Friday, 28 August 2009

Last week of summer

It's the last week of the summer, and this weekend is a long weekend in the UK and for once they are predicting 30 degree sunshine (it usually rains). Next week marks a turning point for me as well, since from 1 September I am handing over almost everything I do at work, to people who still have jobs. I'm not actually redundant until the end of the year, so not really sure what I am going to be doing for the next four months. I am concerned that I am going to be really really bored. I think I will ask if I can work from home two days a week to cut down on the "sitting at a desk pretending to have a job" nonsense - and more crafting time!!

I've also discovered I have 8 days of holiday left which they want me to use up before they dump me. I am now in a dilemma as I am tempted to sign up for a quilting trip to Japan. Before it wasn't possible because I didn't think I had the holiday left, and I didn't have the money. Now I have the possibility of a big severance payment in my future, and 8 days to use up. But then I think "I must be sensible, and conserve my funds because I don't know what's coming and it may be hard to get another job". On my other shoulder, the little red quilter with the horns is shrieking "BUT YOU MAY NEVER GET ANOTHER CHANCE! GO FOR IT!" Trouble is, a little miniature mother-in-law is sitting on the first shoulder along with the sensible person.

Before I tell you what I've been up to this week, can I put in a plea for you to set your Blogger profiles to receive replies? I love getting comments, and I always try to reply, but some of you have your profile set to 'no email' so I get the dreaded return address.

This week:

I finally finished the bunka rug which I started in dollshouse club about two years ago. This was my first bunka project and I didn't really enjoy it, I found it very fiddly. For those who don't know, bunka is a kind of chained cord that you can unravel into a wiggly cord, which looks very like rug pile when you glue it down. I didn't do a very good job on the middle of the rug, it looks a bit bald. I have put this rug into my knitting shop for now.

My Sirdar Juicy lace stole is now 48" long. The pattern calls for 70" and I don't know if I will knit that much, but it does need to be longer than 48" in order to wrap cosily. It is draping beautifully and I am still hoping it is going to block out a bit wider.

At the London Dollshouse Festival at Kensington in May, I commissioned a fishing doll from Crumpled and Rumpled to live in my Rik Pierce Ratty's House. This is a difficult house because it is so fantasy and I didn't want to do Wind in the Willows. I saw this guy and wondered if my house could be a sort of riverside folly for a rich young gentleman. He turned up earlier this week in the post. Here he is in the living room, trying it on for size.

I finished the second windowbox of geraniums and am now working on an urn to stand by the front door. I'm going to add some strands of miniature ivy to this one.

I haven't done any more on my applique block from the camping week, but I thought you might like to see what it looks like so far.

I saw a neat pattern on Moda bakeshop for fabric binder covers. I've got my scrapbooks of quilts I've made, and inspiration pictures, in big binders so this would be a great way of making them look nicer.
Other than that, I've finished most of the 60-degree triangles for the border of the Hawaian batik quilt and have started sewing them together into long border strips. I'm about halfway through the first sleeve on the Kauni machine-knit sweater - I had to do a re-start when I realised that I had started the decreases too early.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Summer days

The good weather has continued, and we've just come back from a week of camping, which was our last big holiday for the summer. Where has August gone?? I had such plans to really get down to quilting, and in fact I've hardly done any sewing at all. We had a lovely relaxing time, with great weather, three nights in Kent and five nights on the Isle of Wight. Lots of cream teas, thatched cottages, a river boat ride, paddling in the sea, relaxing with books and knitting and even a visit to an archaeology dig.

Before we left, I finished the first window box of geraniums that I blogged about last week. I am pleased with it, it has turned out fairly well. Unfortunately when we got home from camping, I opened the window to let some fresh air in, and the wind promptly blew several loose petals around on my desk that hadn't been glued yet. I can't face it yet, but I will have to crawl around on hands and knees and see if I can find them.

