Wednesday, 30 April 2008

I turned my sewing machine on!

I suddenly realised that this Saturday is my sewing club today, so I sat down Sunday night and made the next sample block for the BOM that I am running (designed by me in EQ6). This is the block, which is one of EQ6's mosaic blocks.

And since all the blocks in the top row are now completed, I was able to sew them together.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Feeling a bit morbid

Today I attended the funeral of a former member of the sewing group I used to run. Bridgette had a stroke about 10 years ago and since then had been partly paralysed and house bound. Formerly a prolific sewer and knitter, she could no longer do her hobbies but continued to maintain a keen interest in them and still talked about what she would do when her health improved. Sadly, she reached her 80th birthday in hospital while I was in Chicago, and passed away the evening that I returned. I had visited her regularly since she left the group, so her relatives asked me to assist with clearing her home by taking the sewing and knitting items.

To my surprise, this was actually two full car loads, and we have an estate car (station wagon). I had sort of assumed that Bridgette would have had a clear out before now, but I was given six or seven huge suitcase sized bags of fabric, and about the same number of large garbage sacks full of acrylic yarn. In addition was a quantity of haberdashery, a dressmaker's dummy, and about five large boxes of various craft magazines and books. The saddest thing was a suitcase and large bag full of projects in progress, presumably items she had underway when the stroke hit her.

I have now managed to pass on the majority of the items, to friends who sew for charity, and to a contact in the local Women's Institute who do knitting for charity and raise funds by selling items at fetes. My mother in law took a lot of the magazines to pass on to her local sewing group and I will take the remainder to my Saturday group this weekend. So lots of people are grateful to Bridgette and are thinking of her now.

The whole thing has made me conscious of my enormous stash and how horrendous it would be for anyone (or any small army) to try to sort through it all. Bridgette's stash was at least semi-organised and in bags due to her ill health. Mine is spread over the house, the attic and the garden shed, and encompasses several hobbies. The relevance of various items and their interconnectivity (e.g. the various bits intended to belong to one project) exists only in my head. And then there are all my finished projects, all the dollshouses and room boxes, and quilts and various other things. But I feel too young to start downsizing yet. It's been a while since I updated my will but I recall that I said there that after my family have taken any momentoes, the remainder of my stash/hobbies should be passed to the relevant club (e.g. knitting, dollshousing, quilting) to dispose of. So hopefully it isn't just going to end up in the trash - which is where the remainder of Bridgette's stuff is going now because her Australian resident son is only in England for four days and has ordered a skip (a big metal waste receptacle) to clear out the rest of her house.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Busy, busy, busy

It’s been a busy week. This was my first full week in my new job, and the return to full time is really impacting on my capacity to do my hobbies, not to mention the housework, paperwork etc. I am feeling burdened by the pressure to do some of it every evening instead of just being able to relax and sew/knit etc. I am sure after a while we will reach a new balance. Dh is anxious to help out by doing a bit more, but he hasn’t been feeling 100% well lately either.

In increments of about 20 minutes a day I have been assembling a ‘quick’ baby quilt this week, intended as a thank you gift for a friend in Chicago. Hopefully I will finish that this weekend. I have also done a few more rows on my Bird in the Hand second mitten . The first mitten is still waiting for its thumb.

I did finish a beanie hat from Yarn Forward magazine, knitted in the round using Swirl by Lorna's Laces in the Watercolour colourway. It fits really well and dh says this is his favourite out of the things I have knit so far. I am starting to get the itch to knit something summery, as the seasons have abruptly changed here. When I got back from Chicago I was still wearing my winter coat and a hat/scarf in the cold mornings, now the afternoons are 70 degrees and we are sitting out in the garden. Our apple tree is in full gorgeous pink bloom, and the clematis on the
shed is looking very pretty.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

SAHM Online Convention

This weekend was once again the Stay At Home Miniaturists Online Convention - hard to believe it's been a whole year since I did the last one. I'm not a SAHM member, but anyone can sign up for the convention. This is the convention that I made 25 straw hats and bags for a while back, so Saturday morning I got to open my goodie bag which had come in the post, with 25 things from other people taking part. I got lots of lovely goodies, sort of like Christmas only teeny tiny.

I took three workshops this year. I couldn't devote the whole weekend to them like I did last year, as in between workshops I was trying to do laundry and deal with unpacking and housework etc. Now that I am full time I am getting home an hour later and also have lost my two days at home, so the household chores are really piling up on me.

