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.

Sunday, 30 December 2018

And so quickly, it's over

It's Sunday night so I have to go back to work tomorrow, bleah.  DS and DH planned ahead much better than I did, and they don't go back until Wednesday (Tuesday is a holiday).  I tried getting up earlier this morning in preparation for getting up tomorrow, and the only result was that I felt half wrecked all morning until I gave in and took an hour-long nap. Which doesn't bode well for tomorrow.

We survived the holiday.  Operation 'Pretend the House is Always this Clean' went off very well and the in-laws really enjoyed themselves apart from arriving with colds and feeling a bit ill for the whole visit. We bought them a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle so that kept them busy in between meals and cups of tea.  I did a lot of knitting while keeping them company.  I've turned the heel on my second Christmas barf yarn sock and knit most of my Secret Garden Shawl which is turning out to be quite big. Mine isn't looking like the picture on the kit because my variegated yarn is shading in a different way. So mine is more yellow (the picture had more pink instead of yellow) but I still like it - and I really like this yarn (Scheepjes Secret Garden).

Before the guests arrived, I finished the two Christmas baubles I posted about last week, I'm pleased with how they turned out.  I think they look a bit luxurious.  Tobias and The Angel sell their baubles for £35 each, mine cost nothing apart from buying the polystyrene ball as I had everything else in my stash.

By the time DH took the in-laws home, I'd been inside the house for almost four days.  I tottered out to the mall like some kind of convalescent with rubbery legs to see what was on sale.  Nothing much of interest in our small shopping area, apart from Wilko have some useful Curver storage baskets on sale which are a good size for fat quarters. 

Although I couldn't do much craft apart from knitting while we had guests, I did escape to the sewing room several times for bouts of cleaning and tidying.  I've given the whole room an overhaul - starting with installing a longer blind cord so I can actually open the blind now and admit daylight. Sadly the daylight revealed a lot of cobwebs and filth so there was a fair amount of hoovering and cleaning to do.  I've gone through all the glory holes where I'd shoved back project leftovers over the years, pressed and re-folded a tonne of fabric, sorted through my fat quarters, and thrown out some upholstery fabric and hand-me-downs that I have never used and will never use.  The whole room feels so much better now to me.  The only downside is the depressing amount of fabric I have discovered.  I could probably make 25 bed-sized quilts before making a significant dent in the stash.  I feel guilty about all the money tied up in the fabric and also a bit sad about the unrealised dreams.  Some of the projects have been waiting so long that I don't think I want to make them any longer as my tastes have changed.  Hopefully I will get to some of the others - if not now then perhaps when I retire.

I also have to decide what to do about this elephant in the room:

Yes, this is an entire crate of leftover scraps.  A couple of years ago I spent hours and hours cutting up the previous crate of scraps into sized pieces as per the Bonnie Hunter scrap system - and I've never used any of it.  Do I want to spend hours more cutting up this lot?  Or just throw it out?  Or spend money to post it (and it's heavy) to a charity such as Project Linus?  For the moment I am trying to ignore it.

Re-energised by the cleaner, brighter sewing room, I've actually managed to sew four blocks for my 30s Sampler Quilt since the guests left!

I checked my seam allowance accuracy and it was indeed out.  I tested it a few times on scraps to work out where I need to set the needle position for an accurate allowance.  Although that didn't help with the Spools block above which required set-in Y-seams.  I couldn't use my quarter-inch foot for those as I needed to stop and start on an exact point, and I couldn't see the point using the quarter-inch foot so had to switch to a clear foot.  Now that the seam allowance is more accurate, the rest of the blocks have come out much better.  The bottom one is still a bit wonky but I think that was cutting error.  I think my sewing machine needs a service: the thread cutter barely works now and there are various other issues. I've had it serviced since we moved but it's probably a few years ago now.

Also since the in-laws left, I've built and installed the little shingled roofs for the most recent porch on my Japanese dollshouse.

And I've stained/painted the pieces for the final porch and assembled its inner wall (aka the gluey octopus). Once again I had some gaps but I've managed to fill them either with glue (for the small gaps) or an inserted filler board for wider gaps. I feel heartily glad this is the last of the four porch walls, three of which were a nightmare and only one of which went together easily.

Did you receive any crafty gifts for Christmas?  M-i-l gave me a nice half yard of red flowery fabric with a reproduction feel which will fit nicely with my stash.  And the in-laws paid for a book I bought myself on Floral Bucks Point Lace by Alexandra Stillwell which was recommended by my teacher at Knuston.  I've had a few more lacemaking sessions on my Bucks Point hexagonal edging as I am still trying to get it finished but I've still got another corner and a few more inches to go. And my dollshousing friend in France sent me some cute little house models (one china and one resin) and some laser-cut 1/12th scale paper doilies.  I hope you got some nice things too.

