Sunday, 17 February 2019

The roof of despair

The Japanese dollshouse roof construction is turning into a bit of a disaster, which is both frustrating and a tad embarrassing since I am supposed to be an experienced house builder :)  Perhaps I just got too cocky with the first 90 chapters going fairly well.

The first intimation of trouble was when I finished off the central section that joins the left and right wings into an overall 'H' shape.  The triangular roof supports at the two ends of the central section were part of the construction of the left and right wings so were already glued in place.  But it turned out when I went to glue in the beam running along the peak of the central section, that the two end sections were sitting too high by about 3/8th of an inch or more which would have resulted in the central roof section being valley shaped.  By that point I had wet glue in all the notches so I did some quick butchery on the notches of the end triangles so that I could drop the beam into place and let it dry.

Initially I thought it was due to the miscut notches that I had found  earlier. As everything was now glued together, the only thing I could do was trace a profile off one of the correct middle sections, draw it onto the two end pieces, and hack them down to the new profile with a combination of cutting disks on my Dremel moto-tool, stanley knives and sanding. It looks terrible but will be hidden when the roof is finished.

So I thought everything was ok again and I moved on to gluing on the additional 'fingers' that stick out from the roof to support the curved eaves in chapters 95/96.  Only my roof didn't look like the close-up pictures because the side sections of my left and right wings were also sitting proud of the roof triangular supports by about 1/4 inch.  Depressingly, it was now clear in the photos in these chapters that the side sections should be flush with the roof triangular supports so that there is a smooth curve all the way from the peak of the roof down to the eave.  I don't know how this happened. I sanded all the notches in both the side sections and the triangular supports so they fit easily together,  and all four sat proud by the same amount so I thought they were meant to do that.  The pictures were small in those earlier chapters so I didn't notice the difference. In retrospect I assume that either the notches were not in fact cut deep enough, or perhaps somehow I managed to consistently not close any of them all of the way. Bleah.  I looked at the Italian blogger's pictures and initially her side pieces were also sitting too high, but later they have been sunk down to be flush. I can only assume she worked it out earlier and was able to break the side pieces free and get them to sit lower down.

As my side pieces were glued on with carpenter's glue that is stronger than the wood, I was a bit stuffed.  So it was back to the workshop for more bodgery, hacking and sanding to cut the side sections down to be flush with the roof curve.  This meant I also had to cut off the 'finger' that sticks out at either end of the side section and re-glue those on, trying to keep them level with the other protrusions.  Needless to say they didn't want to glue on because of the tiny gluing surface. I glued in the additional finger struts to help brace the bodged ones, and then dripped hot glue down into all the crevices to help brace the whole thing.  So the whole roof is a shredded mess of botched cuts, dried glue, splinters and hot glue drips.  Yay me. 

Moving on to the next step where you glue on the edging along the finger struts, which becomes the edge of the eaves, I've now discovered that none of the glued-back-on struts are in the right place so I am going to have to break/cut them off AGAIN. I should have skipped ahead to gluing on the edging pieces and used the edging pieces as a guide for where to glue on the broken struts - but I was too busy trying to plug the holes in the dyke.  I am starting to feel like throwing the whole disaster out the window and giving the ryokan a nice flat roof instead.  Grrrrrr.  Just to make it additionally interesting, some of the edging pieces are too short and others are too long, so I am having to cut bits off the latter to splice into the former.  Deep breath.  Hobbies are fun. Hobbies are fun. Hobbies are fun.

On a more cheerful note, I spent some quality time yesterday at the Fenny Fiddlers Lace Day in Bletchley.  Sadly this is the last one, their club having shrunk to the point where they feel they don't have the resources to put on a lace day.  It's a shame because this is such a nice day, with a tombola, raffle, suppliers and on this day a fantastic sale of fabric in the afternoon.  I don't know if it was someone's stash but there were tables covered in priced plastic bags of fabric pieces mostly £1 a bag, and fat quarters three for £1. As you can imagine, it was an absolute feeding frenzy for about 20 minutes as we mobbed the tables and grabbed things.  I didn't have time to examine everything I grabbed in detail until I got home, but almost all of it is good quality patchwork cotton (there are couple of low quality Hobbycraft-type fat quarters mixed in).  And look at my haul all for £14.50! (not the yarn).

There's a printed tablecloth panel, loads of FQs, two bags of big scraps, a bit of yardage, and a Baltimore Album book with a started applique project.

The yarn was a separate purchase from one  of the suppliers 'The Spotted Sheep' from Leighton Buzzard who had some lovely yarns.  This is a skein of Manos del Uruguay which I bought because it came with a free pattern for some cute fingerless mitts in star stitch.