The first workshop was to make a chair with Iris Boughton. The kits come in the post ahead of time and then on the day there is a private chat room open with the instructor present to answer any questions, and the instructions posted with full colour photos. I used a fresh gingham fabric as I think this chair might go into my quilting/knitting shop. These kits are all 1/12th scale so this chair is about 4 inches tall.

The second workshop was with Jane Harrop, for a late Victorian ladies' writing desk with all the accessories. This took a long time to finish but looks really great. Sorry the photo is slightly out of focus. Jane provides the cut wood pieces for the desk and chair, all the kits for the accessories and excellent instructions.

The last workshop was with Jan who runs the SAHM convention, to make three silk hats. Oddly enough, I found this workshop the most difficult even though the hats are fairly simple in construction. It was just really hard to get a neat finish and neat joins without glue showing on the silk etc. My hats look good from a distance and will dress up my period lady's bedroom in my big Vic-war-gency house.
I haven't even turned on my sewing machine since getting back from Chicago. The only sewing related activity I have done was to help my elderly deceased friend's relatives who are clearing her house and gave me a huge carload of sewing and knitting related items to pass on to good homes. There were bags of fabric which I passed to a friend who has friends who sew for charity, but I did find a few things that I will be able to use - some nice printed panels and other fabric pieces. There were bags and bags of yarn, which I passed to a woman who belongs to a charity knitting group for the Women's Institute. The funeral is the 28th.
I survived my first three days of my new job. I don't have my own desk yet, I am camping on someone else's desk for a few weeks and won't have my own until likely late May. By Friday afternoon my head felt like it was going to explode, the team is very busy and want to get me up to speed as quickly as possible by dumping huge quantities of information on me. I have joined an internal communications team, and Thursday and Friday I started writing a few short articles to go in their E-newsletter - they are starting me out easy but it is a bit scary how much they want me to take on over time. Fingers crossed that this is going to work out. I feel guilty for spending the weekend doing miniatures instead of reading some of the work stuff, but that way lies madness...

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Back home again (it's so good)

I'm back home, suffering from both jet lag and a bad cold which I picked up while away, but am now on antibiotics so hopefully will feel better soon. But it is so nice to be home and sleeping in my own bed and back in my real life. I start my new job tomorrow, so I hope I feel better.

Everything on my trip went very smoothly, and I enjoyed both the shows I went to. I even got a morning of sightseeing in Chicago, and although it was pouring rain I was impressed with what I could make out of the downtown area through the steamed up trolley bus windows. Chicago appears to be a very elegant city with an impressive lakeshore and many other attractive features.

My four-day course building Ratty's house from Wind in the Willows with Rik Pierce went very well and I really love working with Paperclay, which is Rik's signature material. It was a demanding course, and we were busy from 7:00 am to 9:30 pm the first three days, but luckily due to the time difference it wasn't much hardship for me to be there at 0700. This is a picture of Rik's house that was the class sample - it will be a long time before my house looks this finished. Rik was a great teacher and we learned so much, which I love in a course.

On Friday I put together a 1/4 scale western saloon kit in a dome with the Steinke's, which I packed into the shipping box and it also arrived home unbroken.

The Bishop show was very impressive, to a similar standard as the London Kensington show yet more the size of Miniatura. I laughed to myself to hear the Americans complain about how crowded the show was - I never saw more than 3 or 4 people at a table and it was easy to move around on the three days I was at the show - I think they would be a bit unhappy with the elbowing scrum at Miniatura. Prices were also generally more reasonable than I was expecting. I also got the shuttle bus to the IMA show in Schaumberg, which was also very good, and to the Three Blind Mice show which was smaller and more of a budget offering. Saturday I even got to the Woodfield Mall and picked up some gifts to bring home. The fantastic exchange rate of almost $2 to the pound meant that many things at both shows seemed like real bargains to me. I picked up quite a few accessories and kits for my planned quilting and knitting shops in my Greenleaf Willowcrest house.

Then I flew down to Indianapolis (after being told my suitcase was overweight and having to fish some things out of it at the check in counter) for a lovely visit with a quilting friend. We went to the Marie Webster house (Quilters' Hall of Fame - in pic)for a lovely exhibit of Baltimore Album quilts. I was also introduced to the joys of dining at Cracker Barrel, and was pleased to find some old-fashioned Dubble Bubble gum from my childhood in their gift shop. I also got taken to Joanne's where I bought some fabric and several craft things, and to an antiques/bric-a-brac mall where I bought a quilted runner of schoolhouse blocks and some decorative teapots.

