Saturday, 21 May 2016

A girl and her power tools

I spent the morning surrounded by power drills, of which we have four for some reason. One is knackered and every time we do DIY I promise myself to ditch it and yet somehow it ends up back on the shelf. Two are ancient hand-me-downs from relatives, and one is my lovely lightweight Ryobi with rechargeable powerpack.  Today we built the corner gazebo for the garden, so I was using three of them: one for drilling, one for countersinking, and one as a power screwdriver. Having three made the work go much faster as we didn't have to faff around changing over bits except when I needed to change drill sizes.  DH did the heavy lifting and held things in place while I attached them together.  We also did production line drilling and countersinking when we needed to, for example, drill six holes into the sides of each of eight roof pieces.

Surprisingly (given some past DIY cock ups) it all went quite smoothly. The panels are not exactly watertight as there are some fairly large gaps in the joins due to some rough and ready construction by the manufacturer, but it is all attached pretty sturdily and the part I was really worried about - the complicated looking roof - went together quite straightforwardly. Although having no upper body strength, by the time I had screwed home 48 attachments on the roof panels while holding the drill above my head, I had pretty sore arms.  We love the colours we've painted on the walls and roof, and are just thoroughly pleased with how it looks both from the garden and from the house. It adds height to the garden, acts as an interesting focal point, and gives the 'snowman' shaped lawn diagonal something to point to at long last. There is plenty of room inside for a table and two chairs, and you could probably squeeze in a third chair at a pinch. It is also quite private as the roof and back walls block out all the overlooking windows.  It will be a nice place to knit in the summer.

And I am really getting rid of that knackered drill! It let me down too many times this morning.

It's turned cold and rainy again this weekend but once we get some warmer weather we will touch up the paint on the gazebo, paint the inside of the roof, install a stone slab doorstep, and then landscape around the gazebo with the plants that we dug up last week.  The weeds are romping away now with the warm wet weather so the garden needs a major tidy up. I put in an hour or so in the front garden when I got home early on Friday and filled two big trugs with both weeds and over-enthusiastic self-seeded plants that were swamping other plants.


I haven't done too much in the way of crafts since last posting on Tuesday.  Knitting of course: I have fumbled my way to the final wedge of the Now in a Minute Shawl although I pulled most of it back last night when I realised that it wasn't looking like the picture and therefore I probably shouldn't have been knitting the increase section even though the confusing instructions don't say not to for the final wedge.  The yarn I ordered from Black Sheep Wool turned up, it's a chunky wool/cotton/acrylic blend by Sirdar called Faroe Chunky in the Moorlands colourway..  I'm going to knit this free pattern from Let's Knit magazine for a multiway wrap with it.  We're going camping this summer and this will be a good holiday project I think.  And I've turned the heel of my toe-up Lallybroch Sock and am heading up the leg now. I've wasted a lot of time picking up stitches because my new pointy addi metal DPNs are too short and very slippery and I keep losing stitches off the other end. I added some Knit Pro Zing DPNs to my Black Sheep order so hopefully they will be the right combination of pointiness but not too slippery and they are longer at 20cm.

I have also cut my way to the end of my first box of quilting fabric scraps at long last. I ended up with a pretty full bin of 2.5" strips and squares, as well as 1.5", 2" and 3.5" bins and the start of a collection of 10.5" squares for backing.  I have a couple more bags of yardage and fat quarters that are destined to be backing so I will cut them up into 10.5" squares as well because I think it will be a lot easier to join together squares than my previous method of trying to join up odd sized bits.  So my sewing table is finally freed up and I am planning to start on my jelly roll tote bag for my lace pillows using the Missouri Star YouTube pattern that I used a couple of years ago.  I won't be using a jelly roll this time, I'll be cutting strips from the haberdashery-themed fat quarters that I bought at the Makit lace fair a few weeks ago. I'm going to make a new bag that is deeper and wider so I can squeeze two pillows into it, my bag of accessories, and hopefully secure it all with a zip closure at the top.

