Friday, 27 November 2009

Running to stay in place

I don't know where this week has gone, I seem to have been really busy all week and yet I feel terribly guilty about not doing more on job hunting, not too mention the chaos around the house.

One of the really positive things about being made redundant is that I didn't have to attend Teambuilding Hell this year. However, I was invited to come to the team dinner on the first night, and I decided to go - partly for closure, and partly because my friend who is also being made redundant was going. It sounds like TBH was just as excruciating this year, although to cut costs they were meeting in a community centre near the office rather than decamping to a hotel like last year. When I joined them in the room at the end of the day, there was one wall covered in coloured balloons and stars that they had had to stick up, and they had just finished a teambuilding exercise called 'junk funk' where they had to improvise musical pieces using instruments made from watering cans, safety helmets, etc. Is this a good use of 18 people's time in this economy??? Anyway, so I'm sitting at table next to my friend, looking around at these people and thinking 'I don't know half of you new people that have joined, and I don't like most of the rest of you', when my boss' boss leans across the table and says in her loud nasal American voice to my friend (who finishes the end of this month), and with several former colleagues listening: "So, does it feel strange to be leaving?" The monumental lack of tact was just breathtaking, and how do you answer a question like that? The same woman made an after dinner speech in which she thanked my friend and I (the only two being made redundant) for our "exemplary change behaviour". As another friend remarked, this translates as "you rolled over and died quietly, thanks for that..."

Anyway, enough tales from la-la land. Not a lot of crafting going on this week. I finished two more of the little Christmas stockings but need to sew them up. I made the second sample for the Block of the Month that I am running for my sewing club (which meets tomorrow) - this one is a birdhouse which I think was from a quilting calendar, from the look of the pattern which was contributed. I am probably going to combine it with another block, such as a butterfly, or some flowers growing around the foot.

I also need to finish today some little piecrust pincushions which I am making as gifts for the two ladies that help me out with the club. I'm making four altogether, the third one for me and the fourth one for m-i-l for xmas. These are so cute, I saw them on the Quilt Out Loud internet quilting show because the presenters visited the home of the author of the book that the pattern appears in. The pattern is by Ami Simms, but it is published in the Quilter's Catalog. You basically make a fabric lid for an actual metal pie tin. The pattern calls for a 5.5" tin, but I could only order 4" tins here in the UK, so I have had to downsize the pattern a bit. This is an in-progress picture, I haven't done the decorative blanket stitching on the 'pastry' yet, nor made the rest of the top. I've made three raspberry pies and one blueberry, using the 'Farmer's Market' line of fabrics.

Tomorrow is our last meeting of the year so it is also our christmas meeting. We are only a small group, but we all bring some food for a pot luck lunch, and do a secret santa gift exchange. I am giving away a little miniature crazy quilt. It's usually a fun day, and a chance to get some uninterrupted sewing time in.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

On the road

I didn't blog yesterday because we had a 200 mile road trip to take one of our cats to a specialist animal hospital, where he is going to have radioactive iodine treatment for hyperthryoidism. It is eyewateringly expensive but we are crossing our fingers the pet insurance is going to pay for it all. If successful (and the treatment works for 95% of cases), then it is a permanent cure. We had to hang around town for four hours while they tested his blood and urine yet again, and gave him a second heart scan (he had the first at our home vets, and they shaved a patch the size of my hand to do it. It was just starting to grow back and now is shaved again. He looks like he is a half-finished cat.) But he passed all the tests and will now be in for three weeks, before we do another 200 miles to collect him.

Unfortunately this was a town with no knitting or quilting shop, but luckily I had brought knitting with me. I am progressing on my elephant-sized Christmas Stocking in Debbie Bliss Fez (pictured, showing how I have just turned the heel), and halfway up the final sleeve on my Noro Matsuri cardigan.

I have also knit three more little Christmas stockings (the one on the right needs sewing up). I am thinking I may crochet a lanyard and hang all the little stockings from it, it will be really cute and then they won't get lost on the christmas tree.

What else this week? I've been experimenting with felting, but will blog about that separately once I've finished my project. I've been quilting on my Piece o' Cake 'Flowering Vines' quilt top: I've done all the straight line quilting with my walking foot and am now starting to go around the applique in free motion. I may have to put that to one side however, as I need to finish up my Hawaiian Batik quilt top and then get my frame put up and quilt it, all in time for Christmas.