I've made a few more bookings for our trip to Japan in the spring:  I've booked the rental car; we went and got our international driving permits at the post office and I've got the exchange vouchers for the Japan rail passes.  I'm sort of looking forward to the trip but at the same time a bit terrified at the scale of the venture. I've booked the whole trip myself so I just hope it all works the way it's meant to.  A long time ago I read some good travel advice which went something like this:  The only essentials are your passport and credit card, the rest is gravy.  I always tell myself that on the way to the airport when I am obsessing about what I've forgotten.  Are you looking forward to a special holiday in 2019?

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Feeling a bit like christmas

We're halfway through our weekend cleaning blitz and things are starting to look pretty good.  Tomorrow we will evict DS from his room and sterilise that to turn it into a guest bedroom, and put the final polish on the dining room, bathroom and kitchen.  It's a bit like spring cleaning, having guests is the impetus to finally tackle things we've been ignoring or not had time to deal with, like de-scaling the kettle and mopping the basement floor..

It's a good thing I had my stitches out last week because at the beginning of this week I came down with another cold.  I wouldn't have been able to blow my nose last week and probably would have suffocated.  I soldiered on until Wednesday when I had to stay home from work and just sleep all day.  Thursday was my day off and by Friday I had improved enough to go in for my last day of work before Christmas. Turns out several other people on my team are sick with a cold as well so I guess it's doing the rounds.  Now DS and DH are both claiming I've infected them. I hope not, I don't want them to be ill over Christmas.

Before I got sick, I finished the touch up staining on the Japanese dollshouse 2nd floor porch.  It's not hinged yet but looks good sitting in place.  It doesn't have its little roofs yet, they're in a later chapter. I've opened a few more chapters which are basically a repeat to build the left hand porch.  It's a bit tedious to contemplate doing it all again for a fourth time but that will be the final porch before moving on to the roof. Something to tackle over the Christmas holiday.

I did a lot of knitting while I was sick because I could do that without having to move, so I managed to finish the edging on my ten-stitch triangle shawl.  Once I felt better, I wet blocked it.  I was amazed at how much it relaxed and stretched out - it's huge now.  Considering it's knit from about 16 or so little skeins of variegated sock yarn, I think it looks pretty good.  I'm glad I knit the solid colour edging which helps tie it all together.  I finished it with a little 3-stitch i-cord along the top edge. It feels appropriate that I've finished this just before Christmas because all the little sock skeins came out of last year Opal sock yarn Advent Calendar.

Once I finished that, I needed a new project so tottered upstairs to grab the kit I bought a while back to knit the Shawl of Secrets in Scheepjes Secret Garden yarn.  This is an unusual yarn which reminds me of Noro Silk Garden but without the scratchiness.  It's 20% silk, 20% cotton, and 60% polyester and each skein is a different variegated colourway.  The shawl pattern is a simple triangle alternating stocking stitch and garter stripes, letting the yarn be the star.  I'm enjoying the knit.

I hadn't been down in the sewing room all week and I've come to realise that I don't really like going in there any more.  I was trying to analyse why.  It can be quite cold in there, and it feels dark since the window blind is really hard to open as the cord is too short for me to reach easily with the sewing table in the way.  It's also extremely cluttered and not very clean because it's a very long time since I had a proper sort out and put things away properly. I feel cut off when I'm down there as I can't hear the door bell, and the phone is so far away that I have to run like a maniac to answer in time. And I don't have a TV any more like I used to have in the old house before they got rid of the analogue signal.  I've turned up the radiator in there to warm it up and I've ordered a longer replacement blind cord.  Hopefully some time over the holiday I can do some tidying up. 

Anyway, I made myself go in and tackle another block in the 30s sampler quilt series.  This is a small block (9inches finished) with a lot of pieces.  I am not the world's most accurate sewer, and even though I was trying to be careful, the cumulative error over so many seams has resulted in a rather wonky block which is both bigger and smaller than it is supposed to be depending on where you measure.    I'm leaving it for now, if I really can't get it to fit into the finished top then I might need to try again.  I think I should probably check my seam allowance for accuracy but it's probably errors in cutting as well.

I got my biopsy results a few days ago and unfortunately I am going to have to have surgery on my nose to remove a superficial tumour.  That will probably be sometime later in January.  I'll be off work for about a week, I'll have to have some good craft projects lined up to occupy myself.