I took three knitting projects with me: the Sirdar Juicy lace stole, the Pi Shawl and the 2nd Scandinavian pattern sock. I worked on all of them, but was wishing I had taken some uncomplicated stockinette knitting that I could just get on with, instead of all fiddly patterns.

I also took my applique block, thinking that I would get loads done as we relaxed on site. And I would have done, except that when I opened up my sewing project bag, I found that the tracings I had carefully made by drawing around templates with water-removable felt tip pen, had almost all disappeared! I guess all that humid and rainy weather we had for early August was just too much for the water-soluble ink and it evaporated. Very annoying when you are on a campsite in Kent and your templates are back home. I improvised by drawing a new flower on some paper and drawing around it with pencil on the fabric to create eight identical flowers. But as they were a slightly different shape, they don't exactly line up with the registration marks I had traced on the background. I went ahead and started appliquing them anyway, hopefully they will all look symetrical when I am done. I do like applique, when I have enough light, but I can virtually only do it in one position: I have to be sitting, with one leg propped up so that I can spread the block out to be partially supported on my knee. Great for sewing in front of the tv, not so useful for most other situations. Luckily I can replicate this position in our camping chairs. I do needleturn applique, either using a vinyl overlay for positioning, or sometimes tracing faint registration marks on the background. I use short sequin pins to pin the shapes to the fabric, with the outline traced on the right side, and a 1/8th seam allowance.

It's nice to be back home, and I'm sure eventually all the laundry will get done and everything from the holiday will get put away. Not long until it's back to school, so we have the whole 'come and try on your school uniform' argument to look forward to, not to mention the "let's clean out your pencil bag and book bag' fight, and I don't even want to think about the "why don't you look over your Greek and Latin work to refresh your mind after the summer" fireworks...

Friday, 14 August 2009

Senior moment?? I'm only in my 40s!!

We went camping last weekend and, for once, had glorious sunshine. We turned up Friday night, intending to join a local meet in a farm field near Henley, only to find it had been cancelled. But the farmer said we could camp there anyway. So we had the field to ourselves, up on a hillside looking down over the Thames valley, total peace and quiet, with horses and sheep in fields around us. It was wonderful and so private, and now my DH says he doesn't want to camp any other way.

On Saturday we drove over to Windsor and I got to check out the knitting shop: 'The Pincushion 2', run by a very nice man who does brilliant cross stitch. They have cross stitch and tapestry supplies and some haberdashery, and about half the shop is yarn, mostly Sirdar. I hadn't intended to buy anything, much less start anything new, but they had some colours of Rico Pompon yarn that I hadn't seen before and I ended up buying a ball. It comes with a pattern for a scarf, so I bought some needles and got started. This is really weird yarn, it is like a cord punctuated with ultra-soft puffs every few inches. You knit stitches in the cord, and let the puffs sit on the outside of your garter stitch knitting. It takes a few minutes to get used to, but then it is easy to knit with and it is like letting soft marshmallows slip through your fingers. I became totally addicted and churned out most of a scarf over the weekend as it knits up really quickly. The shop owner showed me how to cast on: you make a backwards loop, skip a puff, make two backwards loops in the next thread section, skip a puff, etc. and end with a single stitch. Then you knit back, so every thread has two stitches and the end stitches get knit twice in that bit of thread. However, I can't figure out any way to cast off apart from crocheting off with a separate yarn, which seems to be the popular solution on the internet as well. The resulting scarf is the most luscious soft cuddly velvety wonderful thing, I may just roll around on it rather than wear it. I think I will buy another ball and make a xmas present for my m-i-l. I don't really know what else you could do with this yarn, it may be a one-trick pony.

I'm not very happy with the sewing machines I cast out of plaster, they look really crude. They will do as a placeholder for now, but I will have to look out for some affordable machines that look better. However, I have been working on some paper-punched geranium kits for my French tower house.