On the day I was working on a small Bucks Point round motif I started last week, using a pattern I got on the secondhand table at the Rushden lace day.  I also took my travelling lace pillow with the Bucks Point edging and worked on that for a while in the afternoon for a change.

I did not take my big Bucks Point Hexagonal Edging  - because it's FINISHED!!  I did the last of the joining last night. It's still pinned to the pillow so what you are looking at is the wrong side of the lace - the right side faces the pillow.

This is a close up of the join - can you see the little raised sausages?  Those are the ends wrapped and knotted together to hide them on the reverse side.  Hopefully when I turn the lace over, the join won't show much.

I've looked it up and I started pricking the pattern for this back in June 2017!  I had thought I'd been working on it for a year but in fact it's been a year and eight months.  The joining process alone took several hours.  I have more sympathy now for the many lacemakers who finish projects and throw them in a drawer without hiding the ends.  I would still like to attach this edging to fabric to turn it into a doiley but the next stage is to carefully remove all the pins from the edge without tugging/distorting any of the edge stitches which will take a while as well.

I didn't do any sewing this week apart from a few alterations, and now my Janome has gone off for a service so there is a gaping hole in my sewing table.  I feel a bit bereft but if I want to sew something I could get my Featherweight out. I should get the Janome back next weekend, hopefully back to its old self. It had become a bit cantankerous the last few months.

I finished the decreases on the sleeve I am knitting for the Leaf Yoke Sweater and knit to the advised length then tried it on.  The sleeve was skin tight and the bracelet length inappropriate for this heavier weight yarn.  So I pulled the sleeve back AGAIN.  I'm going to wear this yarn out.  I pulled it back to about halfway through the decreases which seems to be a better width for my arm, and now I am just going to knit straight.  I'm about elbow length now and I've tried it on and it feels a lot better on my arm.  On the second Winterland mitten I am almost to the top of the chart now, so will be doing the ribbing soon.

The weather has turned to warm spring the last few days and the garden has suddenly geared up and taken off.  Weeds are sprouting everywhere; snowdrops, crocuses and even a few daffodils are blooming, and new green shoots are starting to peep out of dead growth.  So I spent some time yesterday hacking back dead stuff, clearing up dead leaves and pulling weeds, and there's still loads to do so I'm heading out to the garden again now.  Nice to see the sun!

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Does trouble come in threes?

It's been a bit of a destructive couple of days craft-wise: I snapped two pieces off the complicated roof structure I am building for my dollshouse, lost one of the drawers for the dollshouse cabinet I'm assembling, and finished off my trio of troubles by accidentally snipping a hole in my bobbin lace. Sigh.  Hopefully that's it and I've reached my quota for the current time period.

I've glued back on one roof bit and am thinking how to make the other one adhere as it's in an awkward place, I may have to peg it back on.  I made a new drawer for the cabinet, and I applied a tiny amount of glue to the snipped thread in the bobbin lace to stop it fraying any further.  A couple of people at my lace club said they've done the same thing, it's certainly a lesson to be more careful with where the scissor tips are when trimming threads off.

This is the current state of play with the Bucks Point hexagon.  All those tangled thread ends have to be hidden somewhere so that they don't show on the front of the lace.
I am bumbling my way through the lengthy joining process, using as much magnification as I can get to see what I'm doing.  You have to bunch threads together and hide them behind elements of the lace. It takes a lot of concentration and forward planning. There are still some live bobbins at the top of the picture where I have still to work the final picot edging. I was having a little moan at lace club about the dark mystery of joining lace, some people  told me they just tie knots and snip the ends off short because they are going to frame the lace or put it in a drawer rather than use it.  I would like to attach this to fabric and use it as a doiley so it needs to be quite neat.  It's a learning curve.

I've been working on the roof of the Japanese dollshouse this week, puzzling my way through all the kit pieces and the not entirely clear photographs.  I even had to resort to translating some of the Italian on Google Translate, something I stopped bothering with many tens of chapters ago because normally the pictures are self explanatory.  I started out building the left hand roof structure from chapters 91/92, then skipped ahead to build the mirror-image right hand roof structure from 94/95 while the process was fresh in my mind.  A lot of the slots need sanding to get things to fit, and there has been a certain amount of brute force and hammering required (which is how I broke off the two bits by accident). Another piece was mis-cut and I had to fix it. At the moment I am working on 93/94/95/96 at the same time which feels more logical than doing small sub-sections hoping they will fit into other sections later.  I had to stop because I ran out of longer clamps. Once the glue dries I can unclamp it all and keep going. The pretty leaf backdrops are plastic IKEA placemats which stop the roof gluing itself to the table.

