Saturday, 30 May 2009

Lazy days of summer

We've just come back from a few days of camping in Dorset (near Dorchester), and for once we had lovely summer weather - apart from one day which was driving rain and gale force winds, which just happened to be the day I had pre-booked a day trip to the Isle of Wight as a special treat. At least I found out that my new waterproof rain mac from Land's End is, in fact, waterproof. The trouble with macs is that your top stays dry but your legs still get soaked.

Anyway, in between helping Ds with Greek, Latin and French flashcards (and I found out that I can knit and read flashcards off my knee at the same time), I did lots of lazing around in the sun (when it wasn't too hot) or in the shade. When we were younger, we used to pooh pooh the people who drove all the way to Dorset then spent the days sitting next to their caravan in a deck chair instead of going out sightseeing. Now that we are middleaged, we see the attraction of just switching off, unwinding, listening to the birds and the wind, and not feeling the constant pull of indoor chores. I didn't want to come home.

I finished the first sock for Dh, this is in Red Heart 'Heart and Sole' which I bought in Paducah at Hobby Lobby. It is supposed to have Aloe in it as well, but I didn't notice any softening effect as I was knitting. I did like the yarn, great colours and easy to knit with. The pattern is the standard Regia free pattern leaflet, which I quite like. I found this yarn a bit thicker than normal sock yarn, so even though I knit the same size as I normally would for myself, it came out big enough for my husband's foot (he is a 9.5 UK and I am only a 7UK). I used 2.5mm needles.

We spent one afternoon at a gorgeous garden in Kingston Maurward, near Dorchester, an Arts and Crafts garden laid out next to a Georgian stately home (now used as a college). Here are some of the lovely things we saw.

I'm still sewing down binding - trying to use small stitches as it is going in a show, it is taking for-ev-er.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

I'm on holiday / Review of Micro Stitch tool

Next week is half term school break here in the UK, but Dh and I started early by taking Friday off to go and watch Ds rowing in the National Schools Regatta in Nottingham. He did really well and got through to the finals, but not into the medals. For us it meant leaving home at 07:30 a.m. to drive up there, then sitting on the bank of the lake all day until we could finally leave at 7:30 p.m. and not getting home until 10:30 p.m. but we enjoyed it and Ds was really pleased that we had come to watch. I took along some socks that I am knitting for Dh, and managed to turn the heel for the second time (first time they were too big so I had to pull back to the cuff and try again).

For the first time in months I have actually done some work on my Willowcrest dollshouse, the one that is a knitting and quilting shop, and posted onto my other blog. Now that it is in the living room it is much easier to work on, and I had a number of purchases to add from the London Kensington Dollshouse Festival that I went to last Sunday. That was fun, although I have been so many times that there is a certain feeling of 'deja vu' as a majority of the dealers are the same every year. I didn't buy very much but I enjoyed looking at all the wonderful things as it is a show with a really high standard. I mainly picked up hand-knitted items like a tiny lacy shawl, a hat/mittens/scarf combo, and a tiny knitted teddy.
Last Saturday was my sewing club, and I spent the first hour and a half removing Micro Stitch tacks from a single quilt so that I could pass it to a friend who is donating it to a hospice fete. You may remember that I used the Micro Stitch to sandwich up a couple of quilts by mounting them onto the rollers of my tabletop quilting frame, an operation which seemed very quick compared to the usual clamping and safety-pinning. I had purchased the tool after seeing a positive review on the Stack and Whack newsletter from Bethany Reynolds. I was a bit worried that the tacks would have too much 'give' and I would end up with puckers in my quilt but in fact I found the quilting just the same as it would have been with a safety-pinned sandwich. The only difference, and this was an improvement at the time, was that you can sew right over the tacks and not have to worry about them getting hung up in your presser foot or getting in the way.
However, and this is a big however, I found it extremely time consuming to remove the **!j#x tacks afterwards. They are virtually invisible as they are so small. I almost had to do it by feel, continually running my hand back and forth over the quilt to locate them, as it was very hard to actually see them. Once found, they are easily removed with thread snips (or you can buy a special tool like a modified seam ripper) and usually just fall out on the other side with a good shake of the quilt, or a brush down. It took me far longer to remove the tacks than it would have done to remove safety pins and I wasn't even 100% sure at the end that I had got them all out. The learning for me is to: a) be much more consistent about where I insert the tacks, for example follow a design line, so that I will know where to look for the tacks afterwards. b) put much more effort into using contrasting colour tacks against the background (they are available in black and white) even it means having to load/unload the tool more often. c) consider removing them as I go, particularly if I can see that the tack is in a less obvious place such as concealed against a patterned fabric.
I also got the sleeve stitched onto my Vintage Fans quilt last Saturday, so just need to do the binding now.
Next week we are all on holiday, Ds from school and us from work. We might have some days out but Ds has to a lot of studying for some big exams he has right after the holiday. I will probably have to help test him so it will be some of my time as well. I wonder if I could knit and read from flash cards at the same time...