I've virtually finished my Idrija bobbin lace motif, I just need to do the final sewings to secure the ends.  I will do that tomorrow afternoon when my lace friends come over for our monthly meeting. I need to think what my next project will be in this new type of lace, possibly a mat.  I've kept going on my practice machine knitted t-shirt and have knit the front now and one sleeve. So I just need to do the second sleeve and then I can block the four pieces in preparation for partial seaming and knitting on the neck band.  It's a round neck so it will depend on the length needed as to whether I can knit it all in one go on the machine or have to knit it in two pieces as the machine needlebed is only so long. Hopefully I can just seam one shoulder and hang the entire neckline onto the machine needles and knit the band directly onto the t-shirt.  It will be a picot edged hem to match the sleeves and garment lower edge.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Another signal failure

Set off to work as usual this morning only to end up back home two hours later as the signals have once again failed on the train line to Leicester.  We waited half an hour for a diversionary route but they said it was going to take 55 minutes to get to Loughborough then buses back to Leicester. I decided I didn't want to go to work that badly so waited another 45 minutes for a train to get through the blockage and take me home.  This is the second time in two months, I hope this isn't going to be a regular occurrence or my manager isn't going to be too happy. She didn't sound very happy when I called in to say I wouldn't make it.

But the sun is shining and I've been happily pottering at my desk, cleaning out email, printing off knitting patterns, getting suckered into ordering sale yarn from the Black Sheep Wools clearance sale, and making some arrangements for our Yorkshire holiday in June.

This past weekend I murdered the Virburnum shrub standing in the way of our new corner arbour. It had finished flowering and there was nowhere to put it, so out it came. We also dug up and temporarily potted about another dozen clumps of plants, some of them in flower which isn't ideal but hopefully they will survive. We also had to dig a big hole and move the Photinia tree, the one we planted last year, about a foot to the right. It's in flower as well but we moved quite a big root ball so hopefully it won't realise what has happened as long as we keep watering it. Then on Sunday we made a trip to the DIY store to purchase the cheapest concrete things we could find to pile up to be piers to support the base of the arbour, which turned out to be economy patio slabs and concrete blocks. We already had some bricks, so that gave us three heights of block to combine to arrive at eight edifices that would be level and support the wooden bearers for the hexagonal base.  We were building out over a sloping concrete path that ran alongside and up to 18 inches lower than our lawn, so each edifice was a different height. Miraculously we managed to get it all fairly level.  We weren't using mortar as that isn't in our skillset, so to stabilise the piers we piled lots of leftover building rubble around them then dumped in eight wheelbarrows of topsoil (dug up from the location of our future patio) to level the area surrounding the base to a similar height with the lawn.  The result is surprisingly stable although I don't think you could dance on it. Our future plans include sedately drinking tea so it should be fine.  We hope to build the walls next weekend if it isn't raining. As well as giving us a private place to sit, this will be a feature looking down on the garden from the house.

Crafty stuff

I actually did some machine knitting this week as I want to make some summer t-shirts.  I'm starting with a practice shirt using two strands of some pale blue crepe I already had. I've done the back but had some trouble shaping the back neck which is much more fiddly than hand knitting. I succeeded in dropping a stitch which in this slippery yarn promptly ran down about 8 rows, and while I was trying to fix this, one of its neighbours also made a break for freedom. Good thing this is a practice.  But I've ordered two cones of Panama 50/50 cotton acrylic from Yeoman for the real things. This is a nice summer yarn which I have used before in the distant past when I used to be a machine knitter. The one on the left is a denim blue, the right one is a duck egg colour.

On the bobbin lace front, I have almost finished the Idrija lace motif I started on the workshop weekend before last. I've also been investigating the German book I bought in Peterborough with the of online translation aids and online lacemaking friends.  Apparently it is related to Belgian bloom lace so I've ordered a book for .01p plus postage on Amazon which is a recommended resource on bloom lace techniques. There's nothing quite like Amazon for instant gratification and sourcing obscure books.

In handknitting, I've started the right front of the Que Sera cardigan  now and have gotten into a right pickle with the Now in a Minute Shawl. The shawl is a free pattern from Brenda Dayne so I don't like to grumble too much. But I find the instructions extremely confusing and non-intuitive, and looking at the comments on Ravelry I am certainly not alone in feeling that way.  I've made it to wedge five but I don't seem to have the right number of stitches any more, and since the pattern doesn't say how many repeats to a wedge or give any in-progress stitch counts, I'm not even sure where I went wrong.  I've pulled back to the start of Wedge 5 and am trying again with the short rowing.  I've also blocked all 20 squares now for the GAA Afghan without any trouble so I don't need to knit any extra borders.  Next step will be to sew them all together but I need to research what is the best way to do that. I may need to crochet all around each square first.

