Friday, 30 October 2009

A quieter week

It's been a quieter week, as I had a day of leave to relax, and I haven't had any training courses or anything. I feel like I am holding my breath for the next two weeks, until I hear the outcome of my application for the internal job. If I don't get that (and 6 other people applied for the same job) then I will really have to ramp up the jobhunting activity.

Tomorrow is Halloween, and once again I will pay my lonely homage to my childhood in Canada by being virtually the only house in our neighbourhood to decorate and hand out sweets. The Brits do not really understand Halloween. Although it is becoming more popular and you do see a limited range of decorations and treats in many stores now, trick or treating is still not common in our area. You even still occasionally see clerics denouncing the foreign import of devil worship, in the local papers. Plus of course there are huge safety concerns, there is no tradition or culture here of it being a lighthearted fun children's holiday, so it does present an excuse for vandalism and bad behaviour, parents worry about the children going to strangers' doors for possibly doctored sweets, old people cower in their homes with the lights out, etc. But I will have my decorations up (most of them are up now), and three pumpkins this year, and my flashing skull and my blow-up ghost and my glow-in-the-dark plastic skeletons. Some years I get as many as 40 kids, other years it might be 7, or 3. My family doesn't mind as they eat all the leftover sweets.

I finished my Halloween wallhanging and it is on display in the stairwell. I enjoyed making it, but I am a bit disappointed that what is meant to be the focus fabric (the print with all the halloween houses with monsters in each window) is rather overshadowed by the accent fabrics. This is a pattern from the book 'Nine Patch Pizzazz' and is a quick and fun way to work with focus fabrics. I have some other large prints so I might have another go from this book.

I was recently given a teapot, so of course it required a knitted tea cosy. This is based on a pattern which was in the December issue of 'Knitting' magazine, but as my teapot was a completely different shape (sort of a round square with a flat top) and I was knitting a completely different gauge (holding a strand of coned 4-ply wool together with a strand of coned boucle), the resemblance is only loose. I also knit mine seamlessly. It does up with a button loop underneath the handle.

On other knits: I am progressing on my Christmas stocking in Debbie Bliss 'Fez'. I love this yarn, which is so soft and warm, but this stocking is turning out absolutely enormous. My gauge is pretty close, but this stocking would fit both my legs into it. My DH looked at it and inquired just how many presents I thought Santa was bringing me this year. I have also knit several more rounds on my Pi Shawl, mostly stockinette but one round of yarn overs, thus adding about one painstaking inch to the circumference. Now that I am knitting stockinette, I can do a full round of 574 stitches in about 20 minutes so it is growing faster than it was. Remember I was going to knit another Rico Pompon scarf for my m-i-l? I suddenly realised last night that her birthday is Monday, so DH would have to take the scarf down on Sunday. Can I knit an entire scarf in two days??? I hope so. It is a pretty quick knit.

I am feeling virtuous because I have tackled a project which has been hanging around for years. At least 5 years ago (and it might even be 10) I bought an Amish-style Sunshine and Shadows quilt from a quiltshow, by accident. What happened was a lady had made the quilt to raise money for a cancer charity, and there was a sheet next to the quilt inviting bids. No-one had bid on it when I was there, and I felt sorry for her because it was an impressive quilt, so I put on a bid. Well, it turned out I was the only one, so the quilt was mine. She had done a great job on it, except for one border where I think she was practicing her free motion quilting. Using invisible thread and about 20 stitches to the inch, she had quilted a vine and leaf motif which didn't suit the quilt and at a standard much lower than the construction quality. Over several years I gradually unpicked this border (mostly in front of the tv, cursing quietly about invisible thread being invisible) and finally finished it last month. Now I am marking a scrolling feather in the next border, the outer wide border, which I think will suit the quilt better. To mark, I am using a neat gadget that I swapped fabric for at my sewing club: a Quilt Pounce. A friend of mine had bought it and never used it. It's a fabulous device that you pour chalk powder into, and just wipe it across the stencil for an instant mark, so quick and easy. I've quilted one border so far and marked the second one. I did find that the chalk does rub off fairly easily, by the time I got to the end of the quilting some of the lines were just about gone, so I've marked the second border much more heavily and will try not to rub it on itself.

I will finish with a picture of the triffid in my garden, a.k.a. the world-eating nasturtium. This is entirely self-seeded from a nasturtium I planted about 5 years ago (which as I recall was supposed to be a dwarf version). Somewhere underneath the main mass is a large rosemary bush, and it has reached out over a fuschia shrub to embrace the adjoining hydrangea, and even thrown runners across the path to start to engulf the lavender hedge. I would be scared as the house will be next in its evil all-conqueroring path, except that I know the first frost will kill it.

Friday, 23 October 2009

First interview / first rejection

Well, I didn't get the civil service job, which is fine because I mainly did the interview for practice. I thought it went pretty well, so I have asked for feedback to help me improve. I have also applied for a role in my current company, which doesn't really sound like me but it might be a chance to stay in the company.