In evenign knitting, you can start to see the new design on my second Winterland Mitten now, but I'm a bit worried because my tension seems tighter than on the first one, even though I only knit the first one a few weeks ago. Maybe I'm stressed  :)

I mentioned last week that I had finished the first lace fingerless mitten apart from the thumb when I was at the hospital, but I didn't post a picture so here's a pic.  I'm still on the cuff of the second one.

Also in the evenings I've been working on my Christmas cross stitch house off and on, the living room is starting to take shape now that I've done some back stitching to bring out the detail.

I haven't felt like sewing this week, not sure why.  I did piece together the block I cut out last week but my machine kept wanting to stuff the corners down the needle plate which was infuriating.  It's getting serviced in a few weeks which hopefully will set it back to rights.  I know I can use leaders and enders (bits of scrap fabric to sew on to/ off of)  but I shouldn't have to.  I cut out the pieces for another six-inch block which I might sew tomorrow.

My nose has been fine, apart from the supposedly dissolvable stitches stubbornly refusing to go anywhere.  The graft, although still scabby, is starting to look pretty good but the ring of tufty stitches makes it look a bit gruesome so I am still covering it with a plaster (bandaid) when I go out of the house.  I'm supposed to be getting any remaining stitches taken out (which in my case is all of them) on Tuesday hopefully.

This week I made my annual pilgrimage to the V&A museum in London (planned some time ago).  I'm still a member although it's not really cost effective now that we've moved away from the London area. But on the other hand it motivates me to go and hit several exhibits at once.  I started with the recently opened Christian Dior exhibit which would cost £24 normally and was sold out on the day I visited, but as a member I can walk in (well, I had to queue for a few minutes).  This is probably heresy but I was disappointed with this exhibit.  You and I as crafters want to see inside the garments and find out more about the ateliers, how they were run, what was it like to be a Dior seamstress, what are the construction secrets, how were the garments made etc etc.  Instead this is a huge exhibit with room after room of dresses on mannequins.  Not a single one is shown inside out, there is nothing at all about construction, the ateliers are mentioned only briefly, there is one room of toiles (mockups) on display with no additional information about how they were used.  On top of that, the exhibit is so arty and with such dramatic lighting that about 30-40% of the garments are really hard to see.  A couple of times they are displayed so high up the wall, in a small room, that you can only look partly up the skirts and in a foreshortened view.  A couple of rooms are pitch black with dramatic lighting - in one case this is fluorescent tubes inside black display boxes, with so much glare that I had to physically block out the light with my hands to see the garments.  One of the final rooms, a large ball scene, is so dimly lit that even after letting my eyes adjust for a while, it still wasn't great.  There were some absolutely lovely outfits of course but overall I did not feel I really enjoyed this as much as I wanted to.
 I did like this fairy-forest ceiling effect in one room.

Then I toured the recently re-opened Cast Courts, full of Victorian plaster casts of sculpture from around the world, which I found fascinating and full of amazing things.  The corridor between the two courts is the interpretation centre with some interesting films on how the moulds were made originally and how electrotyping was done.  I hit an exhibit on painted miniatures, again very interesting; a temporary exhibit on the Portmeirion pottery works; and then went round an exhibition on the art and design of video games which made me think of DS because it finished off with film from the 2017 world finals of League of Legends watched by tens of thousands of people in a stadium (he also plays LoL).  So it was an enjoyable few hours, it's such a great museum.  I didn't bother visiting the new members cafe because I hated it last time I went, just a big noisy crowded cafe now and not the oasis of calm that the old members room was.

I did get this very pretty totebag in the shop using my members' discount. When I got it home, I boxed off the bottom corners with my sewing machine to make it a more useful shape.

So that's it from a very blustery UK which is currently being hit by high winds from Storm Eric. Hopefully it will calm down soon, we want to go for a walk tomorrow to start getting in shape for Japan.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Silver lining

I had my surgery on Tuesday and the silver lining is that I had the rest of the week off so I've got more done craftwise than normal this week.  Actually it's been alright, I really haven't been that sore considering I had two holes cut in my face, so I have been able to proceed almost as normal apart from not wanting to go out in the bitter cold which is gripping the UK.   Just a bit uncomfortable from the dressings taped tightly to my face and I can't sleep on my right side where he cut the patch from.

