Wednesday, 26 December 2007

My 100th post (or is it....?) & Give-away

I thought this was my 100th post because it was showing 99 last time I checked, but today it says I had 100 already, so who knows. Anyway, it is a milestone, and I would like to thank Swooze for getting me started back in March 2007. I have found blogging to be a really positive discipline, in that it helps me get things done (constantly thinking, must take a picture for the blog) and also helps me to look back and see what I have accomplished (for those darker days where you feel like you are never achieving anything). It has also been a fun way to show pics to online friends so that they can see what I am working on, and even to keep in touch with friends further away who wonder what I am up to.

In keeping with blogging tradition, I am offering a giveaway. The prize was a bit difficult, as most quilting stuff in this country is imported from the USA, but then I remembered that I have a whole scrap basket of Liberty printed cottons. So for everyone who leaves a comment on this blog before 1st January 2008, I will put your name in a hat and pull out one winner at random. The prize will be 25 charm squares (4.5") of genuine UK printed Liberty cottons. I will try to cut these with no duplicates, but if I don't have enough prints there may be some duplication. The table runner in the picture was made using prints from this Liberty collection.

I hope you all had a good day yesterday. We had a lovely relaxing day with lots of chocolate, good food, family games and television, and of course present opening. Ds gave me a cross-stitch magazine and dh gave me a copy of Quiltmania in my stocking, as well as a few packs of FQs and a pack of safety pins. I also received a daylight craft lamp and some dollshouse clamps, micro drills and needlenose pliers. Today we are off down to the in-laws for second Christmas at their house, and my sister-in-law and dh's uncle will also be there.

Meanwhile, I finished a pair of mittens and wore them for a walk on Christmas Eve. It was lovely looking into everyone's windows and seeing all the christmas lights and trees. Being close to London as we are, very few people have a big yard so you are literally looking in their front windows as you walk along the pavement. I probably sound like a peeping tom but I'm not, really!

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Yay, off work until Christmas now

Today was my last day up in London until after Christmas - yay! Now I can turn my attention to way more important things like figuring out what food we need to buy for Christmas dinner.

I had Christmas lunch with one of the local sewing groups at a pub a few days ago, and I wore my new Christmas earrings that I tatted on the weekend in 80 thread from a pattern that was published in the Ring of Tatters newsletter. Boy, when you see them blown up to this size, you wish you had made a few of the joining picots a bit smaller...

Remember I was working on that Kaffe Fassett striped fabric? Well this is what I have made so far - the diamonds are 11 inches on a side so this is wide enough to be the middle of a single size quilt. I don't have a pattern, I am just kind of making this up as I go along.

I also knit a hat using this free pattern, using one strand of the RY Cashsoft DK with one strand of a synthetic mohair, which together made about a chunky yarn. The texture of the hat is lovely, soft and fuzzy, but it is a bit big for me - I might unseam it and make it a bit smaller. I'm going to knit some mittens to match using this other free pattern.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Stocking Swap

Today was the grand opening party for the #QuiltChat stocking swap, and look at the lovely goodies I received from MamaRoo in Arizona! A cute striped flannel stocking that came with a ceramic angel candle holder, 2 FQ bundles, a quilt pattern, 2 half-yard cuts, a big spool of white cotton thread, loads 0f sweets (these aren't in pic much because my dh and I have already eaten most of them) and 2 quilt labels. Not in pic is the scented candle and a circular knitting needle! What a lovely treat, and what fun to open it all while everyone else in the chatroom was opening theirs as well. Thank you Mamaroo!

Friday, 14 December 2007

Interactive in my kitchen

I have been spending a lot of time this autumn in my kitchen, on my own while the house is empty, working on my mammoth Willowcrest dollshouse project. It could be a rather lonely affair, but in fact I have been keeping company with people from all over the world as I listen to their podcasts. Quite tedious tasks like painting 50 strips of wood, or sanding down 12 sets of window frames, pass quite enjoyably as I listen to friends in San Francisco discuss their yarn stash, or an Australian 'bloke' talking about his yarn dying experiments.

I enjoy the content of course, but as much as anything, it is delightful to listen to people who feel as passionately about their chosen pursuits as I do about mine. I don't really have that experience in my 'real' life. I don't have any close friends of my age who do any crafts at all, and although I have several older friends who do make things (the two I see regularly, who like to sew and dabble in dollshouses, are c. 65 and 85 years old respectively), it's not the same. So turning on the computer is like inviting a few talkative friends over to chat energetically with each other, while I sit quietly and work and enjoy listening. So here are a few of the online shows I listen to regularly:

Quilting- I don't know why, but there are virtually no quilting podcasts, which seems strange when there are hundreds of podcasts for knitters. Here are a couple I like.

Annie's Quilting Stash - A pattern designer and teacher, Annie seems to know a lot of people in the quilting world and does a lot of interviews and location visits. She is so enthusiastic about things, and asks some good interview questions. She also visits a lot of trade and quilting shows and reviews them.