And here's where the senior moment came in. A couple of years ago, I bought some paper-punched kits from Georgina Steeds, to fill windowboxes with a European look for the outside of my French tower house. Sunday night, after we got back from camping, I had a free hour and in a burst of virtuousness, decided I would finally get around to doing those kits. And do you think I could find them??? no, I couldn't. I looked for an hour (the hour I was intending to do something, which is really irritating) and turned the place upside down. I found the container they should have been in, and I looked in the two alternate places I would have expected them to be in if they weren't in the container, then I looked in about 80 other places, but no luck.
I eventually gave up and ordered some more. Georgie doesn't seem to have a website so I ordered from sdk miniatures in the US, and they arrived very promptly. So I've been working on those - I had to paint the leaves to look like geraniums, and am slowly cupping all the tiny red blossoms and gluing them to beads to make the flower heads. The leaves are laser cut so have a good shape, and I've glued them all onto stems now. I think it will look good - eventually.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Wishing I was at Sock Summit

Sock Summit started yesterday in Portland, Oregon, and I was curious enough to join Twitter and sign in to the #socksummit Twitter stream. I am so jealous! People sound like they are having the most amazing time of their lives, it sounds like it is really a major happening with amazing shopping, tons of knitting celebrities, and wonderful classes. They are all asleep right now as I blog this, but will wake up soon and hopefully start tweeting again. Fighting a faint urge to hop on a plane to Oregon...

The weather has been very unsettled here in the UK, windy, overcast, very muggy, sudden heavy rainshowers. They are saying that it might be nicer this weekend - fingers crossed.

Wednesday night I went to a dollshouse club meeting where we put together kits from Georgina Steeds to make paper-punched sweetpea stems. I made about 18 stems which I need to glue into a vase. They look ok, although I don't think I managed to make them look entirely realistic.

Last night I stopped into I-knit, my LYS, for a couple of hours of knitting. I worked on my Sirdar Juicy lace shawl for a while - it is now long enough to stretch elbow to elbow over my shoulders, but I think it still needs to be a lot longer so it will drape gracefully over my arms. Once I reached a row that I needed to re-knit 5 times because I kept going wrong, it was the signal that lace-knitting time was over. So I cast on for the second Scandinavian pattern sock. The first one is now finished, and here I am modelling it. It is slightly large on me as its future owner Anita has the next size up foot size.

I also played around with plaster casting to make some 'sewing machines' for the workshop area of my miniature quilt shop. I had a commercially purchased sewing machine, which I pressed into some modelling clay. I did look at proper moulding material at Hobbycraft, but the cheapest one was going to cost £12. Modelling clay cost £2.99.

I broke the sewing machine into two halves, and pressed it into the clay to make indentations which I then filled with plaster. Once the plaster set, it easily released from the modelling clay. Then while it was still soft and damp, I sanded or broke off the excess plaster, and sanded the base level. Then I set them aside to dry completely, which took about 3 days in this humid weather. They don't look the same as the original, but once painted and varnished I think they will be ok.

I blocked the front and back of the Kauni V-neck sweather, and seamed the shoulders. Then I took it back out to the knitting shed and hooked the armhole onto the machine, and started knitting the sleeves from the armhole downwads using the same punchcard. I hope this is going to fit. I found the yarn was too breakable to seam with, so I actually used some toning embroidery floss to seam the shoulders.

I met a girl at dollshouse club who said she knitted. I was excited to meet another knitter and asked if she was on Ravelry, only to be greeted by a blank stare. She also wasn't interested about the local knitting group that I had heard about. Suddenly there was little to talk about - I am a knitter in the sense that I am involved in the online / global knitting community, subscribing to UK and American knitting magazines, a Ravelry member, occasionally attending knitting groups, a reader of knitting blogs, listening to knitting podcasts, being influenced by book reviews to buy current knitting books, interested to find out about new yarns, building a stash of yarn. Then there are the knitters that don't do any of that stuff - they just know how to knit. We are both knitters, and they probably knit better than I do, but it's like we're from different planets.

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