Saturday, 27 December 2008


Christmas Dinner Part Deux and Part Trois have finally finished off the leftovers. About 50% of our gifts this year were edible, so the house is still littered with boxes of chocolate, bags of toffee, not to mention the cookies and fudge I made, mince pies etc. I feel like I've been full for three days straight. I suppose if I had any willpower, I would put it all away (ha, ha, ha, ha, ha...)

Christmas Day actually went off very well. I had one bad moment when I was trying to orchestrate the seven or so components of christmas dinner to all be hot and cooked at the same time, then served up. I'm only used to cooking for 3 people, so cooking for 7 is a struggle. All the timings I have memorised (e.g. the steamer cooks carrots for 3 people in about 20 minutes) no longer apply (rock hard carrots for 7 after 30 minutes) so it was all a bit stressful. I am not a natural hostess. My idea of a relaxing and enjoyable guest visit is one or two people staying for a defined period no longer than two hours, doing some shared activity like dollshousing, and requiring only tea and biscuits/cookies. My m-i-l helped, and also carved the turkey, something else that I have no aptitude for. My family are well used to getting mangled and thick chunks of meat on their plate. Anyhow, it all tasted good and people enjoyed themselves. My sister-i-l brought musical crackers with eight whistles and a conductor's baton, so we formed an orchestra conducted by DS. Let's just say we won't be giving up our day jobs.

I got some nice presents, but once again because I had bought them myself and others paid for them. I struggle with this, as I know presents are supposed to be a 'surprise', but surprises usually turn out to be things I don't want, like boxes of chocolate or bottles of scented bath lotion. Despite having a kazillion hobbies, people say I am hard to buy for. This way I get things I actually want, and they tend to be things others would have trouble buying anyway unless I told them specifically what website to go to etc. I got an Elizabeth Zimmerman DVD (Knitting Glossary), a 1/24th scale kitchen kit to go with my Miss Lydia Pickett kits together with some 1/24th metal kitchen accessories, and vouchers from my DH entitling me to chauffeured trips to a number of my favorite destinations plus some free passes to go to the cinema once a month. Also some books, gift vouchers and a new small cutting board to take to sewing club (my old one is about 15 years old and hard as a rock). I hope all of you had a good day as well.

The night of Christmas Day I poured a glass of wine and logged onto #Quiltchat, where a number of ladies were taking refuge from their holiday. It's funny because my christmas was almost over, whereas the Americans were just starting theirs, and there weren't any ozzies on the channel because their christmas was finished and they were asleep. I'm very impressed reading about all the christmas gift sewing that went on, on other people's blogs. I didn't do any gift making for this christmas, although I did give a few dollshouse hats I had made some months ago, to my friend Eileen.

I did the Boxing Day sales in the little town near to us, yesterday and today, but there wasn't that much on sale. I think there were so many sales leading up to Christmas Day as retailers struggled to survive, that there isn't much left over to put on sale now. I was hoping to get another Knitting page-a-day calendar at half price like I did last year, but couldn't find one anywhere.

I have been doing lots of knitting on my Bianca's Jacket in Rowan Summer Tweed and today I cast off the neckline of the yoke which holds all the pieces together. This meant that I could try it on, the first time it has looked like a garment instead of like a pile of knitting gathered onto a circular needle. I'm really pleased with it, although it needs blocking. Now I am seaming the sleeves, then I need to knit a few rows of edging including button loops all around the fronts/bottom, then it will be done! I've got to the toe shaping on Swooze's second sock, so they are nearly done also. I had started knitting my husband a tie, but it has come out far too wide so I will have to start over again with fewer stitches. So it must be time to start a new project ( or go back to a UFO) since I am nearly finished all the ones I've been working on for the last little while.

I've got the quilting frame set up in my bedroom, and am on quilt number two. Quilt number one was just simple meandering and re-learning how to use the frame. It came out ok. Quilt number two I am doing a simple panto in horizontal rows. It feels like it is taking forever because the panto is only 2.5" high so I am finding it really tedious. I could go a bit bigger, maybe 3" or 3.25" but I have to be careful because once I am getting near the end of the quilt, the roll under the arm really reduces my amount of quilting space even though my Janome has a 9 inch throat. How I wish I had a short-arm, or even better, a long arm. Still buying those lottery tickets... I'm going to have a lot of binding to sew on once I get these six tops done. Quilt number two is for a work colleague (one that I like) so I will probably try to get it bound next week.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Home at last

Huge sigh of relief as I am now at home for two weeks, mostly working from home but I am taking off the two days before Christmas. It was all happening the last week at work, as pressures and frustrations came to a head. A catalogue of mixed messages and miscommunications culminated in a sudden announcement that I was expected to go on a two-night business trip in early February, despite the fact that I have been booked to take a major holiday the following weeks since before joining my new job. My refusal to travel sparked a meeting with my supervisor and my team leader, where my pointing out that I could have told them that was a bad week for me anytime over the last eight months had they bothered to ask me, led into what was virtually a shouting match between me and my supervisor over all our problems, with the team leader trying ineffectually to mediate. Curiously enough, I felt immensely better after pouring it all out, so I was able to survive my end-year performance appraisal the next day with equanimity. My team leader is promising a fresh start in new year, with better communication, clearer roles and structures, so we shall see. I am feeling very stressed by it all, and particularly from the move into a sardine can call centre open plan environment which is constantly noisy and has no privacy at all. I am very introverted and just loathe the constant exposure to people, noise, phones ringing, cells going off, interruptions etc. which has not helped my ability to cope with my new role.

Anyway. So I have two weeks at home now and the future looks slightly brighter. It sure isn't a good time to go looking for a new job.

So what have I been doing? After reading about handmade circular knitting holders by Sarah Kincheloe in the latest issue of Knitty, I felt inspired to tackle my longstanding issues with my Denise organiser needles. Denise interchangeable needles come neatly packed into a non-latching plastic case which holds everything brilliantly until the first time you take something out. After that I found it hard to get the cables back into place, things
were falling out of the case, and there was nowhere to store the

spare accessories. I have looked at the new Denise plastic case, but it is very expensive here in the UK and needle sizes aren't labelled. So I made this combined holder for my Denise needles and for my circular needles, and I can label the pockets. I'm sure Sarah's are much nicer than mine, but this does the job. I have a few spare pockets but if I get many more circs, I may need to make another one. I modelled it on Sarah's, and it folds into four and latches with velcro.

I finally finished the last of the backs for my six tops, so yesterday I spent a long time setting up my table top quilting frame again. I haven't used it since setting it up for the first time last Christmas, so the first big job was just to locate all the pieces from where I had squirreled them away around the house and attic. I spent at least 45 minutes looking for the wooden supports that I thought I had put under the runners until I eventually realised that I hadn't actually had any last christmas, but had meant to buy some for next time. Isn't getting older wonderful? This time, as I assembled things, I wrote little labels on them (back roller, this faces front etc.) so hopefully it won't be such a learning curve next time. The huge improvement this time around is that I bought the Grace speed control that fits on the handlebars, so I don't have to put up with the improvised foot pedal arrangement I was using last time. It is much better and for the first time the set-up feels a bit like those I have tried out at shows. I loaded a test sandwich and practiced a bit and fiddled with the tension, and now I have loaded my first top.