Alex Anderson Quilt Connection - As the former host of Simply Quilts, Alex delivers a professional product, although she isn't podcasting as often now that she is co-hosting the online Quilt Show. A mixture of 'blog'-type catch-ups on her own life, and interviews with other notables in the quilting world.

Quilters News Network (QNN TV) - this isn't a podcast at all, but a site full of video-on-demand quilting shows. Recently they have moved to a subscription basis, but it is only $24 for a year so just a few dollars a month. This is well worth it to me, as we have no quilting programmes on TV here in the UK. So I really enjoy watching, or even just listening to, shows such as Quilt in a Day, Fons & Porter, Sewing with Nancy etc.

Knitting - the knitting world has just exploded with dozens, if not hundreds, of podcasts. Here are a few that I have tried and enjoyed:

Knit Picks Podcast - This podcast is so soothing and confidence-inspiring, like listening to a trusted newscaster who loves knitting. Professionally done and regularly published, combining a technical topic with book reviews, and with minimal 'advertising' despite the connection with the Knit Picks shop. I really like this one.

Lime 'n Violet - Although nominally about knitting, this fast-moving and possibly anarchic podcast is a conversation between two younger knitters which can veer wildly off the rails in many directions.

Stash & Burn - Again a conversation between two younger knitters, but calmer, and it makes me a bit jealous because I wish I had a friend like that who was as interested in craft things as I am. Jenny & Nicole have spent the year trying not to add to their yarn stash, with varying degrees of success. Much more on topic about knitting than Lime 'n Violet.

Sticks and String - A podcast by an Australian bloke who knits. Nuff said.

If you listen to a podcast that you think I might like - leave me a comment! My kitchen will thank you.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Feeling a bit more christmas-y...

We've just come back from ds's school Christmas Service, held in the evening in a traditional English stone parish church, in a fairly posh neighbourhood near his school (nowhere near our house I hasten to add). Ds attends a fairly prestigious and traditional English boy's school, so there was a strong boys choir, a small brass ensemble and two organ scholars taking turns playing the massive church pipe organ. So the rafters were rattling as we barrelled through songs like O Come All Ye Faithful, Hark the Herald Angels Sing and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Very Christmassy and all rather posh (we are definitely not posh, so this was a treat for us).

After brooding over the work stuff for a few days (to the point where I had to make an emergency visit to the chiropractor today because my shoulder muscles were knotted so painfully), I have sent a formal note to my boss pointing out that retrospectively lowering my performance rating for 2007, when I was given no warning during the year, does not seem fair and reasonable, and asking for a response. This could be the opening correspondence of a formal grievance procedure, but it is likely not worth it as they will do what they want anyway. But at least I am not rolling over without a whimper.

I was actually off work today anyway as I had my consult with the plastic surgeon in the morning. He explained what he is going to have to do to remove the cancer on my nose, and it will be a day patient procedure with two weeks recommended off work (Yay!). We agreed to wait until after Christmas so it will likely be in January. It doesn't sound fun, apparently work on the nose is very tricky anyway, and my spot is rather large and the cancer may go down fairly deep into the tissues. He will cut some skin from near my ear to graft over the hole, and he said that the result might look a somewhat different contour from the other side of the nose. He also went into all the possible risks and bad things that could happen - yuk, let's hope I am lucky. Best case scenario is that after 2 to 3 months it will be fairly unobtrusive under makeup, so that would be good. Luckily, I am not very vain about my looks (but I am a little vain... aren't we all?).

Monday, 10 December 2007

Work sucks...

I had my year-end appraisal today, which was so demotivating that I ended up coming home after lunch and going to bed for a while. My boss basically said that I am doing a great job, which she is really pleased about, but she doesn't think it is a four-day-a-week job any more, so from 1 August it will go down to a three day a week job. And because she doesn't feel that I am currently as busy as people with more pressured jobs, she is lowering my performance rating (even though I am doing an excellent job) which means that I will get less money when our bonus is paid in the spring. So basically my company is saying "we're really pleased with the great job you are doing, but by the way, we're cutting your salary". The reduction in days per week isn't a big surprise, as it has been raised before but as recently as July she was still happy for me to work four days. It is the whole performance rating thing which is just a kick in the teeth. It just makes me feel really unappreciated and like I want to quit, but unfortunately that would be financial suicide. Also I need the health insurance to pay for this surgery on my nose. Merry Christmas to me from the company...

I put the borders on the Baltimore Album top (made up from left over pre-printed blocks from the duvet cover I made a while ago). I was pleased that the border worked out as well as it did - since this twin-size top is rectangular, I thought I might have to get real creative to have the corners of the pre-print border stripe meet up properly, but as it turned out, they were ok. I will quilt this next time I have my quilting frame together, and probably offer it to an elderly house-bound woman that I visit each month - she might like it for her bed.