I have to prepare two more samples for the Garden Block of the Month for our quilt club meeting next weekend. I have contributed an applique pattern from EQ6 for a garden arch and fence. I decided to avoid the obvious white choice of fabric and went with a wooden fabric. I then had the problem that it was very low contrast against all the fabrics I had been thinking of using for background. Then I found this panel tucked in my stash, and felt it worked well. Since taking the big picture, I have gone around the fused applique with two tone thread to create a 3-d effect of light coming from one side, and it stands out better now against the garden.

Today I was also on the road, heading up to London (going around the collapsed bridge on a separate train line). First of all to a Christmas craft fair at the Royal Horticultural Halls, to which a friend had given me a complimentary ticket. It wasn't really what we would call 'crafts', more jewellery and designer clothing accessories etc. But I did get a cute Advent Calendar and a bit of xmas shopping done. Then I was off to the Christmas London Kensington Dollshouse Show at Kensington Town Hall. This is a good show that attracts all the top makers, so lots of good eye candy even if some of it costs more than the real thing would. My only complaint about this show is that the majority of traders are the same year on year, and not only are in the same booth locations but even have pretty much the same stock. It was incredibly crowded this year, so I did a lot of looking over shoulders and thinking "it's the shoe lady" or "the glassware man". For some reason there were some truly enormous women customers in the crowd, I don't just mean 'heavy', I mean gigantic, like they could be extras in Lord of the Rings if more cave trolls were needed. I was behind one woman who must have been almost six feet tall and at least 2.5 feet wide. Maybe there was a coach trip for gigantic women from one of the European countries...? :)

Anyway, you want to know what I got. Well, I bought a set of golf clubs and a shooting set (consisting of a gun in a long leather holster and a game bag) from 'the Luggage Lady' for my Edwardian gentleman in my Rik Pierce house, a tea pot from Valerie Ann Casson (which it turns out I already have, so I am going to have to swap it), and a kit from "Petite Properties" for the 1:48th Washtub Cottage. The latter includes mdf wooden parts to build the cottage, and a booklet teaching you all her techniques for creating weathered stonework from air drying clay, tiled floors, beams etc. She is basically giving away all her secrets, which makes me wonder if we are soon going to see a rash of clone buildings for sale on Ebay and elsewhere. The kit is a christmas present for me, for someone to give me. I have also ordered myself a mitten kit (the union jack 'Johnny Rotten' mittens), and a model ship kit, and have handed them over to my husband for someone else to give back to me. Only way to get quality christmas presents in my opinion. Who needs another basket of scented soap?

I will finish with my newest wheeze: a rotary cutting mat. I spotted this solid wooden turntable when I was on the IKEA trip last weekend (and no, we didn't leave anyone behind, and yes, people enjoyed themselves) for £5.99. It just so happens that I had a spare large cutting mat that was completely knackered (I used it to build my Willowcrest dollshouse on) so I cut a circle out of that and stuck it on upside down (to use the smoother surface) with doublesided tape. Hey presto, a rotary cutting mat!

Saturday, 14 November 2009


I finished my little November fireworks wallhanging today. We went to a great fireworks display (for Guy Fawkes) last weekend at my son's old school. This is hanging in the downstairs hallway where I can see it as I come in the door. At the moment it is hung up with safety pins, I should likely come up with something more sophisticated.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Wet and dreary

The weather is terrible: wet, windy, rainy. The good news is that we thought we were going to spend all day Saturday on a muddy cold riverbank supporting our son in a rowing race, and now it's been cancelled due to dangerously high river levels / wind levels. So I've got my Saturday back and will try to do some quilting tomorrow.

Otherwise I haven't got much done on the craft front this week. A bit of knitting every day. I'm having trouble with the corrugated ribbing curling on my DH's Kauni jumper. Apparently this is a common problem. I tried undoing the last few rows, reknitting in garter and casting off tightly - which improved it but it still curled. So I undid it all, and cast on again in 2x2 rib (it was 1x1) which is supposed to be more stable, and am re-knitting the bottom band hoping it will improve. I'm on the last sleeve of my Noro Matsuri cardigan, so that might actually be finished before the end of the year.