I am starting with one that I know I am going to give away, the New Year's mystery quilt from last year, and just trying out meandering to begin with. I know a big problem I had last time was the limited throat space (2-6" as the quilt roll enlarges) and I struggled to find quilting designs to use. It still surprises me that with all these tabletop frames that Grace, Hinderburg and others are selling, that someone hasn't written a book on how to quilt horizontal design bands of 4" width that still look good. I bought a few long-arm quilting books but although I got a few tips out of them, it is mostly just frustrating because of all the stuff I can't do. Still, things are going well, tension isn't too bad, and I feel good that I am finally tackling my quilt top collection.

I hope that, if you are celebrating, that you are in a good place with all your preparations, and are looking forward to an enjoyable holiday. Merry Christmas to all my readers, hope Santa brings you all your crafty desires, plus lots of time to craft in. Oh, and the good news is that I got my sock pattern back, the girl sitting next to me at the xmas party had it, and gave it back to me Thursday night. So Swooze will get two matching socks after all.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas (except at work)

Christmas is now taking shape, the tree is up, the decorations are up, I've done my cards (which always seems to be a huge job) and the long job of shovelling out the house to prepare for the Christmas Day guests has begun. I had to completely rearrange our living room to fit the tree in, since as usual it looks about a third bigger now that it's home, than it did in the lot. Therefore the xmas tree skirt I just made, which I worried was too big, in fact just peeps out all the way around. Dh actually decorated the tree this year, and it looks really nice. I did the rest of the house (we have quite a few decorations). Found another dead string of lights that I couldn't get working despite trying every single bulb with a replacement. That makes three dead strings this year that we can't get to work at all. I guess they don't last forever.

So the house looks very christmassy now, unlike the office. I took in one strand of tinsel and pinned it around 'my' area of the divider between our sardine banks of desks, and that tinsel is the only decoration on our whole office floor of 70 people that I've seen. I asked one of the secretaries and she says they are always a miserable bunch at Christmas. Work is really getting me down again, I have been feeling quite depressed about it lately and it is very hard to go in some days. I have my end year appraisal on Thursday which will be a joke I am sure. Thank god I get to work from home for two weeks over christmas (and two days of that is holiday) so it will be a break to regain my mental health I hope.

On a better note, I had a very good time at the I-Knit knitting shop Christmas party this week. In fact, too good a time as somewhere along the glasses of wine I lost the pattern for the socks I am knitting for Swooze. I've finished the first sock, and am halfway through the second, but no pattern when I got home. I phoned the shop twice but they haven't seen it, they said it might have gotten thrown out. I'm hoping someone picked it up and will give it back to me on Thursday night. It is the free Regia sock pattern but I think it is the older version, as I have another newer leaflet that has all the sizes in a table on the last page, which has a completely different heel/gusset/toe than the one I was knitting from. My pattern had the pattern written out in words, for 4-ply yarn in one half, and 6-ply yarn on the second half of the leaflet. Swooze may have one warm foot and one cold foot at this rate. We were very crowded at the shop, about 40 people squeezed in, so my knitting fell off my lap several times, and I guess on one of those times the pattern fell out of the bag. Guess I'm lucky i still have the sock and needles... We all brought a wrapped gift and put it in a tub, and were given someone else's gift back. I got a lovely pair of wrist warmers, in sock wool, very warm indeed, and fit great as they are in 4x4 rib so very snug, and some perfume and lotion. I wore the wrist warmers on a shopping expedition today, and they kept me toasty warm.

I finished the Advent Calendar panel, and it is now in use. I highlighted all the ornaments with glitter glue for a subtle sheen, they are really cute. And I finished the scarf I was knitting in the rest of my Plymouth Baby Alpaca Grand Paint yarn, it is long enough to tie around my neck twice and lovely and warm. I did a crochet trim on both ends.

And tonight I had the fun of attending the #Quiltchat stocking opening, where I opened a huge box of goodies from Sarkarnor. It was supposed to be a maximum spend of $20 (which will buy you about one yard of fabric here in the UK) but it is obvious that most people spent way more than that. My box was stuffed with lovely things. I got a nice postcard of her home town, and a big heavy parcel all wrapped in fabric containing: 3 cute FQs of ‘keep on quilting’, a lovely ‘Village Angel’ fabric panel to make up, more fabric wrapping up marking pencils and blunt tip scissors, even MORE fabric in a great patriotic heart/log cabin pattern, wrapping up a pattern for an “Eco Market Tote” and a lovely little journal, a handmade blue& red stocking heavily stuffed with: chocolate, directional pins (I need those), a thread clipper, a rotary case, and more chocolate! TY, TY, TY, TY this is probably the best present I will get this year, lol.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Christmas: am I getting old?

We bought our christmas tree today, but it is staying outside with a drink of water in a bucket until DS's birthday has passed. I had read in the paper that trees would be up to 50% more expensive this year, but the tree farm we go to seemed to have the same prices as last year. We didn't get quite as big a tree this year, as we found quite a nice one that is about six or seven feet high (depending on where we cut the tallest orphan branch reaching for the sky). We also got the exterior lights out of the attic and tried to put them up. I say tried because the first string had a few burnt out bulbs, and when we tried to replace them, half the string went out and refused to come back on. After burning out several more bulbs, we gave up and that string went in the bin. The other much longer string of very small modern lights (LEDs maybe?) also has several sections of dead lights. So then we started driving around garden centres trying to find spare bulbs. The first garden centre, noted for its christmas decoration section, was so full that there was actually a traffic jam in the car park, so we gave up on that one. The second garden centre did not have spare bulbs. Neither did the third one. We tried a hardware store: closed on Sundays. By this time on a Sunday afternoon, everything was shutting so we had to give up. DH is going to try on his lunch hour tomorrow. Meanwhile we have one measly string of lights up outside which is only intermittently lit up in sections. Ho ho ho...

I have been aghast to find myself having the occasional passing thought this year about how much work it is to put up all the christmas decorations. We have rather a lot, as I am something of a christmas decoration junkie and have been known to buy them in July if I find one of those 'Christmas all year' shops on holiday. Aghast because I love Christmas, and also because that is what old people say. It's a slippery slope, first middle aged people buy an artificial tree, then after a few years of boasting about how easy it is to get it out of its box and put it up in minutes, they decide they are going to cut down on how many cards they send, then they stop sending cards altogether, then they start saying "oh, it's hardly worth putting up the decorations, it's just us" and pretty soon they are having christmas dinner in a restaurant and it is all downhill from there. I'm too young!! Somehow I seem to bear the brunt, sorry, have all the joy of putting up most of the decorations every year and of course taking them all down and packing them away for next year. Last year I finally caved on the whole Christmas dinner thing, and bought most of it pre-prepared from Marks and Spencers. It was so much nicer to put dinner on the table in about two hours instead of six+veg prep, it made for a much more enjoyable christmas spent mostly in the living room instead of the kitchen. Usually by the time I have cooked it all, I don't want to eat it anyway (and that would have nothing to do with all the chocolate and candycanes I have been nibbling since waking up).