I've started a last minute Christmas make, which is decorating a couple of polystyrene balls with fabric, ribbon and beads along the lines of some that I saw featured on Kirsty's Handmade Christmas last year.  I made notes at the time and bought a couple of plain balls at Hobbycraft.  So far I've glued on the fabric and some ribbon and braid, but I will be adding more embellishments and hanging loops.

I hope you are all ready for Christmas and are looking forward to a happy holiday!

Sunday, 16 December 2018

The most time-consuming time of the year?

I was trying to figure out why I have no craft photos this week, then I realised it's because pretty much every spare minute has been either spent on putting up christmas decorations or cleaning the house to get ready for guests.  So if you are only visiting for the crafting eye-candy, there's nothing to see here - sorry!

On my day off, I did spend a few hours dollshousing and I glued the ceiling onto the upper hallway of the Japanese house and constructed the handrail for the balcony.  When I stood the almost-completed porch in place on the house though, I realised it's a completely different colour than the rest of the house.  I obviously didn't stir the wood stain enough because everything I stained recently has come out a light brown, whereas the rest of the house is dark oak.  I'm going to try re-staining some of the pieces on the new porch to help it blend in more but I think I already sealed some of the timbers with matt varnish, oops.

I haven't done any sewing.  I did a bit more lacing on my Bucks Point hexagonal edging and I'm now knitting I-cord along the top edge of my triangular shawl, having finished the lace edging on the two triangular sides.

Meanwhile the decorations are now all up and the house looks reasonably nice.  I think I've struck more of a balance this year between my own tendency to over decorate, and the quiet elegance I admire in christmas magazines.   Both trees look nice, and I used some real holly we trimmed off our holly tree when we were putting up the trellis to decorate some ledges and windowsills.  The cleaning is still a work in progress and the big blitz will be this coming weekend as the in-laws arrive on Monday.

Meanwhile this week was my office christmas lunch with my team.  This year we were in a gorgeous old half-timbered house called Wygston's House, one of the oldest houses still standing in Leicester, dating  from 1490. We had to pay for our own lunch but the food was very nice and my manager did buy us a round of drinks. Definitely hugely better than the last time I went to the team lunch which was in a crowded cramped place with sticky tables. This year felt very christmassy and elegant.

And then this weekend we enjoyed a family Christmas treat with a weekend break in Oxford, our favourite city.  DS rode in with us then went off to join his girlfriend while we spent the day ambling from cafe to cafe, with intermittent christmas shopping in the Covered Market, at the Christmas market and visits to bookstores.  All very relaxing apart from the driving rain and gusting winds which caused me to break not one but two umbrellas as they both blew inside out multiple times.  We met back up with DS and girlfriend and treated them to supper at a Chinese.  They went off again and we stopped in at a lovely quiet pub called The Three Goat's Heads, for cocktails and in my case a spot of knitting on my christmas sock.  We stayed overnight very centrally at historic Oriel College, booked through University Rooms, who hire out college rooms on a bed and breakfast basis out of term time.  We had breakfast this morning in the college's impressive hall with a hammerbeam ceiling and a gorgeous christmas tree in the bay window. As you can see from the sun coming in the windows, it's a much nicer day today thankfully.

After breakfast we strolled along the misty Christchurch Meadows and watched some thatchers at work putting a new thatched roof on some buildings near Christchurch college. After more tea in yet another cafe, it was along to the newly revamped Westgate shopping mall which now looks like something worthy of London, and a bit more christmas shopping.  A sushi lunch where DS joined us and it was back home we went, all feeling very full and very relaxed.  The cat was glad to see us as of course she had long since eaten the extra food we had left out for her yesterday.

I hope your christmas prep is well in hand and that you are getting some time to relax as well!

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Once again dollshouse knowhow applies to the real world!

Last year I figured out how to build our pergola out in the garden by planning out how I would build one in dollshouse scale.  This year, dollshouse logic has solved the troublesome issue of what to do with the wires from four CCTV cameras sprawling around our front rooms.  I spent ages trying to think where we could conceal the ugly CCTV hard drive and monitor  on the main floor and still have the camera wires reach to connect.  Bolt of lightning moment when I suddenly thought that, if it were a dollshouse, I would just drop them down through the floor to the basement out of sight. So that's what we did.  I knew there were sections of floorboards pre-cut from previous owner's renovations in both the dining room and living room.  So with a bit of measuring I was able to drill up through the dollshouse room ceiling in the basement, coming up underneath the removable floorboard in the dining room.  We bought two boxes of cable clips from B&Q and clipped the porch camera wire and the two camera wires  coming into the dining room, down and along the skirting and dropped all three wires down through the hole into the dollshouse room.  We peeled back the living room carpet, lifted the board there, and drilled up from the basement workroom to do the same with the camera wire coming into the living room.  All four wires now lead into the basement hallway where we've installed a £7 cabinet from the junk shop to hold the drive and monitor.  I still need to clip the wires up out of the way at basement level, but at least the main living floor is clear and tidy and the CCTV is functional.

