Friday, 30 May 2008

Camping in the rain (as usual)

We've just returned from a five day camping trip, during the half term break, and as usual when we camp, the weather was wet all week. The second night we endured a tremendous thunder & lightning storm directly overhead, with torrential rain, and were very thankful that our new-to-us tent-trailer is waterproof (unlike our last one). I'm not normally bothered by thunderstorms, but there is a big difference between being safely tucked up in bed inside a house, and trying to sleep with rain drumming on canvas a few feet away from your face. I was also conscious, as the lightning cracked around us, that I was lying inside a big metal frame covered in wet canvas, but I tried to tell myself that the rubber tyres would protect us. In the end I gave up trying to sleep and read a trashy romance to take my mind off of it. And we were fine. Just before we went I finished this 17" applique block, block 12 from the 25-block quilt I started last year from the 'My Grandmother's Last Quilt' book. My original goal was to complete two blocks per month - ha ha ha.

Despite the weather we had a good break, either finding indoors activities like shopping or museums, or soldiering around pretty towns like Whitstable dressed in macintoshes and carrying umbrellas. We explored the secret wartime tunnels at Dover Castle, and visited the indoor museums at Chatham Historic Dockyards. I took my knitting along, and got another few inches done, plus indulged myself in pouring over two new knitting books that I bought with my 'farewell' book vouchers presented to me by my old boss at my farewell party: Victorian Lace Today which has lots of interesting knitting history and some stunning projects, and Colour by Sally Melville, whose designs I was introduced to on my visit to The Woolly Lamb in Chicago.

We were camping near Canterbury and I got to visit C&H Fabrics again to fondle their fabrics and knitting yarns, although I didn't buy anything. I took along my new tote bag on the holiday, that I made just before we left. I'd been up to the Covent Garden shop of my favourite designer, and was drooling over her tote bags which cost £28. Then I found that I could buy two designer tea towels for £10. So I cut them up to make two handles and a nice tote bag, which even has the designer label on show. The edges were of course already hemmed which made it easy to make the bag.

Today was our last day, and we went to see these beautiful gardens at the Salutation Inn in Sandwich, on the Kent coast. Afterwards we had a full Edwardian tea, with cucumber sandwiches, clotted cream and scones, and cakes, in their tea room - and I saw this wonderful clock made out of full-size tea cups & saucers. Wish I had room for one in my house.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Weekly catch-up

This blog is turning into a 'weekly catch-up', which is the name for our endless team meetings that we have in my new job. I have a weekly catch up with my immediate boss (useful), then one with our sub-team (not very useful) and then one with the full team of 8 (neutral on this one) EVERY week, and every second week a catch up with my boss's boss.

I've now been in my new job for more than a month, and I feel that I am climbing back out of the slough of despond where I was wallowing for a few weeks. If you've ever heard of the Emotional Change Curve, you know that any significant change invokes a typical pattern in your emotions which looks like a skipping rope hung between two trees - initial elation, followed by anxiety followed by rock bottom, then tentatively climbing back up, until one day you are back up to the level you started at. This new job was a huge change for me: back to full time work; out of my own office into a big open plan environment; going from being a fairly independent committee secretary to being one of the lower cogs in a team of eight people; going from more-or-less setting my own hours as long as I got the job done, to having to sit at my PC pretending to work between the start/stop time. You will notice that none of these things have to do with the actual work, which I am finding fairly easy. However, my beacon of hope has been that from June, I am being allowed to work Friday's from home, and I am really looking forward to that oasis. Maybe I will also get more time to blog.

So what have I been doing the past week? I am still knitting on the Sonora cardigan with my string-like Katia linen blend yarn. I have done a tiny bit of applique on a block for that 25-block applique quilt I started last year and only got halfway done. I've cut out the pieces for another totebag. And I've been working on my big Willowcrest dollshouse (which has its own blog here) - the outside is now finished and I have started furnishing the inside which is going to be a knitting and quilting shop. So I am winding/sewing lots of little balls of yarn at the moment.

We had some good weather yesterday and we put up our new garden fountain, our third one. We love sitting in the garden listening to the sound of water (plus it helps drown out some of the neighbour noise). This one is actually fibreglass but looks so realistic.

And I am finally going to get a replacement for my eight year old computer - I have thrown myself onto the mercy of our local independent computer store, telling them what I want it to do, and they are going to quote me for building it/installing all the software.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Busy weekend

I've had a busy weekend doing crafty trips out, which is a nice change from my work week. On Saturday I got up early and took the train up to Malvern for the Quilts UK show. It is about 3 hours away by train, then I had to get a bus out to the showground which dropped me about a half mile from the actual entrance which was a pain. The theme this year was to do with architecture, so I had sent in one of my older quilts made from a pattern in QNM because it was so suitable for the theme. I did a good job on piecing the houses but not so good on the border so I was worried that it would have wavy borders at the show. It didn't look too bad, just a bit ripply in a few places. I lurked around it and was pleased to hear several people saying nice things about it and pointing out details on it. After that I was going to do some shopping, but the show was really busy and hot, and to be honest everything seemed so expensive after my recent trip to the Chicago International show. As an example, I bought the Sidewinder bobbin winding gadget in Chicago for about $25, at Malvern I saw it for £26.95 (exchange rate is almost 2 dollars to a pound, so this is over twice as expensive). So instead I got a taxi up into the charming town of Malvern itself and spent a happy couple of hours exploring antique shops and book stores. I found a lovely Royal Albert 'Kentish Rockery' pattern tea set with six settings for only £40, so I joyfully carried that home on the train.