Anyway, DH wants me to blog his scarf. About a month ago, DH suddenly announced that he wanted a scarf like the one I knit from Noro Silk Garden. I naturally suggested he knit one himself, never expecting him to do it. He looked at himself in the mirror for while, wearing my scarf, and said 'ok'. I stayed very low key, and got some needles and some yarn and started teaching him continental knitting, not expecting very much. He wanted to learn to cast on first, so the first two or three lessons were how to do a long-tail cast on, and he did lots of practicing in various yarn weights. He refused to go any further until he had mastered the cast-on. So then I suggested we go to the yarn store and get him some Noro Silk Garden, and he picked out a colourway he liked. Then we progressed to the knit stitch, and much more practicing. I've never taught anyone to knit before, and his fingers are not very nimble, so it was slow going. To be perfectly honest, I expected him to give up, but I kept coming in to the living room at night and finding him doggedly practicing. The hardest thing for him was to tension the yarn, as he seems to be completely unable to press two fingers together with any sideways pressure. Perhaps it's like Spock's vulcan gesture, and some people just can't do it. Finally he felt ready to try the purl stitch, which I found the hardest thing to learn in continental style knitting. He got it, and was doing lots of practicing (3 or 4 inches on c. 35 stitches in various yarn weights) when I discovered that he was twisting all his purl stitches as he had got into a bad habit with the yarn wrapping. So we sorted that out and at long last he felt ready to cast on for his scarf using my simple pattern (written out in the original post). After that, it went along quite quickly and 10 days later I was teaching him to cast off, and here is a pic of the end result. He has worn it proudly to work several times and even come out of the knitting closet to his mother. Throughout the process he told me several times "this doesn't make me a knitter", "I'm not a knitter, I just want this scarf" etc. Now that it is finished though, he is feeling a little bereft and making small noises about doing another, longer scarf. I will tell you though, it is slightly surreal to call your husband and to hear the answer from the living room "just a minute, I've just got to finish this row...".

Here is a pic of the finished Noro Kureyon gloves, with replacement finger on the right hand. It's a bit too cold to wear just light gloves at the moment, so I will look forward to wearing them in the spring. They have a nice long cuff that will tuck right inside my coat sleeve and all the fingers fit really well as they are custom sized to my hand. Now I am zooming along on the socks I am knitting for my friend Swooze. I've almost finished the first one, and have already cast on for the second one and am just finishing the ribbing cuff. I've also finished the second sleeve on Bianca's Jacket in Rowan Summer Tweed and tonight put all the pieces onto one long circular needle so I can start knitting the lace yoke.

I went to two dollshouse fairs this weekend. I had a brief hour at the new London Kensington christmas show, as I couldn't get there until late yesterday. Apparently it was a very successul fair and the traders are happy, so presumably it might be back next year. It looked just like a normal London Kensington fair, although perhaps a few less traders in the main hall? Not sure. I didn't buy much there, just some vegetable displays for my Rik Pierce house kitchen. Today I went to my local show at Kempton Park racecourse. It's a very friendly fair, mostly stuff at the lower end of the market, and I picked up a few more things for the Rik Pierce house plus some very reasonably priced knitted garments for my knitting shop. I was looking at both fairs for an occupant to live in the Rik Pierce house, some kind of gamekeeper or fisherman, but didn't see anything I liked. It is a difficult house, a bit too fantasy for a realistic doll, yet I don't want to go completely fantasy and make it a wizard's cottage or anything. Oh, the really cool things I got were a realistic duck which I am going to glue to the 'river' and two small frogs to put in the reeds.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Christmas in November

Yesterday was the last meeting of my Saturday sewing club for the year, so we celebrated an early Christmas and it was really nice. I wore my knitted christmas waistcoat and christmas earrings, and collected all the Secret Santa gifts in a big Santa bag. We had a christmas tablecloth for our potluck lunch and I gave wrapped gifts to my two helpers who make it all possible every month. The group surprised me with a lovely thank you present they had all chipped in for, which was a pack of snowflake themed blue FQs, a book on hand knitting and some cash. My Secret Santa gift was a great printed panel Advent Calendar, which I really like, but I don't think I am going to make it up in time for tomorrow!

I snapped a photo of my Noro gloves with the pink finger, but this weekend I have cut off the pink finger (not with my hand inside) and reknit a blue finger so it looks a lot more like a matching pair of gloves. Now I just need to sew in the loose ends and they will be done. You can see in this picture how much the colour repeat varied. The gloves are virtually identical up to where the dark blue starts just above the thumb, then the first glove immediately went into a lot of brighter colours, while the second glove stayed dark blue for almost all the fingers.

Meanwhile the sock I took on the TBH has become my Portable Project. I took it along to a knitting evening on Thursday and got several more inches knit, and this weekend when we went down to visit the Christmas market in Bath, I turned the heel. I actually turned the heel twice, because the first time I had an odd number of stitches left over and realised that I had counted wrong on the first row. This is what happens when you try to turn a heel while simultaneously reading a magazine, watching the hotel tv and talking to your family. This is in Regia sock yarn and I am trying their generic sock pattern on the free leaflet. It is actually quite relaxing to just knit, without having to stop for thumbs and fingers like on the gloves. If Swooze likes the colours then perhaps she would like to have this pair when it's done :) . I tried a new-to- me cast on for these socks which I really like. You take a really long tail, do a long tail cast on around two needles held next to each other, then knit the first row with both strands of yarn. The result is a very stretchy, and yet nicely firm, edge to the top of the ribbing.

I finished stitching down the very wide binding on my xmas tree skirt. I purposely made it wide so that it acts as a final border, but it is now waving a bit as it isn't very stable. I may stitch all the way around 1/4 inch from the edge to stabilise the outer edge more. I took it to Show and Tell on Saturday and people quite liked it.

Friday night I took part in an online workshop with Jane Harrop, organised by the Stay at Home Miniaturists Group to make this leather armchair and side table. The instructions were excellent as always and I am hoping this will look good in my Rik Pierce house. The leather was really fine and soft and quite good to work with. This is 1/12th scale. You could also make a box of xmas decorations but I didn't buy that kit as it wouldn't fit in my RP house.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Back to normal...

I've just enjoyed a wonderful three days at home (I worked at home on Friday). Thursday night when I got home, I was so exhausted from the ordeal that I fell into bed at 9 p.m. Friday morning I wasn't really much better, and didn't really get going until about 10:30 a.m. But we've had a lovely weekend - the weather has been terrible with driving sleet and rain, so we have snuggled indoors all weekend and I've done lots of sewing. Today I even baked, something I rarely do: I made three different types of cookie and a coffee cake - once I had everything out, it just seemed easy to keep going. My family is thrilled, needless to say.