It's been a DIY-filled weekend as we also installed the trellis at the side of the house today, to raise the level of the side wall to make it harder to climb over (I hope - I'm a bit concerned the trellis is so sturdy that we've actually made it easier... but it looks higher at least).  That pretty much concludes our defensive measures, let's hope it's sufficient and things improve. Our last exhausted act was to trim off the trunks of our two christmas trees (one medium-sized for the hall, one small for the dining room) and get them into their stands.  It was really time for a cup of tea after all that lot!  We'll start decorating them after work this week.

I was glad to be feeling up to all of the above, because Tuesday I had my two punch biopsies on my nose, fastened with a stitch each, and felt pretty cr*p the rest of the day and Wednesday when I went back to work.  It was done under a local anaesthetic (sp?) but was still fairly unpleasant, particularly putting the stitches in.  The doctor also removed the BCC on my back which didn't hurt at all, no nerves there?  But the wounds are healing well and I'm getting the stitches out on Tuesday.  Today I had the fun job of figuring out how to wash my hair without getting the stitches wet, managed to do it very carefully in the shower and with a towel handy for blotting.

So I spent a lot of time Tuesday and Wednesday sitting fairly motionless in my armchair trying not to move my nose much - it's surprising how much you need to do that for smiling, laughing, yawning, sneezing etc.  I kept busy with stitching up a couple of little kits from my personal advent calendar.

I made a little tree ornament from a Trimits kit - these are such good value at only £2.50 each.

And I stitched a magnetised needleminder from Sue Hawkins Needleworks - you can see it holding my needle on my Christmas House cross stitch here.  You can also see the room scene I finally finished last week and forgot to blog

I also forgot to blog last week that I made some pattern weights.  I've been wanting to make some for a while but the tutorials  I saw were either stuffed with rice (bad idea in a basement sewing room where they might attract vermin or moisture) or sand (too messy).  Then I saw a brilliant idea online of filling them with aquarium gravel.  I used the general construction shape from this video, but cut my rectangle 8.5 inches by 4.5 inches.  I filled each one with 200g of gravel (2kilo bag only £3 from Wilko) and just stitched them shut on my sewing machine.  I didn't bother with a ribbon handle as it seemed unnecessary. Voila! 10 pattern weights made from scrap fabric.  I just hope I remember I've got them next time I am using a paper pattern with fabric.

Once I started feeling better, I did some dollshousing this week on my Japanese dollshouse.  I put together a kit for a 'bamboo' made out of cut-out paper leaves, wire and kebab stick.  After I took this picture, I decided it looked too much like green paper so I dry brushed the leaves with some ochre which breaks them up a bit more realistically.  I'm preparing the ceiling for this room so once that's glued on, the bamboo will be at the back of the room and not highly visible.

I finished the rest of the sliding windows for the balcony and installed them, and now I'm working on the balcony structural supports.

On my day off, when I was still feeling a bit grotty, I made a push to finish my Torchon Lace bauble wrap and then spent a couple of hours making a pig's ear of the join that connects the beginning to the end of the lace to form a tube.  Joining lace is hard to do neatly, and as it isn't something that I do very often since I mostly work samples, I'm really bad at it.  In my own defense, I stupidly followed the instructions in the pattern book to knot off every pair with a reef knot. All's that did was to create a ridge of knots which interrupts the pattern, especially for the thick gold thread. I managed to bodge the join in the end to look acceptable from a distance.  Here's the good side, which I'm pleased with:

And here is the horrible join which is distorting the pattern terribly.  The 'spider' at the bottom has morphed from a neat oval into a giant splodge, and  there are several other problems.  I'll just have to hang the bauble so that side faces the tree trunk  :)

I did a bit of sewing this week, more because I felt I should than because I actually felt like it.  This is a smaller block which will finish at 9 inches, for my 30 sampler quilt.  I need to resew the solid purple triangles because I haven't ended up with sufficient seam allowance to avoid cutting off the points. You can see I am partway through stitching machine blanket stitch around the fused applique shapes.

This week will be the office christmas team lunch for both myself and DS at our respective workplaces - DH already had his last week. So two more weeks of work and I'll be on holiday for the holiday!  I've booked off the week of Christmas so I won't be back at work until New Year's Eve. I'm looking forward to the break.  Hope your festive preparations are well in hand!

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