Today I went up to London for the London Kensington dollshouse show, one of the premier dollshouse events in this country. It was a fun show, I met several people I know and got some really nice things for my various houses. When I got home I felt inspired and worked a bit more on my Willowcrest dollshouse, on its landscaping, and also tidied away a lot of the construction stuff that has been in the kitchen since October, but is now hopefully not needed as I am almost finished the construction phase.

And I actually did some sewing this week. Only a tote bag but at least I turned the machine on. This is made out of ancient stash, so ancient that the blue solid had sun damage on it from when I used to keep my stash on a shelf near a window about 10 years ago. I use totebags a lot, and I was carrying around a free one that had an 'Avis' logo on it, when I thought 'I'm a quilter, why aren't I carrying a tote bag I've made myself'. So I copied the Avis bag in quilting fabric. It does feel a bit flimsy though in just a single layer of fabric, I think if I make it again I will add interfacing or a lining.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

I don't like being a wage slave...

I went to a communications forum a few weeks ago, and one of the lecturers referred to a model for defining employees in an office building: labelling them as either 'friends' (support the company), 'cynics' (would like to support the company but have suffered some disillusionment or disappointment), 'the dead' (totally apathetic), 'hostages' (wage slaves) and 'terrorists' (actively working against the company by stealing office supplies, vandalism etc.

I am definitely feeling like a hostage these days. I really don't like working full time/full days. Before I was working 3 days in the office quite flexibly, getting in about 9am and leaving at 3 pm to be home for the school run, and 1 day at home, and 1 day off. Now with this new job I am in the office full time and not getting home until 5:45 when I immediately have to start thinking about cooking supper. Over the three weeks I have been on this schedule, the house has entered a sharp decline and clutter is multiplying everwhere, and I'm having trouble even keeping up with basic personal maintenance like laundry and hair washing. I have still been doing some craft but feeling very guilty about it, and every weekend feels like a huge rush to catch up (but never getting there). We keep running out of food because I can't pick it up on the way home any more, and we are living on a succession of quick&easy dinners and takeaways.

To anyone who has always worked full time, this probably sounds like self pitying moaning, but I just don't think I am constitutionally cut out for full time slave work. From June onwards I am going to be allowed to work Fridays at home, so I will see if that makes a difference to my mental well being.

In between doing chores, we have been sitting out in the garden. As we are in a built up suburb, sometimes this is quite noisy, with next door having several grandchildren screaming just the other side of the fence. But most of the time it is quite nice, we put our water fountains on and listen to the birds sing. Right now the garden is blooming, this is my favourite time of year before everything gets diseased and dried out. Here is a picture of my knitting shed covered in clematis, with a shrub I can't remember the name of in full bloom in front of it.

So what have I been doing craft wise? I have been working hard on my Willowcrest dollshouse because I want to get through the construction so I can start the finishing work on the Rik Pierce house I built on my holiday in Chicago. I have started knitting the Sonora Cardigan in linen yarn for summer (although no doubt I will finish it in December). I find linen like knitting string, very non-stretchy and easy to split or accidentally combine stitches, but I am getting used to it. Haven't done any sewing this week apart from alterations on new summer clothing I have bought to try to keep up with the much-younger/much-more-fashionable team that I have joined.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Mittens for summer

I finished my Bird in Hand mittens today (pattern by Kate Gilbert). It seemed very strange to be weaving in the final ends of yarn on a mitten while my husband was sitting outside on the patio in the sunshine of our 70 degree May weekend. Somehow I don't think I am going to be wearing these for a few months. They have come out fairly well, I am quite pleased with them. I knit these in Cherry Tree Hill Supersock Merino yarn (not the worsted weight that the pattern called for). The final touches were to embroider the features onto the bird that sits on the thumb.

I had my Saturday Sewing Club a few days ago. I called a few people on Friday night, asking them to bring their projects in so I could take a picture. Do you remember about a year ago I was contributing 'slices' to group applique projects? Here is a picture of the almost-finished portrait of one of the first black people in the UK, to which I contributed the left side of the face.

The other one I needed a photo of was the row of Belgian houses. This was the one I felt restricted on, because the owner provided her own fabric for the sky, building and foreground, instead of letting us use our own creativity. My contribution was the cafe. This is the picture so far - the owner is adding more embroidery and embellishment.
We've just had a three day weekend here in the UK. We were supposed to go on our first camping outing for two nights to a local campsite, but my husband had a minor accident with his car on Thursday, and couldn't get a replacement car which had a tow hitch to tow our camping trailer. So we stayed home. But I have still had a nice weekend, I've done lots of work on my dollshouse and we had a lovely morning walk in the Valley Gardens (part of the Crown Estate near Windsor Castle) where all the azaleas were blooming, really glorious. And before I came indoors to blog, I was sipping a Pimms and lemonade while reclining on our garden swing, listening to the birds sing and the fountains play. We only have a small garden really, and later in the season it gets noisy as everyone else is out in their garden. But it was nice today.

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