I finished this kit, called the Seamstress' Companion by Lisa's Little Things, which has gone into my quilting shop as a decorative display. It was rather fiddly as there are a lot of components, but I am really pleased with how it has turned out. I started it last Sunday when I had the house to myself, and finished it this weekend.

I've almost finished my xmas tree skirt. Here are some closeups of the Santa and reindeer, you can see the reins that link all the reindeer together, and the deer now have antlers, eyes, buttons on their harness etc. At the moment I am sewing down the binding, will take another pic when it is all done.

I've finished my Noro gloves but the second glove came out a different colour in the fingers than the first glove, which means the colourway in Noro Kureyon does not repeat exactly. The cuffs and palms are the same, but the first glove changed to several bright colours for the fingers whereas the second glove did not. So I think I might undo one of the first glove's fingers and re-knit it, because it is a bright pink and looks odd, like I dipped that finger in paint.

My Saturday sewing club is this coming weekend, so I made two more sample BOM blocks. We're almost finished now, just one more block to do in January. One lady is doing the whole top in just black and white, it looks fantastic.

I am hoping to set up my tabletop quilting frame in December and tackle my mound of tops. I got them all out and piled them up for this pic, then went through them. Some of them are too big for my frame, which only takes a single, but I think there are six that I can quilt on the frame. So I started pulling stash for the backs, this is going to use up a lot of stash in one swell foop. I also have the FQs that I pieced together several months ago when I had that big clearout, so I will make two backs out of those, and the rest of the backs are large pieces that I had in my stash. I bought a handlebar speed control so I won't have to improvise with my foot pedal tied to the handles anymore, which should be a big improvement. I haven't used the frame since last Christmas, so hopefully I will be able to get back up to speed on it.

Back to work tomorrow, sigh... I need to buy more lottery tickets.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

TBH Day 3: I survived, no handcuffs

I'm now waiting for a taxi which is coming in an hour to take a colleague to the airport, and I am sharing her cab as I live near the airport. WE'VE FINISHED!!!!!!!!!!!!! What a complete waste of three days of my life. However, I am proud to say I did not kill anyone, I am not leaving in handcuffs, I did not even lose my temper. I can't say that I distinguished myself professionally in any way, but I did not disgrace myself with any unseemly behaviour and was even able to be civil to our RAP (really annoying person). So I have done slightly better than our secretary, whose frustration began to vent onto the person of the facilitator, to the point where the secretary had to leave the room in the last half hour when the facilitator was trying to 'shush' the secretary as she took flipcharts down off the wall. Otherwise I think there might have been some bloodshed. The facilitator is rather annoying. She tried to sneak up on me when I was writing a letter to a friend during the morning's presentation because I am pretty sure she suspected me of not paying attention and wanted to expose me. It was a bit like a science fiction film, to begin with she was about 8 feet behind me, then next time I looked she was sitting at the end of my table, then I happened to glance up and she had moved her chair right up behind mine. I casually put down my agenda on top of my letter, leaving her frustrated I'm sure. Then later when she was distracted I put my letter in my purse.

Today was even more of a waste of time as most people had lost energy and were just sleepwalking through the day. Today was supposed to be all about planning our activities for the coming year. Not only was it a bad move to schedule this for day 3 when we are all zombies, but the time being given for the task was ludicrously short. Our breakout groups were supposed to come up with a year's plan in only one hour for each topic. Plus it became blatantly obvious that our ineffectual team leader has her own agenda as she kept popping into our syndicate rooms to give us strong steers in her preferred direction. Which is even more demotivating because you don't feel your output will go anywhere. Her favourite habit is to say, with warm sincerity: "that's a really good idea" and beam at you. I used to feel good about this response when I first joined, until I realised that it is her way of ignoring the idea. In fact, I was keeping count for a while today of the number of times she used the expression without writing down the idea or recording it in any way. Then I got into double figures and got bored. Perhaps she has a photographic memory but based on my observances, I would say not. It comes down to this in the end, that it doesn't matter how much brainstorming we do on being more efficient, higher performing, blah blah blah - if the leadership is not changing, then nothing changes. In fact, about my only takeaway from the endurance fest of the last three days is to discover that a few other (more senior) team members aren't too happy either with how our team operates. However, they are much more professional than me at playing the game.

So, dear readers, I apologise for putting you through TBH with me the last few days, but it has really helped me cope to know that you were here with me in spirit (or at least laughing at what I was going through) - thank you for your emails and comments of support.

Update on TBH Day 2: the dinner

Some of you may be wondering if I am making all this up, just to be funny. Sadly I am not.

Last night we congregated in the lobby , with much straggling, and fit into three taxis plus one person following in their car, to go out to a nearby pub for our second team dinner. It seemed a longer drive that I was expecting, and as my taxi (the second) drove away, the occupants of the first taxi came rushing back out of the pub calling to it to wait. (it didn't) Apparently the taxis were delivering us to The Swan pub in the wrong village. (Swan is a common pub name).

After a bit of finger pointing (I'm still not sure who gave the taxi firm the wrong address, whether it was our hapless secretary, the inefficient hotel, or our facilitator), our token male member phoned the taxi firm to explain the mistake. Now, this is the same grumpy taxi firm that we suffered with the first night. He got an ear full of abuse, saying it was our fault for giving them the wrong address, and they hung up on him without actually committing to sending a new taxi. Meanwhile the third taxi arrived, and having had the problem explained to them, drove off just as I pointed out that a fourth person could have gone into that taxi. So we all stood around in the cold for a while, I went into the pub to get warm and to call my husband to share the joke. The poor secretary hadn't brought the phone number of the pub we were supposed to be going to (I think she has learned a few hard lessons about organising an away day) so she felt really bad. After about 15 minutes, a cab did arrive, and we managed to cram into that and into the car of the woman who was driving herself. We finally arrived at the right pub about a half hour late, and starving. Dinner itself was fine (I am eating far too much these few days) then we called a cab to get back to the hotel. Again it was the grumpy taxi firm (they must run the only taxi firm in the area, and therefore get away with being as rude as they like) and when we asked the driver to pause briefly so that the woman colleague driving herself and others, could get her doors closed and pull out to follow us back to the hotel, we got a surly reply to the effect that he had other calls to go to that night, didn't he. He refused to stop, and only grudgingly pulled in to the side of the road after we were all protesting loudly, then he sulked all the way back to the hotel. Charming behaviour.

One last day to get through, and then I'm FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!! (until Monday anyway,...)