On the day, DH and I were at the hospital for seven hours as the surgeon was alternating between four of us throughout the day. The tumour on my nose was removed in two sessions, leaving a hole the size of a two-pence piece (or a quarter if you're American), then in the afternoon he cut a matching piece from in front of my ear to patch the nose with.  A bit like quilting I suppose.  All rather unpleasant but not actually painful apart from the initial injections each time to numb me up.  In between we were stashed in a small recovery room with our loved ones around us, which enforced sociability as there were four of us, four loved ones and a couple of spares.  I could have done with more peace and quiet at times but at least it took my mind off things.  I'm glad it's over.  I took my lace fingerless mittens and knit all the way to the end of the first one during the day so I've cast on for the second one now.

So the rest of this week of 'extra time', I tried to tackle some things crafty and otherwise that I've been putting off.  One of these long-queued projects was to make my own version of a bobbin storage bag I've been looking at for a year or more at lace shows.  I don't know the trading name of the ladies who sew all the different accessories but their bobbin bag at £48 cleverly holds 96 pairs of bobbins on a couple of removable 'pages' held into the bag with velcro.  I of course have been looking at it thinking 'I could make that' but never actually getting around to it.

So last week I trawled the internet looking for a suitable pattern so I didn't have to completely re-invent the wheel and was delighted to find the 'By Annie' pattern called 'A Place for Everything' which is very similar to what I wanted to recreate only bigger as it is intended to hold sewing supplies.  I also found a few bloggers who had sewed the bag and learned from them that this is also a class on Craftsy (now Bluprint) called Sew Sturdy Travel Organisers.  One of the bloggers also said that it was better to take the class as the standalone pattern doesn't have many diagrams.  Bluprint pimped me a 7-day free trial so I signed up and watched the class.  The class was quite good apart from bizarrely she several times used her rotary cutter to cut things like zipper teeth and foamboard which made me cringe. She must go through a lot of blades.

Then I got out a few lace bobbins and a small bag I already owned and calculated what size I wanted my version of the new bag to be.  Unlike the original pattern which nests the two pages on top of each other, I wanted my two pages to go side by side like my inspiration bag.  I also decided to move the handles to the other side of the bag like one of the bloggers suggested.  I ordered the Annie supplies of soft mesh and a handbag zipper off Amazon and got to work quilting the fabric I would be cutting the pieces out of. They are stabilised with Bosal foam.  It was a nice project to work on the night before my surgery to take my mind off things, and then I sewed on it the couple of days after my surgery and finished it up.

So here's my finished bobbin bag, I'm fairly pleased with how it's turned out.  I went with elastic to hold the bobbins instead of little pockets like the inspiration bag because I want the bobbins to stay put and I want to be able to see more of them than just their spangles.  It's a bit more fiddly to insert the bobbins but then they stay put until needed.  I slightly miscalculated how wide an elastic slot I needed for each pair (I was thinking a half-inch but it actually needed three-quarters of an inch) so my bag only holds 88 pairs but it's still pretty good and will be great for taking wound pairs to classes or to a lace day.  The fabric matches the tool bag I sewed a little while ago but I went with a different contrast fabric.

Another long-queued project was to make covers for a wooden ironing ham that my f-i-l made for me a few years ago.  This ham is modeled on the June Tailor board which is designed to make pressing a variety of curves and points easier..  It was quite tricky to make the covers due to the three-dimensional requirements.  I draped the pattern in cotton fabric first to make a pattern then had to adjust a lot when I cut it out in calico and Insulbright heat resistant wadding. The main cover is secured with elastic. Hopefully I'll actually use this ham now, I've been nervous about using it since the wood made a permanent brown mark on a sweater seam I pressed on it a few years back.

In knitting I have cast on for the second Winterland mitten, knit the corrugated cuff and started the new fair isle chart which is different from the first mitten.  I was surprised to find both on this project (five years old) and casting on for the new set of Sanquhar gloves (eight years old) that my tension seems to have considerably tightened up with time.  When I knit the cuff for the first Winterland mitten I did the corrugated ribbing on a 2.25 wooden needle but when I re-used those to knit the second cuff, it came out significantly smaller.  I had to go up to a 2.75 needle and the cuff is still slightly smaller.  As for the Sanquhar gloves which were originally knit on a 1.5mm steel needle, the new cuff came out tiny.  I've had to scale up to a pair of 2mm Zing double points and it's still slightly smaller but I think that's ok as the first set of gloves were a tad too big on me.  Although annoying that I have already purchased the spare 1.5mm needles for the Japan trip and now won't be using them, it's also better because I have 2mm wooden needles to take through airport security onto the plane.  So I knit a half-inch of Sanquhar corrugated ribbing ready for the trip and just need to make a safety copy of the knitting pattern and I'm good to go.  And I'm trudging on with the Leaf yoke sweater, I pulled out the sleeve because I had mucked up the decreases, and have reknit down to the straight part of the sleeve.  I may actually finish that project this year but I don't feel very enthusiastic about wearing it. I haven't enjoyed the knit, the Drops pattern is really hard to read, and the yarn has proved a bit scratchy.