I have to use up my leave before I go, so I had a lovely day off on Wednesday and really took it easy. I spent the day finishing the interior of my 1:48 scale Halloween house. I haven't built a ladder yet to go upstairs, and I could still add more accessories. It was wonderful to just not think about jobhunting for a whole day.

I also finished the red, white and blue Regia socks, in just over a week which is something of a record for me. I was hoping to beat the UK postal strike but didn't. I will have to make other arrangements to get them to their new owner.

I've finished quilting the halloween wallhanging and am now stitching down the binding. A friend brought another friend over to see my quilt collection today. I got them all out of the cupboard and laid them on top of each other on the bed. It's good to shake out the folds and give them an air. Only now I've got to fold them up and put them all back this evening, or else face being really REALLY warm tonight. There were a few I'd kind of forgotten about, so it was good to see them all.

I've finished the back and two fronts of the Noro Matsuri cardigan and have cast on for the first sleeve. Even though all my balls are the same dye lot, one of them is much paler than the others, if I have to use it (and I think I will be short on yarn) I am not really sure how I am going to do that, maybe knit it in alternate rows.

Friday, 16 October 2009

I need a holiday

It's all been a bit mad this week and I am really starting to feel like I need some down time. Unfortunately I am not going to get it very soon, although I did get to sleep in this morning, which was great. Now however I have to get busy because:

- I have a job interview next Thursday for a civil service committee administrator job. It doesn't pay very well but this will be my first interview so I have loads of preparation to do. Apparently they are also going to give me a 45 minute test on my minuting skills - eek! I have good minuting skills, but I've never actually been tested, I wonder how they will do that?

- My company has embarked on a flurry of resourcing, part of the 'new brush sweeps clean' approach of our new CEO. A significant proportion of the company (hundreds 0f people) have to re-apply for their own jobs, the idea being that there are fewer jobs and they pick the best people. The unsuccessful will be redundant like me. It is a grim time, but it means there have been a number of vacancies posted this week which I have had to wade through to see if there is anything suitable for me. There is only one, in a completely new area and a bit of a step down, but I have to decide whether to go for it or not. To complicate matters further, in their hurry to get the process over and done with in two weeks, there are errors on the system, including two different deadlines (one this Sunday, the other next Friday) so I'm trying to find out if I have to hurry my application in this weekend or if I have next week as well. Meanwhile I've got to prepare my application and get the wording exactly right, as they are basing the selection entirely on the submission - no interviews.

While all this has been going on, I've had no less than three courses this week so I've hardly been in the office or at home. I was on a Search Engine Optimisation seminar on Monday (quite interesting), an outplacement course on 'Networking Skills' on Tuesday (not very good, and I'm not very good at it either), and yesterday I was on a full day course on 'Company Secretarial Practice', all about the legal compliance side of corporate governance. The last one was an exploratory course to see if that is an area I want to get in to. But I'm not sure I'm very keen, it seemed very dry and a lot of filling out forms etc.

So you can see why I am feeling somewhat burned out. And not a whole lot of crafting has been going on.

I did finish my Opal yarn Harry Potter socks. They have come out somewhat large on me so I think I will give them to my sister in law for christmas. I loved this yarn though, it had a great colour repeat.

I have been trying to sandwich up my Halloween quilt ready for quilting, after getting it to the top stage last Saturday and also piecing a back for it out of Halloween fabrics. Annoyingly, I snatched a few hours on Tuesday night to get it 3/4 pinned up, then realised that I had the top slighly off centre so it wasn't lining up with the batting/backing - so I had to unpin it all again. Grrrr. I started again but it is only about 1/3 pinned - maybe I will get that pinned up completely today if I need a break from job applications.

I have started a new pair of socks with some great Regia red, white and blue sock yarn that I bought at Alexandra Palace. It knits up in solid stripes of each colour. These will be a gift. Oh, and my friend Anita received her Scandinavian pattern socks in the post. She says she loves the colours and they fit great! So that's good, and a relief to know that they arrived safely.

And last weekend was of course the great Alexandra Palace Knitting and Stitching Show, one of the premier textile events here in the UK each year. It goes on for four days but I couldn't go until Sunday, when things were looking a bit cleaned out. But I had a great time, it seemed quite busy to me and some of the traders I spoke to had done very well. Even the Machine Knitting Guild had done a roaring trade in signing up new members, which is good news because machine knitting has been dead as a doornail for the last five years or so. The lady on the stand who sells secondhand machines said she can't get them cleaned up quick enough to satisfy the demand. Who knows, maybe we will get some new clubs started up (my local one closed years ago) and a new UK magazine. She also told me how to open up the panel on my Brother 260 machine to clean the patterning mechanism, because I've been having a problem with it freezing up as I am trying to knit DH's Kauni jumper (now knitting final sleeve).