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

TBH Day two

Things to do to pass the time in meetings, meanwhile maintaining an expression of rapt attention

  • mental review of all current craft projects, with much mental fondling
  • pelvic floor exercises
  • try not to worry about DVT because of sitting too long with legs crossed
  • time the sunbeam as it tracks from one carpet square to the next, calculate how many carpet squares to traverse before the lunch break
  • mental knitting: amazingly satisfying, accompany with subtle finger twitching
  • experiment with eyes-open meditation: success if you can manage to miss at least two Powerpoint slides without losing expression of intent professional interest
  • inspect shoes and surreptiously remove dirt
  • inspect fingernails, ditto
  • check if team secretary is still awake
  • spin quietly back and forth on swivel chair
  • ever so casually adjust watch on wrist, so that later you can glance down to check time
  • regularly check agenda just in case it has miraculously shrunk and lunchtime is closer than you realised
  • occasionally nod as if the speaker is really profound
  • look longingly through narrow glass window in door, at the real world where lucky people have freedom of movement and don't have to look at Powerpoint slides
  • inspect colleagues and try to guess if their expressions of intent interest are in fact sincere
  • feel guilty and amazed at how much money you are earning to sit here on your butt accomplishing precisely zero, compared to people who have real jobs and work really hard, like teachers and police officers.
  • catch the media relations manager taking a long sniff of an uncapped marker pen. Begin to wonder about substance abuse. Resolve to check manager's nose over lunch as it looks like she has accidentally painted her nose with a fluorescent pink dry wipe marker
  • wonder at the lack of self awareness in people, who put points on flipcharts like "stop wasting time in team meetings" when they are the worst offenders

We got off to a 'great' start this morning [irony]. After a session where we were all supposed to call out what we got out of yesterday's session (luckily nobody asked me what I thought of it), we were then asked to each label a flipchart with our name (no anonymity) and put down what we hoped to give over the next few days, and what we hoped to take away. Since my answers would be 'nothing' and 'my sanity', I was a bit stumped, but it was all too much for our poor secretary who burst into tears and fled the room. I felt really bad for her, she is even more bored than I am and it is even less relevant for her, plus she doesnt have my years of experience at pretending to be paying attention during long presentations. She was coaxed back in with much expression of inclusiveness and team spirit, but I don't see that this was an improvement for her as then she had to sit through the rest of the day. She should have kept running...

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Teambuilding Hell Day One

I'm writing this with my knees crammed up against my rickety hotel door, because that is the only location in my room where the free hotel wireless signal is strong enough (29%). Predictably, instead of being housed in the main Edwardian country house part of the hotel, we are in a sort of motel annex across two car poorly lit car parks, and my room is down so many corridors and fire doors that I was tempted to lay a trail of breadcrumbs. I survived our afternoon start session: a 3.5 hour meeting in a windowless basement room, where I amused myself by watching both the secretary who had organised the meeting, and the facilitator who had just flown back from Canada, trying to stay awake. The facilitator's alertness strategy was to frown horrendously while forcing her eyes wide open, making her look quite mad. Then there was the usual muddle of trying to get eleven people to all collect their bags, go to the bathroom, and get out of the building, where we jammed ourselves onto a subway to get to the train station,.Waiting at the station at the other end were two grumpy taxi drivers (grumpy because we were 10 minutes late) who threw our suitcases into their cars and crammed us all in somehow. Our fashion designer media affairs manager had a luxury leather designer suitcase which she didn't want to have to carry on her lap, so the driver made several attempts to get it in the back, repeatedly smashing the hatch down like it would somehow magically close, and eventually broke off her handle then didn't even apologise. At the hotel, when we found out we were being put in the motel-like annex, we stood around for another 10 minutes while our secretary objected, to no avail. So here I am - the walls are so thin that I could hear my team mate hanging up every article of clothing in her room, which doesn't bode well for watching tv later. They've all rushed off to the bar to salvage the evening before we have to meet up for a team dinner. I am planning on an hour of peace, quiet and sanity restoring knitting... In fact, by the time I had packed three lots of knitting, my little laptop for the internet, and some books, there was no room left in my suitcase for clothes so I had to snatch the next largest suitcase off my son when he got back from his school trip last night.

Update: Dinner wasn't actually too bad, some of the workaholics actually loosened up and became a little human for a while. The menu, while pedestrian, was tasty enough. Halfway through the staff announced they would move our things to new rooms if we would give them our keys. I had to say I would move myself, as I was very conscious that I had left my knitting out on my bed and i didn't want to take the chance that they might overlook a needle or something vital. So at 9:45 pm I trekked across the dark wet car parks to pack my things and trundle back to the main part of the hotel. I am now in a much bigger room with a huge bathroom. This room is far too hot (the previous one was freezing), still very noisy (luckily I brought earplugs), but has the virtue of wired internet access which I was able to stretch across to the bed so I am now typing in relative comfort. Only two more days to go... and I've started knitting the last finger of my Noro gloves.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Teambuilding Hell

I've had an orgy of crafting today, because both Ds and Dh were out of the house all day. I spent a lot of the day dollshousing, but also did some quilting on my xmas tree skirt, plus knitting in front of the tv when I felt like a break. I felt a curious sense of deja vu, and realised that this is how I used to spend my time before I had a child, when weekends were completely at my disposal to spend as I pleased. Before I turned into a catering machine, homework nag, laundry worker and events planner. When the only deadline was "when will the glue dry so I can move to the next step", rather than "I've got 35 minutes until I have to put the vegetables on..." It was rather nice to re-visit the good old days, but on the other hand the house did seem pretty quiet and by late afternoon I was feeling lonely :( .

Today was the big day, that I have been building up to for several months: I poured the resin for the 'river' in front of my Rik Pierce house. I've been dreading it, as I've never worked with resin before, and I had visions of it either draining away through some unspotted hole, to spread all over the table. Or, of it never setting, and all my hard work being mired in a lake of permanently sticky goo. I used Envirotek Lite, which is the product recommended by Rik. I don't know if you can get it in the UK, I made sure to buy some at a hobby shop in America when I was there. The directions stress how important it is that you a) mix it properly, b) have proper ventilation, and c) it has to be at least 70 degrees for it to set (which kind of contradicts point 'b'). So I got everything ready, decided to sacrifice two old drinking glasses as mixing containers, spent some time hunting for a sturdy stir stick and ended up using one of my quilting rulers (gasps of horror from all the quilters reading this, but don't worry, I wiped it clean and then wiped it again with alcohol to remove the goo). I also cranked the central heating up to 21 degrees, then opened some windows and set the kitchen timer for the 2 minutes of mixing time, then for the 20 minutes that I had to pour it.

I was so worried about getting the 'water' to flow under the dock and around the boat, that I ended up flooding the resin right out the other side when I tilted the house up to encourage the resin to flow. Lots of mopping up with paper towels, before I poured the rest of the resin onto the exposed 'river'. Luckily I had mixed lots, the whole 8 fluid oz package. The smell was pretty overpowering, and even with the windows open I was feeling a bit lightheaded by the time I was satisfied. Then came the anxious wait all day to see if it would set. I left the kitchen closed up and the heat on, so it was good and warm in there. It is now almost 9 hours later, and it does seem to be setting, it is firm now but still a bit sticky. It looks great, like real water, but I wish I had done a better job painting the floor of the river. The resin seems to magnify every little scratch or defect in the paint when you look closely.