I've done a fair bit of work on the Japanese dollshouse this week.  I made two sets of chairs to go with the tables: one wooden pair and one upholstered pair.

And I've hinged the two final porches onto the house.  This went alright part from one is slightly higher than the other, and one wants to swing open all the time.

At the moment I'm building the kit for a traditional stepped Japanese storage chest but I haven't taken a picture because it doesn't look like anything yet.

The final huge job on this house is to build the roof which is really big as it overhangs the whole footprint of the house and is fairly tall.  I've been reading ahead on the final 30 chapters which are almost all about building the roof.  It looks incredibly complicated, more complicated than the house from the looks of things.  At least 10 of the chapters seem to be just endless shingling.  I've unpacked the pieces from chapters 91 and 92 which are the start of the left side of the roof armature. The blogger in Italy had problems with things not fitting together so I think I am going to do a dry fit with masking tape before I glue anything but I don't want to open too many chapters at once in case I get confused (or lose bits).

I've been pushing on with the Bucks point hexagon and am working the final triangle, joining to the start as I come to each starting pin.  I basically have no idea what I'm doing.  Joining lace seems to be this great mystery which is almost invisible online.  I can't find any videos of someone joining Bucks Point although I found a few where someone was joining Russian lace.  The books don't say much about joining and finishing lace, usually something like 'now sew your pairs into your starting pins, tie reef knots and weave in the ends'.  Which is the lacemaking equivalent of 'Quilt as desired' at the end of a quilting pattern.  Some references say to push all the pins down so they are out of the way, but if I do that then my pin heads are so close together that I can't see anything.  So each join is taking me about 10 minutes under high magnification as I fight to get the crochet hook through the right loop amidst a forest of pins, and I don't think I'm doing the actual joining very well either.  I have a good German/English book called 'The beginning of the end' which is great for how to hide the ends but says nothing at all about how to physically arrange the pillow to do the joining or actually manage the sewing in afterwords. It's frustrating.

My doll clothes reached their new owner and actually fit onto the doll, and I received a charming photo of the end result. Doesn't she look happy? It's nice to knit something and get such a lovely reaction. Some adults could learn from this example...

After sewing the bag and the ironing board covers, I didn't have much energy for quilting this week but I did eventually cut out the pieces for the next six-inch block.  Just need to sew it together.

As I said, it's been very cold lately and we even had a dusting of the white stuff - but luckily not the inches which have paralysed parts of Britain.

I stayed warm inside bundled up in woollies (we have an old house which does not reach a consistent temperature) and spending the rest of my time watching craft videos on Bluprint until my free trial ran out.  I printed off several more bag patterns for possible future projects, watched some quilting videos on improving my cutting and piecing, and even a beginner's machine knitting video which made me feel like I should get back to my own machines one day.  I watched most of them on double speed even though the Bluprint model seems a lot more watchable than the old Craftsy format which I didn't like at all because it was so mannered and slow paced.

Stay warm and keep on crafting!

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Another crafty week

I bet non-crafters mark the success of their weeks in terms of business meetings attended, after school clubs ferried to, dinners cooked, rooms Marie-Kondo'd etc.  Lucky we crafters have more tangible achievement markers, eh?

Today I've just finished the set of placemats made from the instructional video I posted about a few weeks ago and we will enjoy using them hopefully for a long time.

After the experience with the prototype in non-pre-washed furniture fabric/wadding, I decided to go with pre-washed quilt weight cotton using pre-washed Hobbs 80/20 wadding.  By the way, do not pre-wash the Hobbs in a front-loading washing machine on 'super quick' cycle unless you are purposely making cobweb-tatters for your Halloween party.  I pre-washed the replacement batch by hand which was much more successful.  The placemats are dead easy to make although a bit tedious, but the end result is good.  And hopefully as it was all pre-washed first, they won't wrinkle up too much when they are subsequently washed.  They are reversible so I have a different red print on the under side.

Yesterday I posted off another set of little knitted clothes to my friend's daughter, the owner of the knitted doll I made last year from the book by Louise Crowther.  These are in 4-ply cotton from Susan Crawford Vintage. From time to time I quite like knitting toys.  I hope the doll's large hands and feet are going to go through the openings as I didn't have the doll to try them on.  I'm sure Mum can help if the owner can't manage.