So what did I get? Well, I did in fact take my knitting stash index cards with me as a kind of talisman in my bag, so I did not go overboard on the yarn front. However, as we all know, sock yarn doesn't count, so I did come back with yarn for four new pairs of socks including a gorgeous skein of Colinette Jitterbug, the red and white Regia, and two other self-striping yarns. I also bought a pattern for some traditional Sanquhar gloves, which are 12 stitches to the inch so I must be mad. To make those I bought a skein of white Shetland lace yarn and two skeins of navy (backordered as they were out).
I had a lovely but exhausting time viewing all the stalls, guild displays, artists' exhibitions, club projects, got chased off the 'Learn to Knit' stall for the crime of having a hot drink with me (I guess there is an HSSE risk that I might suddenly have a fit and start flinging tepid tea over the beginners), had some nice chats with other shoppers during refreshment breaks, and bumped into a few people that I know (Hi Vanessa!). I didn't actually buy any quilting stuff although there were several quilting shops there. I spoke to the Jamieson's people (shetland wool) about shade cards for knitting the Alice Starmore design that I admired at the I-knit Weekender event ('Marina') and they said to give them a call after the show and they would sort me out. Needless to say I haven't had time!

Friday, 9 October 2009

More weekend pics

Since I just blogged a few days ago, I will post some more pics from our weekend. Apologies for the sideways one. The one with civilians in was from a mock Regency wedding, where we in the audience were handed posies and hymn sheets to sing along with the ceremony.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Computer finally returns, oh blessed relief

It's official, I'm addicted. Not having my main computer since Friday has been awful, like a constant itch that I can't scratch. I couldn't blog, couldn't download pics from my camera, couldn't easily chat, couldn't print - aaaaarghghghgh! I couldn't even work on my halloween quilt because the only pictures were on the computer, and when I knocked into the design wall the blocks fell off and I couldn't remember how I had them. So whew! the computer is finally back. DS has been making fun of me for not being able live without it.

An update on what I've been crafting, and then I will tell you about what I did on the weekend (hint: time travel...).

Speaking of my halloween quilt, here is the pic of the blocks on the design wall for the centre of the wall hanging. I have now started to sew them together. The border will be a double plain border of more halloween fabric.

I finished my Scandinavian pattern socks and sent them off to their new owner in France - hopefully she will actually get them and they won't get held up in the intermittent postal strike we've been having in the UK. We are still getting our mail, but there are warnings in the newspaper that the mountain of undelivered mail is now so big that even if you post your christmas cards now, they might not get there. Great.

Here is a pic of my index card box for my knitting stash, with photographs of all the stash and/or projects. I am planning to take the cards with me to the Ally Pally knitting and stitching show on Sunday, to help restrain my shopping impulses. I haven't decided whether I will try to photograph some of my other stashes in the same way.

Other knitting: The Noro Matsuri cardigan continues, I've knit the two fronts and am working on the back above the armhole. I'm beginning to worry I will run out of yarn. I'm almost finished the second Harry Potter sock. And I've started the Christmas Stocking out of Simply Knitting magazine's calendar supplement, using Debbie Bliss 'Fez' - I love this yarn! It is so soft and yet has really good body, it is knitting up beautifully.

I've been working on the furniture for the 1:48 Halloween House. I put together the limited amount of kits that come with the house kit, and I've dived into my 1:48 stash to source several accessories. I've also put together some printies from the internet to make faux kitchen cabinets. Now it needs some finishing touches to bring it all together. I haven't stuck any of the furniture pieces in yet because they are so small that it is much easier to 'dress' them first with accessories before putting them into the house.

Now for the weekend report. DH, DS and I went down to Dorset for a Napoleonic weekend in the grounds of a Georgian country mansion. This was an event which brought together several re-enactment groups so there was a military camp of perhaps 100 people in all kinds of different uniforms, with camp followers, servants etc., all in period tents and cooking over campfires. Also present were 'civilian' re-enactors like a Regency dance troupe. We aren't re-enactors but we do love history, and DH paints military miniatures, so we both really enjoyed it (teenage DS moaned a lot and spent most of the weekend sitting in the car listening to music while he played his Nintendo). It was as if we had gone back in time, watching the uniformed soldiers and beautifully costumed ladies strolling around in the park and in front of the house. There were various displays and events, such as Regency dancing, skirmishes and battles, a cavalry display and so on. The best thing was when darkness fell and the public were gone (we camped in the park overnight), and the campfires were glowing in the dark. The costumed re-enactors were arranged around the fires like some kind of chiascuro painting. We took loads of pictures, but here are just a couple.

And there was a display of what a French soldier would have in his backpack: including this 'housewife' or sewing roll. I thought it was a neat design, that would be useful even today. Imagine it sewn in 30s repros?

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Computer in shop - watch this space

I had to take my main PC into the shop on Friday, and it's the one with the camera software loaded, that I blog from. So blog will be late this week - hopefully I will get it back tomorrow (Monday).

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