My November fireworks wallhanging has sat on my sewing table all week. I've sewn a few borders on, then had to take them off because I didn't like them, and now I am putting them back on. It is looking a little boring to me now, I think I need to add more fireworks.

And I made some dust covers for two of my dollshouses from heavy transparent vinyl, using velcro that sticks on one side (the dollshouse side) and sews on the other side (the vinyl side) to stick them on. This was my quilt shop and my Rik Pierce house, both open-backed houses that were getting really dusty inside, hopefully the vinyl will be a barrier against most of the dust now.

On Sunday I am going on a road trip to Ikea with several pensioners from my sewing group, most of whom have never been there. Hopefully it will be enjoyable for them and not too overwhelming, and most of all I hope we don't lose anyone! I think I will give them all DH's mobile number, and print maps of the store off the internet to give everyone. I volunteered DH to be a car pool driver for this trip, and as you can imagine he was thrilled when he heard that. I tell him it is our way of giving back to the community... :)

Friday, 6 November 2009


November... only a matter of weeks now until I leave work at the end of the year. I am in a mini-support group with someone else at work, and they are leaving at the end of November. Suddenly time seems to be speeding up. I've been on a financial awareness course for redundancy leavers, which sparked a long overdue look at not only our finances but my long neglected filing system. So today I've spent about five hours tidying up files, hunting down tax forms and pay slips, and clearing out the shelf on my desk where I throw things that need to be filed. Somehow there always seems to be something better to do - like quilting or knitting. I found out yesterday that I won't hear about the internal vacancy I applied for until the beginning of December, a long time to wait.

Meanwhile, Halloween went off pretty well. I left the front window open a crack so I could hear what the kids said as they caught sight of my decorations, so that was pretty fun. We had half a dozen parties of young kids before supper, and another half a dozen of older kids after supper. And only one group of teenagers who weren't even wearing costumes, girls this time. I had two carved pumpkins since the third one had unfortunately gone rotten. The leftover halloween candy has nourished us for several days but is almost gone now. Thankfully. My DH said he only saw one other decorated house in our neighbourhood though, which is even less than usual. I enjoyed seeing all the costumes and handing out fistfuls of candy. Do you like my haunted house pumpkin?

I managed to knit the Rico Pompon scarf for my m-i-l's birthday. I started Friday night and finished it off on Saturday. This time I cast off by knitting 2 together across one row, then casting off the single stitches on the final row. That worked fairly well and only pulled in the knitting a little bit. She was thrilled with the scarf.

My Christmas knitting is underway. My enormous Christmas stocking in Debbie Bliss Fez is several inches long now, and I am just doing the big fair isle stars. I am also knitting some really cute mini stockings to hang on the tree, using a free pattern from Little Cotton Rabbit. They are knit flat which she says makes it easier to do fair isle. But it means you have to purl in fair isle, which I've never done before and find really awkward. Luckily they are only small. I knit two in 2.5 hours with my local knitting group this week. I am also working on my DH's Kauni Pullover and knitting the bottom rib on by hand, and I think this will be his christmas present (although not a surprise obviously).

I've been doing some quilting as well. I finished the re-quilting of the Amish Sunshine and Shadows and gave it a wash to take the marks out. It looks really good and I have now handed it over to my DH. Now I have started a wallhanging for November featuring fireworks (for Guy Fawkees night, which was last night but we are going out to a fireworks show on Saturday night). I've adapted the design from a book by Jeri Kelly called "Every Month- a tablerunner for every month". My wallhanging is basically half a tablerunner, and I've changed the fireworks a bit. I picked the book up at Paducah this year, because I've always wanted to have seasonal quilts for every month of the year. I do have several seasonal wall quilts already, but November is a month that isn't covered.

And here is a tip that I think I read in Fons & Porter magazine: storing sewing needles in a divided plastic box. They recommended a seven-day-pill box, but I couldn't find one of those. I picked this one up for .79p at Lidl (a supermarket) and it works great. I've got my quilting/piecing needles in one, and my general and specialist needles in a second one. I've got the different sizes in each compartment, starting from 60 at the left, then 70, 75, 80, 90 and 100, much easier to find things.

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