Friday, 15 May 2009

Keep my feet on the ground

As I looked out my airplane window at our wing actually wobbling up and down, due to turbulence as we approached London, I suddenly realised that I am really done with flying for a while. In just the last few months I have done London/San Francisco/Hawaii/Hawaii island hops/San Francisco/London in February, London/Chicago/Indianapolis/Chicago/London in April, and this week London/Amsterdam/London to attend a three day training course in Rotterdam in The Netherlands. Flying is not fun, it is not glamorous, it is lots and lots of hanging around airports looking at overpriced food and goods, breathing canned air and lots of queuing up. It is screaming kids, people's elbows knocking yours off the armrest, not enough leg room, lots of noise and occasionally a bit of variety such as the drunk that had to be removed from my Chicago/London return trip. I don't know how regular business travellers do it.

Normally I do one big trip abroad per year, or maybe per 18 months. My cup has runneth over lately, and I am looking forward to several months on the ground.

However, one thing travel is good for, is lots and lots of travel knitting. My Pi Shawl is really coming along now, after I started it just before my Paducah trip. I have just completed the 48 row section and have doubled my stitches to 576. I am doing a version I found on Ravelry, where the centre is stockinette and there is a 'simple' lace diamond pattern in the 48 row section. It probably is simple, with a 16 stitch repeat, but I frequently found I had either 15 stitches from forgetting a yarn over, 17 stitches from inadvertently increasing due to not knitting off this fine baby alpaca laceweight yarn off cleanly, or yarn overs in the wrong place (from just plain dumbness and not paying attention...). I was reduced to counting every repeat as I knit it, endlessly counting to 16, someone watching me knit would see my lips move. So I'm glad that part is over. In the next section I am going to try Elizabeth Zimmermann's 'gull wing' lace pattern. I've put a tea towel into the shawl in the picture so you can see the stitches. You can also see one of my trusty ''s bags, which are just the best things ever for travelling with a small portable project.

And these are the socks I knit on my Hawaii trip, the 'Potpourri' socks from 'Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn'. They've actually been finished for several weeks, I just hadn't got round to darning the ends in and photographing them. This is a Koigu yarn, I think, and although I like them (and the colours seem very Hawaiian), it does not show off the pattern as well as the sample in the book, which is knit in a more semi-solid colour. Did I tell you that Kaffe Fassett described yarns like this Koigu ,that change colour too frequently, as being coloured like 'vomit in the wind' in his lecture in Hawaii? In fact, he may have even have said 'clown vomit'. When we were knitting together at Starbucks on one of the island hops, I teased him about it. This pattern features an unusual wrapped stitch, which gives the textured ridges. I also liked the cuff, which is a knitted in hem with a picot edge.

I can't believe it is May 15th already. I need to put binding and a sleeve on the fan quilt I brought back from America as I have entered it into a show in June, and I need to bind another quilt that I have promised to a friend for a June fete. And I still have other quilts waiting for binding after my christmas quilting binge. Meanwhile the 'new' stuff I have brought back from Paducah languishes in the cupboard. By the time I get to it, it will be 'old' stuff, and possibly even replaced by 'newer' stuff. Wouldn't it be nice to take a year off, and finish all our outstanding projects until we had a clean slate? (only I think I might actually need about five years...)

Friday, 8 May 2009

Thank you Swooze

Look what my friend Swooze sent me from America!