On Wednesday we drove back up to Chicago, and I got to go behind the scenes at the Chicago International Quilt Festival to help set up a friend's quilting stall. I even had an exhibitor's badge which meant that I could have a virtually private view of the quilts before Festival opened on Friday. I missed Thursday preview night because I went back to the Woolly Lamb for their open knitting night for the second week in a row, everyone there is so friendly and I bought some lovely Plymouth Baby Alpaca Grande Paint yarn, which feels like clouds and is so soft. I don't know what I am going to make with it, I have enough for a sweater. It knits at 3 stitches to the inch so is very bulky but very lightweight.

At the quilt show I had a shopping list which I largely stuck to, although I did buy some diecut charm squares and a kit for a Texas Lone Star in gorgeous reproduction fabrics, and a book on applique artwork by Margaret Cusack after hearing her very interesting lecture. I went to two other lectures, one on making quilts from pixellated photos, and one on using the colour wheel to design colour schemes, and a very interesting 'Bag Lady' morning on Saturday where we had talks from five different bag makers. People were very friendly and several read my name badge and exclaimed over how far I had come for the show. My shopping list included the Sidewinder bobbin winder, a floral Olfa rotary cutter, some 30s solids, Masterpiece thread by Alex Andersen for piecing, narrow quilting patterns to use on my tabletop frame, some feature fabric to make bags out of, some more featherweight bobbins, non slip frosted Olfa rulers, some punchneedle fabric and more YLI invisible thread. This is much less than I have brought home on previous trips, but then we can now get so many more products here in the UK than we could 10 years ago. It's still cheaper to buy in America, but then it becomes a suitcase weight issue. Luckily I had a second soft bag to put my clothes into, so I avoided the weight issue on the return trip.
So I have lots of new projects to do now, and it was a good trip. Sadly I came home to the news that my housebound elderly friend (that I was going to give the other Baltimore Album top to once I had quilted it) has suddenly passed away after a short stint in hospital, so I will be going to her funeral in a few weeks. She turned 80 while in hospital, and I am sorry that I didn't get to say goodbye.
Still, it's good to be home. Dh and Ds were ecstatic to see me, and suddenly I have to remember how to cook again, although they did make a nice meal for me on Sunday night when I was still dizzy with jetlag.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Reporting live from Chicago

I'm on a friend's laptop, using the wireless in the hotel room in Chicago.  This is my second week here and my suitcases are already bulging and I haven't even been to the quilt show yet.  It started tonight with the preview, but I chose instead to go to my new favourite wool shop, The Woolly Lamb, in Rosemont, Chicago.  They have an open knitting night every Thursday which attracts the friendliest group of knitters who even bring wine and snacks.  I went along last week and I enjoyed it so much that I went again this week (thanks Colleen, Barbara and Gladys for giving me lifts to and from the hotel).  I have finished the body of one Bird in the Hand mitten and have reached the thumb gusset on the other.  I also bought 700g of Plymouth Baby Alpaca Grande Paint which is so  soft and gorgeous.

I'm not going to give a full report now because this laptop keyboard is unfamiliar, but the Tom Bishop show was great.  I loved my class with Rik Pierce and am really pleased with how my version of Ratty's House turned out.  I shipped it home and it arrived safely via DHL, expensive but saved a lot of trouble at the airport with such a huge box.  I bought loads at the show, as thanks to the exchange rate I found a lot of bargains.  I visited a good friend in Indiana at the beginning of this week, and she took me to a Joanne's where I got fabric and various other bits and bobs, and also to an antiques mall where I picked up a few more things.  I also got to the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg (apparently the second largest mall in USA although it didn't seem that big) and got a pile of gifts to take home.    We drove up to Chicago on Wednesday and I helped to unload the van (my friend is a dealer) and to set up her stall.  The show opened tonight but I will go in tomorrow morning for my first pass through all the stalls (oh, and look at the quilts...).  

I fly home Saturday night and, to be honest, I am ready to go home and sleep in my own bed and wear clothes that aren't wrinkled and see my family again.  I have also gained about five pounds eating all these delicious and huge American meals.

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