I've made a push to get through the cutting up of quilting scraps because I want to make a jelly roll bag to put my lace pillows in.  Now that I've moved from cutting strips to cutting squares, it is incredibly time consuming. I hope I actually make something some day with all of these squares and strips and I'm not just wasting my time. Although it satisfying to turn crumpled scraps into neatly cut squares.

Hope you are enjoying the sun where you are!

Monday, 9 May 2016

Bobbin Lace weekend (with fabric shopping)

This weekend was all about bobbin lace as I attended the UK Lace Guild's weekend in Peterborough. It was quite fun and felt like a mini-holiday surrounded by like-minded crafty people.

On Saturday there were several full day workshops being held at the hotel and I learned a type of Russian lace called Idrija (pronounced Eh-dree-ya) from Slovenia. It's a narrow tape lace which progresses quite quickly and is suitable for beginners so I quite enjoyed the class taught by Jacquie Tinch. There were around a dozen people with four of us doing Idrija and the rest doing Russian lace, so Jacquie found it a bit challenging to give time to everyone and occasionally we had to wait for her. But she was a great teacher and I feel confident I can complete the motif we started on my own at home. I've also ordered a recommended book by Bridget Cook which has more patterns.

Jacquie making the rounds

My work in progress - this is how far I got by the morning after the workshop.

After class I nipped over to the nearby Queensgate Mall to visit the Hotter shoe shop that other lacemakers had been raving about for comfortable shoes, and picked up two pairs. As usual all the 'pretty' summer shoes weren't sized for wide feet - apparently once you have wide feet you only want to wear items that look orthopaedic... Then back to the hotel to get ready for the lace dinner which was attended by 70 members.  There was supposed to be a 'Lace In' evening after dinner but the hotel service, while very friendly, was so slow that dinner stretched out to three hours and most people were too tired by the time it finally finished.  Me and some others on our table did get our pillows out and do some lace making for 40 minutes or so, plus I was knitting on the Lallybroch Sock while waiting for the tea and coffee service to finish (60 minutes to make sure all 70 people had a drink, unbelievable. I wonder what it's like when they do weddings...).

Everyone I met was really friendly and it's so enjoyable to spend time with a group who are passionate about what they do.  As well as bobbin lace, there were people tatting, others were making beaded bracelets, and a fair amount of lace on display in the form of collars, brooches, ruffs etc. I have to say that it was for the most part a rather elderly crowd with quite a few people in their 70s, 80s, and even 90s, so I felt very young and thin which is always a nice delusion.

I stayed over at the hotel and met up with lace people again this morning for breakfast, then did a bit more Idrija in my room before rejoining the group for a shared taxi over to the Peterborough Arena for the Makit Lace, Quilting and Needlework fair.  This is quite a good fair for lacemakers but there were also several good quilting stalls this year. I had no intention of buying any fabric but I had been thinking I need to make a bigger bag to carry my lace pillows in and fell victim to a roll of ten haberdashery-themed fat quarters which will be perfect.  Having started down that slippery slope, a William Morris jelly roll and layercake, and a Moda charm pack soon joined my purchases.  I also picked up a Ruby anniversary commemorative lace guild bobbin and cover cloth, some secondhand bobbins, and a cool book of coloured lace which is in German which I don't actually read.  There is a glossary converting key terms to English, Italian and French but I see a lot of Google translate in my future.  At 11:30 I took time out from shopping to attend the Lace Guild AGM, which lasted an hour and was surprisingly well attended with probably well over 100 people there. I did some more knitting on my sock and reached the heel turn. I actually did too many increase rows and had to pull out a few of them. After a bit more shopping, DH picked me and my bags up from the fair.  I was so worn out when I got home that I had to have a nap. Fun weekend.