This is the 'Little Box of Socks' by Charlene Schurch and Beth Parrott, full of 20 great sock patterns all printed on cards that will slip easily into a knitting bag. There are some really good patterns in here that I look forward to knitting. The majority will look best in solid or semi-solid yarns to show off the patterning, but they all look 'do-able' and wearable (in contrast to Cookie A's new sock book which I have also recently acquired, whose patterns mostly look very complicated even though beautiful). Thank you Swooze! that is so nice of you.

I actually finished a few things!. This is the tablerunner I have been working on, it is from a pattern called 'Posy Delight' from Quilt Almanac #98 magazine which I bought in Hawaii. This is the project that I used the Clover Yo-Yo makers on, the large Yo-Yo for the round yo-yos, and the Flower Yo-Yo maker for the pink flowers. I've got quilting friends coming over tomorrow so I will put this out on my table.

And this is the other Accidental Landscape quilt that I made in a workshop at Sisters. I am keeping this one, I like it as it reminds me a bit of where I grew up in western Canada.

The shrub underneath the clematis in last week's post is now also in full riot of blossom (I can't remember what it's called). The flowers are also pink so it looks beautiful underneath the clematis. I love this time of year, when everything is healthy and lush in the garden (including our lawn as you will notice...).
And I will say Hi back to 'Alpaca Addict' who came up to say 'Hi' last night at the I-Knit knitting group and to say she reads my blog and knows all about me. Thank you, thank you, I will sign autographs after the show... :) I was drinking cider on a relatively empty stomach, and managed to go wrong on both my Pi Shawl and subsequently on my summer shawl, so that I had to stop knitting the last half hour of the evening. Hopefully I will be able to fix my drunken knitting today. Note to self: eat more before next knitting night.

Friday, 1 May 2009

More photos

Life is getting back to normal now, although I am still ploughing through piles of stuff and paperwork that all needs to be put away, or dealt with in some fashion. I swear it breeds overnight... Here are some more photos, and here is a link to a good description of the Paducah experience.

Here is one of the lovely homes I saw while on the free guided city tour of Paducah. I was surprised at some of the very attractive residential areas we drove through, because I had only ever seen the more rundown area around the show and the commercial area out by the mall.

And everywhere are the lovely blooming dogwood trees. The Dogwood Tour was cancelled this year as they were afraid the trees would be too damaged by the ice storm, but our guide said that in fact the dogwood trees had fared pretty well, perhaps because they are smaller and lighter so their branches didn't snap off as much.

While I was in America I collected back one of my quilts which I had left there last year for hand quilting. It eventually ended up with Esther, a 92-year-young German Baptist lady, who has done a gorgeous job of handquilting on it. I bought these vintage fan blocks about 9 years ago at the Houston show, and set them in a setting that I had seen in a new quilt on one of the Houston booths (photographed with permission) using antique muslin for the setting squares, then I added an ice cream cone border of reproduction fabrics. I felt that machine quilting would be inappropriate and so I am very glad that it now has been finished off with such an exquisite design. I just need to bind it now. I slept under this quilt while at the Paducah show, as I was on a blow-up bed sharing a room with my American friends at the Executive Inn.

And here is all the stuff I bought and managed to haul back, including fabric from Hancock's, a book, some patterns, the Wool-Ease, some sock yarn, and some vintage linens from a booth at the Civic Centre.

Here is the very spring-like 30s scrappy quilt that I bought at the show - the dealer said some of the fabrics are feedsacks and she thinks it may never have been washed as the fabrics are still like new. I love that apple green and all the scrappy fabrics. The hexagons are quilted with a somewhat crude shamrock or flower motif.

Just before I left, the clematis on my knitting shed in the garden was starting to blossom, and by the time I got back it is in its full glory. Hard to tell there is even a shed under there.

The ebay purchasers finally removed the two old cabinets, so for the first time in several weeks our living room is back almost to normal and I can finally show you the wall unit that we built out of kitchen cupboards and a mirrored wardrobe from Ikea. The room seems so much bigger and brighter now, without the two dark cupboards closing in the room. I've become accustomed to seeing most of my big houses on display, and it doesn't feel so daunting, although I am still thinking "must finish those" every time I go in the room.

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