I also finished the Boogie knitted slipover. It isn't the best knitting job, but it is warm and cosy. I changed the neck to a V-neck (the pattern looks like it is a v-neck in the pattern photo, but actually it is a slit neck like a caftan) by decreasing up the sides of the cable.

I am currently working with some Kaffe Fasset stripe material that I bought a while ago - can you guess what I am going to make from it?

Thursday, 6 December 2007

What am I up to?

I feel like a bad blogger because I used to manage two posts a week, and lately it has only been one, so my apologies for that. There are a number of reasons: I've been busy at work; I'm spending a lot of free time either knitting or working on my big dollshouse that I'm building; and I haven't been feeling 100% well for a while as I have developed an allergic rhinitis for no apparent reason which makes me feel like I have a slight cold all the time. Coupled with my fading eyesight and hearing, and my nose cancer (appointment with the plastic surgeon next week), it all makes me feel like I am crumbling into a middle-aged crock at 46 years old. I can't remember the last time I woke up in the morning feeling refreshed and full of energy, but then my memory isn't what it used to be either... :)

Anyway, enough moaning about my minor health niggles. Now that it is getting colder here in the UK, I have put aside my sock to work on a sleeveless pullover to wear around the house. I had a bunch of RY Cashsoft DK that I got half-price when our local craft shop said they were going out of business (they didn't) and I am double stranding that to knit a bulky pattern called Boogie from My new favourite thing to do is to curl up under a frayed-edge flannel quilt in the corner of our L-shaped sofa, with my knitting and preferably a nice drink, and watch something good on tv. I've got the back done, and am half-way up the front. This is the first time I have knit with double strands of anything, and I don't like it as much, the knitting looks a bit uneven but hopefully that will block out. But this is only to wear around the house, so it doesn't have to be perfect, just cosy.

I feel slightly ashamed of my hissy fit over the mystery quilt last week. Once I calmed down about it, I unpicked (in front of the tv) and resewed the borders. I think what had happened is that I had the left and right portions of that colourway, sewn onto the opposite border than where it belonged, if that makes any sense. Surprisingly (considering two of the fabrics have rosebuds on them) dh announced, after studying it on the wall for a while, that he quite likes it - he likes the graphic quality of it. So I guess when it gets quilted that he can have it. His old TV quilt (we all have at least one) was a Trip Round the World which is getting a bit worn out so maybe that can be his new tv quilt (and I will try hard not to tell him that he and his rosebuds look sweet together...).

I was surprised to get a 'letter' (a leaflet really, it wasn't personalised or dated) in today's post, from the Tom Bishop dollshouse show in Chicago in April. The leaflet announces that they have moved the show from the hotel where it normally is, due to renovations, to a completely different hotel, so we should all cancel our hotel arrangements and rebook at the new hotel. Luckily I was able to get a room at the new hotel, even though I probably got the leaflet later than American visitors, but it all seems rather casual and rather like shoving the inconvenience on down the line to us visitors. Makes me wonder if the traders (who must have made their advance plans as well) received any better treatment. I've just checked again and there isn't one word of apology in the letter, an interesting way of treating customers.

Christmas is coming, as I'm sure you all know. Last night was our town christmas celebration which was surprisingly well attended. We are basically a suburb of London, with a small neglected high street of shops (and several vacant), living in the shadow of the bigger town three miles down the road which has all the malls and restaurants etc. However, our town does put up a big christmas tree, and last night was 'Carols Around the Christmas Tree' put on by the Rotary Club, with a small amateur brass band from the Salvation Army. There must have been about 100 people there which is surprising, lots of families too, and Santa came too in a decorated convertible car. I went along (ds refused to come, at almost 13 years old he is too much above attending such tedious events with his embarassing mother) and sang a few carols. Then I checked out the Christmas fair, which was well attended but consisted almost entirely of local charities and good causes (churches, scouts, etc.) trying to make money, stall after stall of tombolas, raffles, throw the hoop over the wine bottle etc. I strolled around but tried not to make eye contact with any of the hopeful 'salespeople' all calling out "five tickets for a pound", although I did donate to the cancer charity that was being sponsored. I picked up a bag of cotton candy and brought it home to an appreciative dh, although of course I had to sample the goods on the way home.

Looking ahead to the holidays, I am wondering what my holiday sewing project is going to be. I always enjoy sewing on something festive to get into the christmas spirit. I have a pattern called 'Let it Snow' with lots of appliqued snowmen on it which I could work on, or there is the vintage log cabin which has all the strips cut out now. I suppose really I should be concentrating on finishing the dollshouse to get it off the dining table, but I think the family are all resigned to the fact now that it isn't going to happen. Luckily we don't have anyone coming over for christmas, and in fact my ambition is to do as little as possible on christmas day this year. I had a bit of an epiphany last year, after five hours in the kitchen, that I wasn't really enjoying myself, so this year I am aiming to misbehave... We will go down to the in-laws on Boxing Day.

Hope you are looking forward to a good holiday, and are feeling in control of whatever preparations you have in hand.

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