Here are the baby booties that I knit from an Erika Knight pattern published in 'Simply Knitting' magazine, using the newly launched Sublime Baby Cashmere Merino Silk DK (75 extra fine merino, 20 silk, 5 cashmere). I have to be honest and admit that I did not enjoy either this pattern or this yarn. The pattern, which looks so simple, is like knitting origami, lots of stops and starts so you end up with several ends to sew in. You have to knit two mirror images, and it would have benefited hugely from a diagram to figure out what was going on. The yarn is extremely slippery, so much so that metal needles just fell right out of it, and made the knitting hard to hang on to when grasping the needles. The ball also fell apart. I switched to bamboo needles which was a big improvement but the yarn still felt almost slimy in the hands. The hat is from a pattern called "Grace's Lacy Star Hat" by Candace Bryant Janis, and was in my pattern a day knitting calendar for 2008. It is a great little knit, and apart from the slimy yarn, I really enjoyed it. I'm just finishing a pink hat, so I will have two sets for whatever gender presents itself, although I'm not convinced the hat will ever stay on a baby's head in this slippery yarn.

I was embarrassed to find, when I started quilting my xmas tree skirt, that I have gotten really 'pants' at it (to use a British expression). It has probably been months since I seriously quilted anything, and I have really lost the knack. I have done large stippling in the sky area, and squiggles-and-stars in the borders, but a lot of my stars look like they were drawn by a drunk.

I called this post 'teambuilding hell' because Tuesday I am obligated to attend a three day / two night teambuilding event at a hotel. I am dreading it, because there are several people on my new team that I don't like at all, and in fact one of them is incredibly annoying. Some of the others are alright, but there is absolutely nothing that we will possibly be doing that is going to make it worthwhile spending three whole days in their company. I will be lucky if I'm not leaving the hotel in the back of a squad car on Thursday. What a complete waste of time and money, not to mention imposing on my family and interrupting my crafting. I am taking lots of knitting, and hope to at least get some of that done, if I can get away with it. My husband has promised to come and visit me if I get absolutely desperate. So think of me, on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and wish me to have willpower and self control. And plenty of tolerance. I am going to be so booooooooooooooooooooooooooored.
One last review: I bought a new knitting magazine that I haven't seen before called "Verena knitting" from Burda, which claims to be Europe's top knit magazine. I've not seen it on the shelves before, and the subscription card invites people to become charter subscribers, so I assume it is fairly new. Despite the claim re Europe, it appears to be published and edited in the United States. I am disappointed with it. At first glance the high-fashion photographs make it look like a really cutting edge magazine. But when you actually look at the garments, most of them are either unflattering, unwearable in real life, or both, and there are no supplementary photographs with the patterns, despite the high fashion photographs covering up much of the essential construction detail with accessories or weird camera angles. There are a few patterns which aren't too bad, but there is something seriously strange going on with a lot of the sleeves, which appear to be far too tight even on the models' stick arms, with armpit hugging armholes. So that one is going in the recycling bin, not to my taste.
One of the podcasts I listen to has said that they have switched to Wordpress for their blog, because they got so fed up with Blogger's formatting problems. I always have problems when I add images, so I am tempted to go try out Wordpress. Any thoughts?

Sunday, 9 November 2008


Last night we went to a local fireworks display for Guy Fawkes. The weather was pretty uncertain, very rainy and gusts of wind all day, I thought it might get cancelled. But late in the afternoon the weather calmed down, and the display went ahead at 6 pm. Dh and Ds indulged in the provided sausages in buns, but I didn't risk it. The display lasted about 10 or 15 minutes, and there were probably 300 + people there cheering and oohing and ahhing. Nice autumn thing to do.

I got the borders onto my tree skirt, and the applique is all sewn down now. I've also pieced a backing for it. But before I quilt it, I think I will machine embroider the reindeer antlers, instead of doing them by hand afterwards like the pattern suggests. After quilting, I will cut out the hole for the tree, bind the entire edge, and sew on buttons and 'reins' connecting all the reindeer.

I also did some more work on my Rik Pierce house. I had bought some plastic greenery at Hobbycraft, so I pulled that apart and 'planted' a garden on both sides of the house, to make it look like it is nestled in natural surroundings. It was fun, like instant gardening, and really brings the house to life. The next step will be to pour the resin for the river in front of the house, something I am rather nervous about as I have never used resin before.

A strange thing happened at work. I was hiding in the bathroom for some peace and quiet and a bit of knitting (as you do), when someone else came in to another cubicle and proceeded to sob their heart out for five minutes. It was awful. I didn't know whether to make a noise and reveal myself, or just keep quiet and hope they didn't notice they weren't alone. I kept quiet in the end until they left. I think it might have been one of my team mates, whose fiance has broken up with her recently and wrecked her life. She is moving to another apartment soon, so when I got out of the bathroom I emailed her to ask her if she would like a quilt for her new place. I will take in some of my UFO tops on Monday to see if she likes any of them, then quilt it for her over Christmas. Thank god for being married and not having to date any more. Most of my team are significantly younger than me, and are still single, moving house frequently, travelling, wondering about going home for christmas to their parents, all that stuff that seems so long ago for me and I am grateful to be in a more settled period of my life. (touch wood...)

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Suddenly it's November

Suddenly it's November - how did that happen? I was out every night last week, including a tedious one night business trip to an industrial park in Rijswijk, Holland which used up two whole days but at least gave me lots of knitting time on my 2nd Noro glove (which now has a thumb and a little finger). I took two sets of wooden dpns for the glove and they went through security in both directions at the airport without comment. Friday I worked from home, so had time to put up the Halloween decorations and carve some pumpkins. I bagged up 40 bags of sweets, then suddenly worried that I wouldn't have enough so made a dash to Woolworth for a few more bags. In the end, we only had about 20 children come to the door, which is disappointing but at least they had all made an effort with their costumes and loved my decorations. That left me with a huge quantity of sweets, so I took all the bagged up sweets over to a friend's, who is going to take them to another friend who is having a charity sale to raise money for a hospice - she will use them for a Lucky Dip, so they are going to a good cause. Now we are looking forward to a good fireworks display for Guy Fawkes - there is a big commercial one next Saturday which we will likely go to.

The other thing I did on Friday was finish off the Paperclay shingles on my Rik Pierce house. I managed to do it from 1 3/4 bags of Paperclay, so didn't have to open my third and final pack. After letting them dry completely, on Sunday I gave them a dirty water wash, then a terracotta paint job (and boy were there a zillion nooks and crannies - I kept thinking I was finished then spotting more white bits), then touched up with 3 or 4 other colours, then applied flock in various sizes. We also had a trip to Hobbycraft today because I had some vouchers, and I picked up some artificial greenery to do the garden with.

I also made some bulrushes this weekend, using some plastic thin greenery I bought at Joanne's Fabrics in Indiana. I cut several tips for the leaves, then a bit of stem which I dipped in glue and then into brown flock for the rush. Then I glued them into a bundle. Once that was dry, I glued it into the 'river' in front of the house. When the glue dries I will touch up their surroundings with paint.