I'm now sweeping up previous furniture kits from the Japanese dollshouse so I put together kits for  two low tables.  I also used the table kits as templates to make a third table which I have turned into a Japanese kotatsu, or heated blanket/table.  So the owners will have a cosy room with a fire pit and an electrically heated blanket/table to sit round. Inspired by the Italian blogger who made this house, I even glued a printie of the heater grille on the underside of the kotatsu.

Yesterday I attended the Rushden Lace Day for several hours of peaceful lacemaking.  It's hard to take a clear picture but I hope you can see that the end is literally in sight now on my Bucks Point hexagon.  The line of pins and lace at the bottom of the picture (under the loose threads) is where I started the project a year ago.  So it was very exciting in an ultra-slow-motion kind of way to be working down towards the start point.  When I reach it, I will be connecting the working threads back to the beginning stitches, hopefully unobtrusively and ideally almost invisibly but it's tricky to do. I hope I don't wreck it.

A few weeks ago I tried out a workshop at Coleman's Craft Warehouse over in Rushden to make a Japanese-style apron, just for a bit of fun.  It was a nice few hours out - I miss having a regular quilting group to go to.  Their 'new' workshop mezzanine is well appointed and nice to work in (when it isn't roastingly hot as they attempt to keep the main shopping floor above freezing), and refreshments, fabric and thread were included in the price.  The tutor was good and it was nice to just sit and sew in company.  I chose a lightweight denim, and embellished it a little with some embroidered hearts that are a programmeable stitch on my machine.  I'm not sure when I will wear it.  I prefer waterproof aprons for cooking, and I wouldn't want to ruin the new apron by dollshousing in it (my dollshousing apron is covered in glue and paint) or gardening.  It would be suitable for housework if I ever did any of that  :)  The apron slips over the head with no ties, and is finished with a double hem all the way around.

My Mohs surgery on my nose takes place this coming week.  I'm so not looking forward to it.  I watched a Youtube video about the procedure made by an American surgeon, which provoked much cringing and shrieking aloud through fingers clamped over my face.  So I am now both more informed and more grossed out about what's going to happen. It's got to be done though, the alternative is the tumour getting bigger and eventually eroding my nose which would not be a good look.  Wish me luck!  The upside is I get to stay home from work the rest of the week so once I start recovering I hope to relax and work on some projects.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

The most critical item to pack for a trip

A few posts ago I recounted the adage I had heard, that if you have your passport and credit card then you are good to go for a trip abroad and not to sweat the rest of your packing list.  However I think for crafters there is a third essential item:  what craft project are you taking?  Or in my case, what knitting project?

After much consideration of factors such as weight/bulk (needs to be small), longevity (most knitting time for weight of yarn carried) and complexity (need to be able to pick it up/put it down but it shouldn't be boring), I've decided to knit another pair of Sanquhar gloves.  This is the pair I knit eight years ago in Jamieson & Smith 2ply laceweight using the 'Duke' pattern.

Ever since I saw another pair in cherry red/white, I've been thinking of reknitting in that colour combo, so I've decided to go for it.  Although they look complex, the motif pattern is easily memorised.  The only minus factor is that they are  knit on very fine 1.5mm steel double pointed needles.  For airplane projects I always take wooden needles or bamboo for passing through security, but they don't make wooden needles that thin (I guess they would be too breakable).  So I'm going to see if Security will let me through with a set of fine steel pointy things.  For backup, I am also taking a 1.5mm metal circular needle for the plane, and for double backup I am taking another set of 1.5mm steel needles in my checked luggage in case both the aforementioned get confiscated on the flight.  As a triple backup, I will take a couple of extra needles from a fourth set just in case the first two get confiscated and I lose a needle from the third set (easily done when they are this fine).  I was explaining my reasoning to DH and DS.  They were both looking at me with identical expressions like I am crazy but I'm sure you knitters out there can follow my reasoning!

I ordered the laceweight from Jamieson & Smith and it's turned up now so I will cast on and knit a half inch or so to get the project started, so I can at least show Security some knitting in progress for additional credibility.  The flight is 11.5 hours so I sure hope I can do some knitting on it because I can't sleep on planes.

In other knitting, I decided to turn my Winterland Mittens into fingerless mitts because I wear those a lot more often as a commuter than full enclosed mittens which don't allow you to fish out your train ticket easily etc.  So I worked some ribbing at the point where the mittens would have tapered, and now I am working on the thumb.

I reached a crisis of confidence on the 30s Sampler Quilt regarding the accuracy of my block sizes and the inevitable final assembly problems.  So I spent a couple of hours re-measuring and fixing all the blocks so far.  Most of them weren't as bad as I remembered, perhaps a quarter inch out which some coaxing with a steam iron could remedy.  A couple I needed to unpick and resew a seam or two.  One applique block was so short in width that I have sewed some additional background to one side although I'm not sure if it is going to look terrible when I sew the blocks together, we'll see.  So they are all fairly reasonable now size-wise. 