Suddenly summer

Only a week or so after the snow, it has soared to 23 degrees Celsius this weekend. So we spent much of the rest of Sunday afternoon and early evening out in the garden. We've installed a temporary privacy screen of split bamboo cane while we think about what the permanent solution might be for our very overlooked garden. Possibly a pergola but not until next year. This year's big expensive project will be getting the shower installed in the main bathroom which we've been waiting over a year for. The builder thinks he may finally be here to do it in September.  I also planted out some of my seedlings that I've been clumsily raising. I don't know if I have hardened them off sufficiently so I hope they survive.  I've got another 30 or so that are too small to go out yet.  The rhubarb had re-sprouted through the week so I cut another crop for our third batch of rhubarb crumble.  I used to hate rhubarb when I was little but I think it was the way my mum cooked it, and also I didn't like tart things much when I was a youngster.

On my day off last week I was cutting up more fabric scraps: I've done all the strips now and am starting to iron the odd shaped pieces for cutting into squares.  I also started blocking my 20 GAA knitted squares.  I don't have room to do them all at once so blocked eight to begin with.

TV knitting this week has continued to be the Que Sera cardigan. I have now reached the armholes and divided for the fronts and back, and am continuing up the left front.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Stiff and old

It's Bank Holiday weekend here in the UK and amazingly it hasn't rained yet, so we spent a few hours out in the garden yesterday afternoon and again this morning. I was digging up weeds, tilling a bit and then spreading the Strulch (composted straw mulch), and also spreading lawn food by hand. Consequently I am feeling very stiff and achy - I can see why older people retire to a bungalow with a paved-over small garden with a few pots. I can still call myself middle-aged but I am unfit enough that a few hours gardening does me in. But hopefully putting in the work now and getting the weed-suppressing Strulch down will save many hours of weeding over the summer.  That's if it doesn't blow away - I'm still not convinced as it seems very lightweight.  We've watered it in for now but what happens when it dries out in the summer?  Our garden is quite windy.

Also yesterday we went around a set of nine gardens in the picturesque stone and thatch village of Great Brington, northwest of Northampton, which were open for charity under the National Garden Scheme.  Some very pretty spring gardens, some gorgeous cottages, it was sunny, and I picked up some inspiration for things we could do in our garden.

I  spent a day at the monthly quilting 'bring your own project' day and worked again on my ancient UFO Indigo Bear's Paw quilt, piecing five more blocks and cutting out the remaining seven block kits and pulling off the Thangles papers from the half-square triangles.  Then I stitched on my hand-applique Hawaiian Quilt for a few hours so it was a productive day.  Well worth it as if I had been at home I would have quit out of boredom after a few hours which is why the Bear's Paw quilt project is fifteen years old.  I was obviously delusional in my younger quilting days thinking that I could simultaneously complete all these enormous and time-consuming projects that I am still trying to finish off a decade later.

This week was also the great Dollshouse Shed reveal, although that turned out to be somewhat anti-climatic as only around half the members attended this month's meeting.  Still, the ones who were there were impressed with it. Although I was a bit surprised when one woman asked if I had made it myself - why would I bring someone else's half-finished project to the club?  It needs some more gingerbread trim on the porch, something to cover up the seams on the tower, and of course shingling.  But I've finally been able to tidy up the workshop (I am a horrendously messy worker and gradually fill all surfaces until I am literally working on the corner of the table) and get back to working on my bigger Victorian porch.  DH is going to take me to Hobbycraft in Northampton today to pick up some paint for the big porch shingles and while I am there I will look for something to use for the shed porch gingerbread.  Once the shed is done then I need to fit it onto the provided base and create a garden around it.

Knitting this week has continued on the Que Sera Cardigan, the Lallybroch socks and I found a shawl I had forgotten about, the Now in a Minute Shawl so I've done a few inches on that as well.  The shawl had been tidied away inside a cupboard so out of sight, out of mind.  And I have brought my bobbin lace down out of the attic to the dining room for the same reason, and forced myself to soldier on for a couple more inches on the miniature shelf edging.

The only other thing I've done this week, besides debating with DS on why he needs me to send him more money when he is only a few weeks into his third term at uni, is to take apart a large picture I got at a bric-a-brac shop and paint the white frame to look like dark wood. That took several coats of wood stain and tinted varnish but it doesn't look too bad now. Bit streaky but nothing that would offend the casual eye. So I reassembled the picture yesterday and it's hanging in the living room where it looks nice on the blue wall.

