweater.

Commuter knitting has been the Mixalot Sock and I'm just about to knit the final toe. I'm still knitting the Battle of the Five Armies MKAL Shawl, this week is Clue Seven. And I dug out another ancient kit, a free gift from Rowan when I was a subscriber about 10 years ago, for a denim yarn shoulder bag.  I never knit it because it was basically a meter-long strip of stockinette, but I suddenly realised I could whip it up quickly on the knitting machine. So I knit the bag body and flap on my Brother 260 at Tension 2 quite easily. Now I have to hand-knit long strips of narrow cable to edge the flap and be the strap. Then as it is denim yarn, it all goes in the washing machine to be shrunk before it gets sewn up.  Due to back issues I don't really use shoulder bags, I always use a knapsack to distribute the weight. But it will be nice to finish it and perhaps it can be a knitting bag.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Well, that didn't work.

Fairly major 'FAIL' on the knitting front this week.

Having removed and re-knit the stained portions of my Aran Sampler Sweater, this week I sewed all the pieces together for the first time.  I tried it on and stepped in front of the mirror.

The first obvious problem is that the sleeves are too short. If I pull the shoulders up so the design lines are vertical, then the sleeves are about 10cm (4 inches) too short. They are meant to be full length and when I knit the cuff I actually thought they might end up too long.

The second problem, which may not be as clear in the photo, is that the different wool I used for the main part of the sleeve (not the cuff) is a really different cream colour and stands out like a sore thumb.  Even DH, who hadn't been able to tell the difference when the pieces were separate, immediately remarked on the bi-coloured effect.

It's also not the most slimming jumper in the world. I haven't knit the neck yet, but that will help pull in the neckline and support the shoulders.  It was a drop shoulder design which I turned into a modified drop shoulder, but even so there is still some unattractive bulk under the armholes. The textured front is doing nothing to disguise my tummy.

After considering it in the mirror from different angles for a time and feeling really depressed, I think I have no option but to take the sleeves back off, pull out the non-matching wool, and try and buy some wool which matches better then re-knit them (and knit them longer this time). In retrospect I probably should have added some waist shaping in the back but I'm not going to pull that out.  It was tempting to put the whole thing in the bin but I haven't hung onto this yarn for 20 years and put so much effort into the Aran front to give up now.

Other knitting this week has been a few more inches on the Capelet where I am almost ready to seam together the cape part of the poncho, Clue 5 of the Battle of Five Armies MKAL, and the second sock of the Mixalot Socks (and the short row heel went a lot better on the second sock).

On the quilting front, I dug out all the completed blocks of my 25 Block hand applique quilt and put them up on the design wall.  It seems that I have completed 17 blocks so far so I have another eight to go.  I spent a couple of hours preparing the templates and tracing the background and fabric shapes for Block 18, and have started stitching it. If I ever finish this quilt, it is going to look so nice.  According to my notes, I started this in 2007 with the plan to complete it in one year.  ha ha ha ha ha ha haha

What's in the box?

I had a very interesting delivery this week.

What's in the box???

Could it be 120 part-works to build a Japanese dollshouse??  Why yes, I think it could be.

What's that, Sharon?  All the instructions are in Italian?? Well, you're not insane at all, are you??

he he he

Yes, after reading a feature in a British dollshouse magazine about an American lady living in Italy, who had built a gorgeous Japanese-style dollshouse from kits published as part-works by De Agostini, I made the fatal error of looking it up online.  The more I looked at it, the more I liked it and thought how fun it would be to build.  It was a small step from there to Italian eBay, where I soon found an entire full set of kits on sale for about 1/10th of their original price.  Despite being skint, I decided to cash in some Premium bonds and snatch it up before it was gone.  After an interesting exchange of communications relying heavily on Google Translate, my big box arrived this week by courier.  I'm really looking forward to the day I can start translating the instructions and get going on it, but that will have to wait until my dollshouse workshop gets set up and I can unpack all my gear.  Still no word from our erratic kitchen fitter on when that might be.  In the meantime, after unpacking and checking all the kits, they've gone back in the box and into the attic storage room to wait for their day in the sun.  And I want to put in this post for posterity how supportive DH was about this purchase. Instead of telling me off for buying crazy things when I'm about to be made redundant, he congratulated me on my bargain buy. He's the wonderful product of 25 years of training and I'm grateful.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Less haste, more speed

So I blocked my Aran Sampler Sweater  on Tuesday, let it dry until Friday, then Friday night I hand-seamed the shoulders together. This morning I thought "I'll just give those seams a quick shot of steam before I sew in the sleeves on my linker."

Then this happened.

And it won't wash out.

I was pressing onto a wooden ironing ham that my f-i-l made me, which I've used several times for quilting when you want a really firm surface to press on.  It's never made any marks on the fabric I've pressed, yet when I turned over my first seam to see how it had come out, there was this horrible brown stain all along the wool.  It isn't burnt wool - it almost seems to be some kind of dye or oil and yet I don't believe he used either when he made the ham. I tried various cleaning agents and it won't come out.

So I guess the only thing to do is to let it dry, and unpick the seam, unpick the stained knitting, and re-knit the back and front shoulders.  Luckily even though I don't have much yarn left, I've got enough to do that.

Earlier this week I seamed together the blocks of my Star Sampler Quilt with the inner border.  The pattern binds off the quilt around the outer blocks, but there is an alternative version which has an outer border.  I tried the first version on a double bed.

I thought it looked a bit skimpy and not covering the bed sufficiently to be useful.  So I went ahead and added the outer borders.  I didn't have enough fabric left to cut them all in one length, I had to piece four cornerstones to make up the length.

I like it better in the bigger size, it covers the bed properly and the blocks are set off better.  So that can move out of the 'needs to be pieced' queue and into the 'needs to be quilted' queue now.

I finished my first Mixalot Sock which I quite like apart from the badly-worked shortrow heel.  I'm considering cutting the heel out and knitting a new one back in, but I'll see how I feel after I knit the second sock (which I've started). The fit is quite good, although as usual with my handknit socks, it's not going to stay up my calf in wear.

Otherwise this week I've been working on my bobbin lace,  and knitting the Capelet.  It's been a fairly quiet week because I still wasn't feeling 100%.  Today was a gorgeous sunny day, up to 17 degrees C, so we went out and did a big clean up in the garden: cutting down all the dead stuff, raking up leaves, pruning roses etc.  There are loads of bulbs coming up and you can see them better now that all the debris is gone.  Spring is coming!

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