I also put some thought into why the problems were happening.  I think it's because I was just blindly following the instructions without engaging my brain.  The minimal instructions rely heavily on the method of "add 7/8th inch to the finished measurement" to specify cut square sizes which you then cut diagonally into two half-triangles or four quarter-triangles.  The problem with this method is it leaves almost no room for cutting/sewing errors.  The instructions also don't specify any sizes for the sub-units to allow you to check accuracy as you build sub-assemblies.  So I spent some more time bending my brain to arithmetic (very difficult for me) to work out the sizes of the sub-assemblies for the remaining blocks in the quilt.  I've also started cutting triangles using a Fons and Porter Half/Quarter scale triangle ruler which is a lot more accurate for me, and cutting things over-size where appropriate so I can trim down to the final unit size after seaming.  For the red block below, I used Thangles papers to get accurate triangles.

As a result of the above improvements, I've managed two six-inch blocks which came out the right size first time! So I'm feeling more optimistic about this project now.

I finished the balcony railing for the fourth porch of the Japanese dollshouse and then assembled the shingled roof which for some reason gave me a lot more trouble compared to the first three porch roofs.  Got there in the end, although I still need to add the decorative end roof beams.  Then it will be time to hinge both 2nd floor porches to the main structure.  After they're hinged on, I will install the inner sliding doors to each porch. Then the main structure (pre-roof) will be done.

Kits 90 onwards are to build the big elaborate Japanese-style roof, but before I start on that, I will backtrack to sweep up a half dozen furniture kits that I had put to one side while I worked on the main structure.

It's turned quite cold here now.  Our old house can be a bit drafty inside so I am wearing my recently completed Itineris Shawl a lot around the house as extra warmth around my neck, it's nice and cosy. For outside I've upgraded to DEFCON 1 on my handknitted hats, which is the Windproof Hat I knit a couple of years ago in double-stranded chunky pure wool with a deep ear band. It's so warm I can only wear it in the coldest weather.

Stay warm!

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Wildlife garden

We're in a busy area of town so our garden normally only attracts urban birds such as sparrows, blackbirds, pigeons, blue tits, collared doves and pigeons.  DH called me excitedly this morning to come and see an unusual arrival.

It's a sparrowhawk, clutching the sparrow it has just caught.  According to DH's bird book, these are usually only found in rural areas and seldom venture into town.  DH's first clue was when every bird in the garden suddenly took wing and flew off in a hurry.  Well, obviously not this poor little guy who wasn't fast enough.  The hawk took its time to devour its meal over about 30 minutes before flying off.  Hope this hasn't grossed anyone out!

This week I finished the Christmas yarn socks.  They're just plain vanilla socks.  I usually knit socks in fingering weight so these DK socks seemed to go really quickly.  They fit well. 

I'm getting on much better with the Winterland Mittens now that I've shifted down to a 2mm metal needle.  I'm still struggling with the really long floats and at the moment there are some pretty wonky stitches.  But I plan to tighten those up when I deal with the floats at the end.  It's definitely a huge improvement from the mitten I unravelled.

Now that the Christmas socks are done, I needed a new commuting project.  I rooted around in the knitting room and found two balls of pink Excelana DK by Susan Crawford, which feels like a really nice yarn.  After a protracted trawl through my collection of tear-out patterns, I've chosen a pair of lacy fingerless long gloves.  I had to chart out the lace pattern because it was written out row by row, which I hate because I always get lost.  But the pattern wasn't too hard to chart as it's pretty simple.  I had one false start on the knitting where I felt the needle size was too big so I shifted down to a 3mm and now it is looking pretty good.

I'm still working on the fourth porch of the Japanese dollshouse and am currently attaching the balcony structure.  I've made one block for my 30s Sampler Quilt this week:  a 6-inch Card Trick block.  I tried really hard to be accurate on this one and it has come out better although as you can see still a bit wonky on the lower left  - I might unpick and redo that lower left block.  It's at least square but is slightly undersize.

I was watching this video on making placemats while I was doing some bobbin lace and decided to have a go as it looked so easy.  I was however sceptical at her use of unwashed fabric and Hobb's Heirloom 80/20 because I know that combination shrinks up.  I made a prototype using some unwashed furnishing fabric and Hobbs wadding and ran it through the washing machine to see what happens.  It indeed came out very wrinkly and determined steam pressing could only get it this flat:

I might try preshrinking the batting and fabric first and then try again to see if it makes a better result.  Because the placemat is a nice size and feels like it would really protect the table, and I've got lots of Hobbs wadding scraps left over from previous projects as well as quite a bit of furnishing fabric scraps.