If you are in the UK, I hope you are enjoying a pleasant Bank Holiday weekend also.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Deadline pressure

The dollshouse shed I'm building is for a group project that my club is undertaking, and the next meeting is this week, so I am experiencing deadline pressure. I don't think I blogged that at the last meeting, almost everyone except me dutifully produced their completed shed kit. Without exception, they had all assembled the provided brown cardboard pieces into a brown cardboard plain shed, and were all that evening applying the provided brown paper 'clapboard' and sandpaper roofing.  This was after being given a brief to 'use your imagination' and 'think Shed of the Year' (TV programme showcasing unusual sheds).

So my bright yellow confection is going to be the cuckoo in the nest, and I want to make it look as complete as possible in its own defense before two dozen pairs of baffled eyes are on it.  I've fitted out the inside trim now and glued on the other part of the roof. DH brilliantly drove over to the dollshouse shop in Kettering yesterday (while I was supervising the guy fitting the new floor in the study) and picked up some handrail for me. So last night I was able to construct my porch railings using the same jig that came with my other porch kit, and today I glued up the railing assemblies and applied coats of paint. Tonight I glued on the porch ceiling which will support the porch roof.

I've also done two lots of painting on the real-life garden corner arbour this weekend. I finished off the third coat on the roof bits on Friday before the floor guy came, and yesterday we put the first coat of green/blue on the side walls and trim. The base is done as well, so soon we will have to figure out how to build some kind of concrete pad for the whole thing to sit on.  The corner it will go in dips down by about a foot or more from the level of the lawn, so it needs to be a raised pad.  There's also a large shrub in the way which we will need to murder because there is nowhere else for it to go. It's just about to bloom (I think it's a Viburnum Burkwoodii) so I am letting it have one last hurrah before the axe falls (actually, probably a saw).

The study floor is looking great, apart from he ran out of tiles because it turned out he had been sent one box of the wrong colour tiles.  So he will be coming back on Thursday to finish the bit near the door.  The rest of it is done and we were able to move the furniture back in last night. I'm gradually moving my office back from my temporary camp here in DS's bedroom, but I am procrastinating about moving the old-fashioned desktop PC with its maze of cables which will all have to be re-snaked through the desk cubbies while lying awkwardly on the floor, bleah. It's very nice to be able to walk around the study without shredded bits of Victorian floorboard snagging my slippers, and I'm sure it's going to be a lot warmer now that the drafty gaps between boards are covered over.


This week I resuscitated a hibernating project which is the Que Sera Cardigan in Shilasdair cotton which I started last summer.  The fronts and backs are knit all as one up to the armholes, and I had completed around six inches.  I worked out where I was in the lace pattern and knit another couple of inches before I realised that the new knitting did not look like the old knitting.  Turned out that I had started in the wrong place, so I had to rip back to where I had re-started, then work out picking up all the stitches and yarn overs and getting my stitch markers back into the right places for repeats.  Which all took ages.  But I am back on track now and have recovered my ground and knit onwards.

I heard from Daisydaisydaisy that she received the little cotton bolero I knit for her little girl and posted last week. This is in Sirdar Ella DK which is a cotton/acrylic blend with a strand of sparkle. Daisydaisydaisy is a much better knitter than I am so it was a bit of sending coals to Newcastle but still I hope the bolero will come in useful on cooler summer days.  It is size 6-12 months.

I dug out all the squares I have knit for my 20-square Great American Aran Afghan (GAAA) to see how bad the blocking job is going to be.  I have made a rod for my own back by using the same needles for all the squares, because I liked the fabric I was getting and didn't want to have to keep swatching and switching.  It turns out that I accidentally knit 21 squares but it's just as well because one of them is hugely bigger than the rest.  I measured along the row gauge as follows:

One square at 15"
Six at 13"
Six at 12"
Four at 11.5"
Four at 11" down to 10.5"

So I think I am going to discard the 15" square (or turn it into a pillow) and try to block the rest to 13 inches.  If it looks like the smallest ones won't stretch that much then I guess I will have to pick up and knit a border around them. One advantage of being a loose knitter is that the squares have a lot of stretch in them.  I think I will have to block them in batches because I don't have room to lay out 20 13-inch squares all at once to dry.