I've been knitting on Bianca's Jacket in Rowan Summer Tweed. Funnily enough, I was listening to a podcast where the speaker said she hated knitting with this yarn. I quite like it, it is soft and chenille like. You have to pull the stitches through a bit as it is not elastic, but I like the feel of it, and it knits up quite quickly. I am just casting off for the armholes now, after knitting the bottom part all in one piece. Next I have to do the sleeves, then all the pieces get picked up for a lace yoke which will be fun. When we were at Hobbycraft today I picked up several colours of DK weight yarn to try my hand at some more teddy bears from The Knitted Teddy Bear book. The bear I knit before was in a thin 4 ply and he looked a bit scrawny, so I want to try again.
Progress on the xmas tree skirt is slow. I have zigzagged over all the applique pieces now in invisible thread, and I have cut out most of the pieces for the scrap border but haven't sewn them yet.

I spent an hour and a half Saturday morning trying to reduce the pile of magazines which is threatening to swamp my desk and also the kitchen. I haven't had as much time to read them lately, and they build up quite quickly especially when I keep old ones thinking that I am going to look up some of the links on the internet. I am dropping my subscription to two of my American dollshouse mags because the exchange rate is so bad, but I can't feel too virtuous because of subscribing to Simply Knitting and Debbie Bliss Knitting at the Alexandra Palace show. What can I say, I am a magazine slut...

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Happy Hallowe'en

I will wish my readers a Happy Hallowe'en now, as Hallowe'en will have come and gone by the next time I blog. As I am out every night for the rest of the week, Dh and I are going out in a few minutes to try and track down a pumpkin (or two). We may have trouble, as apparently all the wet weather this summer has decimated the pumpkin / squash crop. Another reason we may have trouble is, as you may have heard, Hallowe'en is not very popular here in the UK. When I first came over here about 20 years ago, Hallowe'en was virtually non-existent. It has become more popular over the last 10 years, but is still a pale shadow of the American holiday. Very few shops will decorate for it, and in my neigbourhood 3 out of 5 houses will stay dark on Hallowe'en night, hoping that the kids will just leave them alone. Few kids go out to trick or treat, due to safety concerns, working parents, lack of support for the holiday, etc. I have always tried to 'keep the flame' by buying candy and decorating my house, but some years I have had as few as 3 kids. I've also had problems with teens kicking my pumpkins down the road etc., so now I keep most of my decorations inside. The last few years have been pretty good, I think we had about 40 kids last year but some of those were teenagers not even in costume. I have several times seen articles or letters in our local newspapers from church officials preaching against the 'American' and 'satanist' custom of Hallowe'en. It is viewed with much suspicion here, people don't 'get it', I guess because they didn't grow up with it. It is also a night which invites vandalism from teens, which is why many people keep their house dark and pretend they are not home. I find it sad, I wish my son could have grown up knowing how much fun the holiday can be. I did take him to visit my brother in Canada for a 'proper' Hallowe'en once, but he barely remembers that now (he was only 4). And of course now he is too old to trick or treat so I don't even get to go out with him. But I will carry on, I already have my inside decorations up, and will put up the window and porch decorations on Friday morning.

We had part of this week off, as Ds is on school holidays. On Wednesday we took / dragged (depending on your perspective) Ds to see the Red House, home of the famous William Morris the Arts and Crafts designer. Even we were daunted by the 90 minute encyclopedic guided tour which was the only way to view the house, but we learned a lot about the Arts and Craft movement (whether we wanted to or not...).

This weekend Dh and I had a mini-break up in London, as Ds had gone off to his grandparents. In fact, as we drove him down to their house, I finished my first Noro Kureyon glove. I proudly displayed the glove to my m-i-l (who knits), and my f-i-l wandering by said "what colour do you call that then?". F-i-l is obviously not a knitter. I'm pleased with it, it fits really well, and the colour changes worked out pretty well. I had to skip a couple of places in the yarn, once because I got to a big slubby bit just as I was starting a new finger, which would have distorted all around the base of the finger, and two other times where I got to a really bright orange or bright yellow bit, and I didn't think having one bright yellow finger or bright orange finger was going to work. Completely by coincidence, the last finger ended at the right place in the colour sequence to start the next glove, which is now well underway and so far looking like a good match for the first one. This yarn is a bit odd, it is 70 wool, 30 nylon and feels quite rough in the hand, but softens when you wash it. Most of it is fine, but there are some unspun slubby bits ranging from a few inches to several inches, which might not show up in a jumper so much, but of course in a glove are very obvious. Conversely there are some thin bits, including one bit that was so thin it was like sewing thread, and a little bit of plant material which I have been able to easily pick out. I am using 2.5 mm needles.

We had a great time up in London, it really is one of the greatest cities in the world and I am so lucky to live here. Our hotel was in Belsize Park, one stop before Hampstead which is a lovely leafy village type part of London full of very expensive and very old houses dating back to the 1600s in some cases. Here is a pic of one that caught my eye - imagine sitting in that bay window with a bit of needlework...

Next to the village is Hampstead Heath, a huge park/woodland full of paths and ponds and hills. We sat in the sun for a while by the pond and of course I was knitting. I knitted in several parks this visit: Green Park,Regent's Park, St. James Park, and on buses, subways, cafes and at the hotel.

We had several fabulous meals, including a wonderful Chinese meal on board this floating Chinese restaurant called Feng Shang Princess which is moored in the canal in Regent's Park. We went to a very silly musical called Eurobeat, a spoof on the Eurovision song contest, which I enjoyed. We went to the Byzantium exhibition at the Royal Academy on the day it opened. We explored the food halls at Fortnum and Mason's and bought a picnic lunch there to eat in the park. We walked by Buckingham Palace on our way to the Royal Academy. Today we explored Hampstead using a self-guided tour leaflet, and read the Sunday papers while we ate lunch in a friendly cafe. Needless to say I am feeling very fat. But also very relaxed.

And tonight, before dinner, I took advantage of Ds being away to commandeer the dining table again and start making the paperclay shingles for my Rik Pierce house. I suddenly remembered that he told us that Paperclay will go moldy once it has been opened for a while, and go off once it is a year or so old. He gave me the Paperclay back in April and I opened a packet early in the summer, so I suddenly realised I need to get a move on and shingle the roof before I lose my raw materials (you can't buy Paperclay in the UK). I made a start on the dormer roof but before stopping for supper I managed to fill in all the front part of the roof and a bit behind the dormer as well.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Feeling christmassy

It's been Christmas in my sewing room this week as I work on my tree skirt, and also made a stocking for the #QuiltChat stocking swap. The tree skirt has been a lot of fun, choosing fabrics to add character to the houses, reindeer, and the jolly Santa, and snipping everything out of fusible web. This is an in-progress shot of the centre. There is embroidery to add, and buttons for decoration, and a border around the outside. The whole thing will be about 65" square, and the hole will be cut out of the middle to accommodate the tree.

The stocking is in response to my swap partner's expressed preferences, I hope they like it. I used a pattern from Eleanor Burns Quilt in A Day.

I finally got around to painting and varnishing the bread dough sculpture I made several months ago - although it doesn't seem to have suffered from not being sealed. I guess although our summer was pretty gloomy, it wasn't particularly humid this year.