Have you had a crafty week?

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Back to work, although not when I expected

So I dragged myself out of bed on the morning of New Year's Eve, got dressed, made my lunch, and trudged the mile down to the rail station at 7:30am in the dark and cold - all while the family were still fast asleep since they had the sense to book the day off.  I vaguely noticed a lot of buses as I arrived at the station, but did not put 2+2 together until I went inside to get warm and discovered that there were no trains running.  Apparently it was planned engineering work which I suppose they announced during the Christmas week when I was at home.  It never occurred to me to check in advance because a) I was going to work therefore everyone must be, and b) I haven't worked New Year's Eve for years so am out of the habit.  I am not so dedicated to my job that I was going to spend three hours on a bus to get there, so I trudged back home again and phoned my manager to swap my days this week.  At least I ended up having a longer holiday after all.

I used the extra day to take down all the Christmas decorations and pile them in the front room, where I gradually put them away over the next several evenings.  We bought a couple of plastic storage crates on sale at Wilko so we have finally retired some of the tattered cardboard boxes we've used for about 15 years or more.  So things are a bit more organised now. DH took the trees to be recycled at the dump yesterday.

This week I've been working on the other porch of the Japanese dollshouse.  I've got the room box portion assembled and am just adding the windows, and I made the two tatami mats that go inside this porch as a unique touch compared to the other three porches.

I've made four more blocks for my 30s Sampler quilt.  The last one (which is the top picture) is quite wonky again even though I was trying hard to cut accurately and my seam allowance should be ok now.  I'm also careful with pressing so as not to distort the triangles.  I hate triangles.  It's discouraging to have a block come out polygonal and smaller in some dimensions than it should be.  I blasted the block with steam at the end and got it to be a bit bigger although still not square.  I used to be good at this.  Twenty years ago quilting was my main hobby and I was sewing for hours every week.  I guess practice makes perfect and then when you stop practicing, you lose it again.  Grrr.  I may have to re-make some of the blocks in this quilt or it's just not going to go together because it's a real jigsaw puzzle of different sized blocks.

In knitting this week, I finished the Scheepjes Secret Garden Shawl and wet blocked it.  I was a bit worried that when it was washed it would get a bit crispy and scratchy because of the cotton content, but in fact it has relaxed into a lovely soft fabric which I really like.  It reminds me of the old Rowan Summer Tweed but without the scratchy bits that were spun into that yarn.  I wonder what this yarn would be like in a garment.  There were a lot of ends to weave in as I was playing yarn chicken with some of the colourways that came in the kit and at the same time trying to cope with unhelpful variegation (like when the two alternating yarns both variegated into a very similar colour so there was no contrast, which happened a few times).  So I was having to break the yarn and rejoin at a more appropriate part of the colour progression.  But I like how it's come out.

I've now returned to two hibernating  knitting projects.  The Drops Leaf Yoke top down sweater which I started over two years ago has been sitting inside the drawer of my knitting table in the front room almost untouched.  I don't like knitting top down sweaters for several reasons, one of which is that knitting the body just feels like knitting wallpaper.  But I was knitting on it occasionally when I wanted a change from my other projects and finally achieved sufficient length on the body and have now knit the garter hem and bound off.  I've tried it on and it looks very lumpy as it hasn't been blocked, hopefully it will even out and relax a bit once wet blocked.  Now I need to continue knitting both the sleeves.  I also went up to the attic and rescued my hibernating Winterland Mittens which I started five years ago.  They were abandoned for the same reasons that several other people have expressed in their online project notes for this design:  these mittens come out huge, and the floats are really long so no matter how you try to deal with the floats, you end up with peek-through.  I remember having a few goes and I was never happy with the huge lumpy spotty result - thus the hibernation.    So I have now unraveled the mitten back to the cuff, and I steamed the yarn to remove the kinks so I can re-knit with it (I also managed to drop it on the hot burner and have it catch fire, twice.  Did you know burning wool smells like burning hair?).  I've gone down a needle size and am not going to weave in my contrast yarn at all on the back of the hand where the main design is.  I'm just going to leave all the long floats and see if that improves the knitting, and then deal with the floats afterwards.  I know I read one knitting designer's blog where she said that in a pure wool, the floats soon felt and attach to the inside, so she never weaves them in either.  Or there is the machine knitter's trick of latching up the floats on the inside.  We'll see.

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