Commuter knitting is now the Lallybroch Socks.  This is a sock pattern inspired by the Outlander series called Lady of Lallybroch by JavaPurl Designs, which I bought at I-knit Fandango a year ago. Where I also bought the sock yarn from SparkleDuck, Galaxy in the Autumn Leaves colourway (75% superwash merino, 20% nylon, 5% stellina) which I thought looked suitably tartan-like. The pattern is toe up, which I don't like doing as much, but has a pretty cable pattern on the top of the foot. Apologies for the fuzzy picture.

Other stuff

Strip cutting of quilt scraps continues.  I had a bit of a win when I discovered that part of the bulk in the box was an old pair of jeans I must have been cutting up  for something, and a felted cardigan that I had turned into a bag. I've also found a few bits of yardage that I actually want to keep, not sure why they were in the box but it may have happened in the move.  So the box is about half empty now and the strip baskets are filling up.

I have been a major procrastinator about bobbin lace lately. It's just not as much fun now that I'm not meeting up with my lace friends every week.  I have soldiered on to finish the first length of shelf edging and I've started the second. I'm taking a day course on lacemaking in May so that might inspire me to do more.

I've also spent a fair bit of time working on our Japan holiday. Having amassed a long list of Tokyo sights from guidebooks and websites, and more importantly of Tokyo craft shops, I have been trying to whittle the list down and group them by area to try to work out some kind of feasible route that we can complete in our limited time there.  Tokyo is so huge, 61% bigger than London I think I read somewhere, and it seems quite complex to actually find locations which the language issue doesn't help. I know we can't see everything (and I know DH will get grumpy if I try) and also I can't bring it all back in my suitcase either.

I picked our first rhubarb from the garden today, so it was rhubarb crumble for pudding tonight, yum.  The weeds are sprouting busily so I've sent off for some 'Strulch' which the speaker at my gardening club recommended.  It's composted straw which he said makes a really good weed-suppressing mat once it gets wet. It's also quite lightweight and is supposed to deter slugs and snails because of what it's been soaked in. He was a great speaker and went through all the different methods for propagating plants from cuttings, many of which I hadn't heard of.  Did you know you can stick a leaf cutting into compost and it will root?  I didn't.  I didn't know you could shave a bulb into slices and that it would produce new little bulblets either. The only thing is that you need some kind of giant greenhouse or coldframe to accommodate all of these rooting things for months while they are growing  bigger.  I've had enough trouble finding sufficiently sunny windowsills for the seeds I am trying to grow onwards, and the cat keeps walking on the seed trays so she can look out the window.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

A weekend of many seasons

The English weather is showing off its fabled contrariness this weekend.  The inlaws arrived on Thursday for a visit and that afternoon was so nice and warm that we were sitting drinking tea out on the sunny patio in late afternoon. But Friday it started to spit rain, and it wasn't looking good yesterday morning when we set off to drive north to visit a big garden.  Shortly after leaving home it started to sleet, and then to actually snow. We made an interim stop at Uppingham Yarns, a mecca for machine knitting yarns, Italian fancies, all kinds of unusual fibres plus a fair bit of hand knitting yarn. M-i-l bought some wool/acrylic blend for a cardi and I found a yarn winder that will wind cakes instead of cones.

By the time we came out, it was so cold that f-i-l was looking quite miserable (he won't wear a hat) and although the snow had stopped, it was decided to abandon the expedition and head back to more local sights.  We visited Sywell aviation museum where we saw a Spitfire revving its engines and a helicopter landing on the airfield, then had a lovely lunch at Beckworth Emporium before visiting a plant nursery. I then introduced m-i-l to the delights of the Coleman's Craft Warehouse that I have previously blogged about, while f-i-l fell asleep in the 'husband room' and DH chafed at being stuck there for 40 mins.  In their bargain bins I found some parachute cord in blue and white which will make good project bag cords.