This is my little sock on its mini sock blocker, that I bought as a kit at Alexandra Palace - so cute. I have hung it on my zip bag of knit accessories.

I've been knitting up a storm this week. My Noro Kureyon glove now has 3.5 fingers and went with me to the knitting evening at the I-Knit shop in London on Thursday night. Now that Ds is rowing that day, I don't have to rush home so I can go knitting instead. There was an interesting short presentation from an author of a vintage knit book, and I enjoyed a cider (they are a licensed knitting shop) while chatting to my tablemates. My Plymouth Baby Alpaca scarf is about 14 inches long and slowly growing, I have pressed on with Bianca's jacket in Rowan Summer Tweed - now that I am reading the pattern correctly it is going much more smoothly. I've started a hat in Koigu from the pattern I bought at Alexandra Palace.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Stitching weekend

The weather was gorgeous this weekend but I spent most of it inside enjoying myself. On Saturday I had my Saturday Sewing Club, which was very enjoyable. I've started making a xmas tree skirt adapted from a pattern by Art to Heart called "The Night Before Christmas", so I spent my time sewing together the background and tracing off eight reindeer, santa, sleigh, houses, trees etc. onto Steam a Seam 2 fusible web. Then I ran out of web, and was also wishing I had more plaid fabrics. But I was not concerned, because I knew I was going to Ally Pally the next day!

Alexandra Palace, site of the annual big Knitting and Stitching Show. This year I arrived in luxury as Dh decided it was such a nice day that he and Ds would spend the time wandering about the neighbouring parkland while I was inside at the show. Usually I have to slog up there on public transport. I got there by 10:30 a.m. and spent an enjoyable but increasingly exhausting four hours trying to see everything. An early highlight was that I have sold my Passap Duo 80 knitting machine - a lady on the Guild of Machine Knitters stand also buys/sells knitting machines, so she agreed to take it off my hands. The price is a lot less than I have invested in it, but considering you couldn't give knitting machines away a few years ago, it is better than nothing and I really need the room in my knitting shed. Now I need to pack it all up and get it over to her friend's house who is near us and will drive it up to where it needs to go.

So, what did I get? Four socks worth of yummy sock yarn, including two lots of Koigu that were on sale for just £5 a skein. Two balls of Sublime to make baby booties from the free Debbie Bliss pattern in this month's issue of 'Simply Knitting'. A hat pattern to make from sock yarn. Several pairs of four-inch long dpns for making glove fingers. More steam a seam and several plaid fabrics for the tree skirt, plus buttons and reindeer noses for decoration. A kit to make a tiny sock-on-a-sock-form key ring. I extended my subscription to 'Knitting' magazine in order to pick up a free book gift - I chose Nicky Epstein's On the Edge book, and she was there so she signed it for me. I also subscribed to the new Debbie Bliss knitting magazine to see what that is like (yes, I am a magazine addict). Oh, and a few more reels of Masterpiece thread because I like it.

On the way home, we got stuck in a traffic jam for a long time, so gave up and stopped at Starvin Marvin's, a American 50s-style diner with homemade chocolate malt shakes, and pigged out on yummy junk food. A good day was had by all.

I have to share my new toy with you. my Asus EEE 901 Netbook. I love it! I love it so much that Dh is getting a bit jealous about how much attention I am giving it. You can see how small it is from the knife in the picture for scale, but it has a stomping wireless connection so I can carry it all around the house without losing the connection - probably even into the garden although I haven't tested that. I am catching up on podcasts, watching online quilting tv, catch up television, internet radio, it's fantastic. Like a super Ipod. The keyboard is a bit too cramped for easy typing so not quite as good for answering email, but great for everything else. In the traffic jam today, I was listening to podcasts that I had downloaded. Now I can always be entertained no matter what boring chore I am doing.

I have a bad case of knitting start-itis at the moment. So what's on my (multiple) needles at the moment?

- a scarf I am knitting out of the rest of my Plymouth baby alpaca Grande paint, in a great twisted stitch I found through Ravelry
- a glove that I am knitting out of the Noro Kureyon I bought at Loop. I don't really have a pattern so am having to do a lot of trying on to get the size right.
- Bianca's Jacket from Interweave Fall 2006 from Rowan Summer Tweed - this is progressing slowly as I had to rip out a few inches after I misread the pattern.
- and I am about to start baby booties in Sublime, and my new key ring kit, and a hat in sock wool
- and I'm not mentioning other, older, UFOs which are languishing in cupboards.

Monday, 6 October 2008

My week in pictures

Lots of pics this week.

Here is a shot, on one of our last sunny days before the autumn rain set in, of my three mosaic blocks in place in the lawn. The grass is starting to grow back around them, and they look really pretty glistening in both the rain and the sun.

Here are my lace socks in Lorna's Laces Shepherd sock wool, finished at last. I was startled when I blocked them to find one was definitely smaller than the other. I've managed to block it out to a similar size to the larger one. I think what may have happened is that I knit the rib in a smaller needle, then forgot to shift to a larger needle for the body. See what happens when you take months to finish a project... They have turned out really nice though, the pattern is from 'More Sensational Socks' and they will be a gift.

This is my gorgeous yarny lovely soft wonderful alpaca shawl, from Plymouth Baby Alpaca Grande Paint that I bought in Chicago. I still have loads left, so I think I will knit a scarf as well. The pattern is Feather and Fan, and I found it free on Ravelry but can't find the link again now that I want to imbed it here. You basically cast on 74 stitches in a bulky yarn and keep going in Feather and Fan pattern until it is about 52" long. (mine is longer)

On Saturday I took the train up to Miniatura, the UK's largest dolls house fair, held at the National Exhibition Centre. It was a three hour trip but easy, and I had four hours to spend at the fair which was long enough to exhaust me. I had a great time, it is a great fair.

These are the things I bought for my Rik Pierce house, envisioning a sort of Tudor/Edwardian kitchen.

These are the things I bought for my quilt shop / knitting shop.

And these are the things I bought for another period house that I call my Vic-war-gency house because it can't decide what period it is. The little china pieces were very inexpensive, I think they must be the French equivalent of Crackerjack prizes. The little tole-painted box opens up and is a needlework box, very pretty.

This is a kit by Robin Betterly that I put together on Sunday when one of my dollshouse friends came over. This is the Flutterbye Dollshouse kit, so cute, about two inches high.

And lastly, this is the math-challenged block for my BOM that I wimped out of last month. I got round the math by cutting the strips 1 7/8th inch wide and sewing a fat quarter inch seam allowance, which brought the nine-patches in at 4.5 inches wide as required. I am steeling myself for my ladies' looks of disbelief when, after preaching at them for years on the importance of an accurate quarter-inch seam allowance, I tell them to purposely sew wide. The alternative was cutting strips 1 13/16th inches wide so hopefully they will see that this is the better way forward.

Miniature Collections

Miniature Net Ring

This site is owned by

Want to join a
Miniature Network Ring?

[Next] [Previous] [Random] [List Sites]