And today it is gloriously sunny, not a cloud in the sky, but there was a heavy frost this morning when I had been thinking that spring had come and it would be safe to prune back the fuschias etc.    The garden still thinks it is spring though, our magnolia has a lot more blossom this year, the pear tree is starting to blossom, the tulips are coming out, the photinia has nice red growth, and the forsythia is bursting into yellow brightness.

So will all the hosting of guests, not a lot of crafts this week although I have been able to knit in the evenings.

I finally finished the Basket Check socks and they are on the blockers. These are in Regia Arne and Carlos yarn and the pattern is from the Little Box of Socks which I had forgotten Swooze had  kindly gifted me until I was looking at my 2010 blog posts and rediscovered that fact - thank you Swooze!

I also finished what I think/hope is the final square of my 20-square GAA Afghan.  Now the nightmare of trying to block 20 squares to the same size looms on the horizon. This is a modified version of a pictorial block with a church, tree, sun and birds.  I changed the church to a house with a chimney and omitted the sun. Once all the squares are joined, there are about 80 miles of border to knit.

I've also been sneaking downstairs away from the in-laws to cut up some more fabric scraps.  I've probably done five hours altogether since I started this and I haven't even reduced the pile to the level of the top of the box yet. But the bins are slowly filling up.

And I've also been sneaking off to the cellar to quickly paint dollshouse bits for my garden shed, which is coming on.  I'm currently working on the door wall, I've custom-made a non-opening door which is just propped up in this photo.  I was thinking last night about how I am going to build the verandah and I think I shouldn't have given the roof such an overhang. I may need to see if I can trim it back in situ without breaking anything. Hopefully.

I am working on the next block of my 25 block applique quilt and m-i-l wanted to see the other blocks. So I spread them out on the living room floor where they made a lively sight. This project is eleven years old now but at least it is slowly getting done. It's probably a race now between finishing the quilt and deteriorating eyesight making it challenging to do so, lol.

I also finished the baby item I was working on, and got it in the post, but I won't blog about it until I hear it has been received.

The only other item of note this week was that Monday, when DH was working at home, he fed the cat and let her out at 7am and then didn't see her the entire rest of the day. Normally she is in and out and always present for meals. By the time I got home from work at 6:30pm he had written her off for dead.  We searched the entire house twice, even getting silly about opening cupboards that she couldn't possibly be in without developing opposable thumbs, and DH searched the surrounding streets. It was also pouring rain and dark by then. My main thought was that DS has big exams coming up at uni in six weeks and that we couldn't tell him in case it distressed him, but that the in-laws would notice and never be able to keep their mouths shut about it, although of course I was worried about the cat.  Who showed up around 8pm, dripping wet and chirruping, with no apparent harm. If only they could talk and tell you where they have been.  We kept her in for a few days and she hasn't pulled a disappearing act again.  Yet.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

You wait ages for a hexagonal turret and then two come along at once

Like last week's post, life was again mirroring art rather strangely this morning.  I spent a couple of hours out in the garden painting the hexagonal roof segments, roof struts and finial of our new garden corner arbour.  Meanwhile the hexagonal roof of my miniature dream shed with its own finial was drying inside in the workroom after I had glued it on my mini turret.

After trying out various tester pots of Cuprinol Garden Shades paint, we've gone with Urban Slate (dark grey) for the roof of the garden arbour, and the walls will be Seagrass which is a rather attractive blue-green. This is the first of three coats on the roof and we haven't even started the walls yet, it's going to be a long haul.

Meanwhile I've spent a lot of time this week on the mini shed and it's coming along fairly well.  I'm decorating as I go to avoid having to reach into awkward spaces after construction.  The tower is together but not finished yet and obviously the roof and a few walls are still missing. I don't have a pattern, just a picture from the internet that I am using for inspiration, so I'm kind of making it up as I go along.  Before I closed in the tower, I improvised a little window seat where the writer (this is going to be a writer's retreat) sits in the sun.  I will make some throw pillows later.

Between painting, and the mini shed, and having to spend about five hours this weekend deep-cleaning the house ready for the in-law's visit this coming week, I haven't had as much time for other crafts this week.  I did do some more on my cross stitch which is inching sloth-like down the canvas.

I have also done more on my bobbin lace dollshouse shelf edging, which is about five inches long now.  About another inch to go and then I can start the second one for the second shelf.

I spent a few hours on Thursday unpacking one of the last boxes from the move (yes, we still have a few kicking around, two years later) which is my fridge magnet collection.  This used to be crowded onto two metal boards on a wall in our old kitchen.  I picked up a couple more cheap magnetic boards from Wilko and DH sprayed all four boards dark green for me, although we ran out of spray paint before we had a really solid colour. After hanging those on a spare wall in the attic, I unpacked all the magnets, which had survived their multiple journeys fairly well: only one breakage and two more with detached magnets.  DH counted them because he likes to do that, and apparently I have 140 magnets.  I like them because they remind me of places I've been, and some of them are really cute.  At the moment they are just grouped by nationality or style but I'm thinking of arranging little villages and perhaps painting roads and ponds.  Yes I am very sad.

At one point in England these house-shaped magnets were very popular and in all the souvenir shops. But they must have gone out of fashion because you rarely see any now that are free of defacing typeface announcing their home location. I've hardly acquired any new English ones for years but I picked up quite a few in the Netherlands on business trips and some in France, even a few in Italy. And I have a nice little group of gingerbread houses from New England.

Also this week I have continued to tackle my quilting scrap box. It's incredibly slow going, I can spend a couple of hours pressing and cutting and the scrap pile is not going down at all.  I picked up five small washing up bowls for .95p each at Wilko to use as sorting bins for the various widths of strips and squares:  1.5", 2", 2.5", 3.5" and bricks. Because they are white, I could just write the numbers on the outside in Sharpie.

I will just have to keep plugging away at it and eventually it will get done. Not the most exciting job in the world. Once I finally finish the pile, going forward I will aim to cut up the scraps immediately and add them to the bins.

Live and learn 

Remember the Victorian button-back chair that I picked up as a bargain at the Peterborough Antiques Festival in November?

One of the reasons I chose it, besides liking the look of it, was because it felt fairly comfortable to sit in, even though the ancient upholstery was all rather deflated and squashed down.  So I was very excited when it finally came back from the upholsterer a few weeks ago, looking all new and refreshed in crisp blue velvet.  It looked great when they unwrapped it from its plastic protection, and I was really pleased... until I sat down in it.

I kid you not, it was like it had been stuffed with bricks.  Not only was it absolutely rock hard, but the back had been completely resculpted to a horrible wavy shape that was about six inches forward at the base (purportedly a lumbar support although it was hitting my tailbone) and then sloping  backward as it rose. So you were pushed forward on the rock hard seat until your knees were hanging off the front, and the only way to lean back was to arch your back like you were curving back over a small medicine ball to assume a position akin to a terrified roller-coaster passenger. Competely uncomfortable and with all the extra padding they had added, it was so snug I could barely fit in between the rock hard arm pads.

It was terribly awkward because they had obviously worked hard on it, and the finish was good, but the result was totally unusable as a piece of furniture. It was someone we had hired before on a simpler chair and I guess this chair was just beyond their skill level. They are a one-person band so I didn't feel I could demand my money back, and my tentative approaches about reducing the pneumatic lumps and inserting some softer padding were met with upset and a total lack of willingness to do anything. Their position was that this was how you upholstered a traditional chair using traditional materials (some kind of fake horsehair), end of story. And it looked great but I wonder if they had even tried sitting in it, plus I would have thought that before you totally changed the shape and inner dimensions of a chair, you would at least discuss it with the client.  All very embarrassing and a complete waste of money on the job and the fabric, but nothing to be done.

So now it's gone off to the shop where we bought our sofas, and their upholsterers looked at it and said they will have to completely take it apart to deconstruct all the brick hard lumps, reduce the extreme padding on the back and sides which has made it so snug fitting, and introduce some modern comfort.  So we've had to buy more fabric and have to pay for a second, more expensive upholstery job.  Certainly no longer a bargain and I am trying to keep out of my conscious brain the thought that added up this chair is costing more than a cheap car.  La la la la.  The only good thing is the second lot of fabric is going to look much better with the new sofas than the first choice of fabric, I've gone with a cream damask this time.  Sigh...  Hopefully my middle-aged memory loss will come to my rescue and in a few years I won't remember the expensive mistake of the first attempt.

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