Friday, 23 April 2010

Blink and it's Friday

Once again my week has evaporated into thin air.  It's getting busier at work as they hand more stuff over to me. 

I got to do a fun thing today:  a team from work went along to the St. George's Day fair at historic Leadenhall market in London where the special VIP guests were Mayor of London Boris Johnson and leader of the Conservative party David Cameron.    There was a small mob of press and tv cameras following their every move, trampling over everything in their path (including us) in their desperation to get good pictures or an interview.  I had the office digital camera with me and by chance (because I was wedged into a food stall which protected me from the press mob) I was able to get an excellent shot of the two of them, as well as taking pics of my team which was my real reason for being there.  Then when I got back to the office I wrote up a little article about the event for our intranet.  I never got to go out and do nice stuff like that in my old job.  And it was a beautiful sunny day to be out. So happy St. George's Day. 

Craftwise it has been mainly knitting this week, with a very small amount of work on my dollshouse kit. I have continued knitting on my Clapotis, which I have to admit is getting a bit boring now as I persevere down the central section. 

I also spent considerable time at the I-Knit knitting group on Thursday night carefully counting to nine as I did the set-up row for my lace border on my Pi Shawl.  I have 576 stitches so you can imagine my feelings when I got to the very end of the round and found I had a stitch left over...  And I'd only had one beer, honest.  So this morning on the train, I went around the entire round and counted to nine again, repeatedly.  Mystifyingly, all repeats had the correct nine stitches, so where the extra stitch came from I have no idea.  I did a k2tog and moved on.

And tomorrow is my quilting club which I am looking forward to.  My plan is to sew the very last block of the Garden Theme BOM and then I will be able to get to the fun part of designing the quilt top.  I have an assortment of odd-sized blocks and some printed garden-y panels, so I foresee lots of sashing in my future.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Where did the week go?

My new job gets me home later, so I am basically walking in the door and putting on an apron to cook dinner.  We are gradually finding a new routine but it has meant less time for crafting.  I am still really enjoying my new job, finding new things every day that are just so much better than where I used to work. Even little things like there being a nice big post office within easy walking distance, for when I need to send parcels etc.

I have been knitting on my Pi Shawl at lunchtimes because it is very portable, and I decided to pin it out to see how I was doing.  I think that it is finally big enough to start knitting the border.  I measured when I had it pinned out and it is approximately 23 inches from the centre to the edge, without being pulled too hard.  So I've been looking on Ravelry at other Pi Shawls, and in EZ's book at her suggestions for edgings, and at my Estonian Lace book for knitted on edgings.  I think I am going to go with an edging I found on Ravelry, Mwaa's "EZ 100th Anniversary PI Shawl" which I think will look nice and hopefully won't be too hard to knit. Unfortunately it means 40 more rows at 576 stitches so it still isn't going to be finished any time soon.

I've knit a bit more on my Clapotis and I pieced the backing for my Stack and Whack Stars Top, and that's about it for this week apart from doing some work on my dollshouse this weekend.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Weekend in London

Six months ago, when we thought DS was going away on a school trip, I booked a few nights in a budget hotel up in London for a city break.  DS's school trip was cancelled, but we managed to fob him off on the grandparents and went anyway.  It was a lovely relaxing treat after my first few days at my new job, very laid back, just lots of ambling about, sitting in cafes, sitting in pubs, eating far too much, and visiting a few museums.

Saturday we started from Hammersmith and walked along the Thames riverbank to visit the Emery Walker house , a small terrace house overlooking the Thames run by a small private trust.  Walker was a mentor and close friend of William Morris, and his house is one of the few places to see almost intact contemporary interiors complete with original Morris wallpapers and plenty of Morris memorabilia.  There are lovely views over the river, and volunteer guides show you around the four rooms open to the public (dining room, drawing room, study and his daughter's bedroom).  After learning lots about Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement, we moved on to view Hogarth's grave and peeked at Hogarth's house (not currently open to the public due to a fire).  From there we shopped our way down Chiswick High Street, then walked along to an Arts and Crafts pub, The Tabard, by Turnham Green station.  After a drink surrounded by Morris-style tiles, we strolled around the neighbouring Arts and Crafts-influenced garden estate, Bedford Park.  The weather was gorgeous all day so we even sat in a park for while just relaxing in the sun.

Sunday was focused on the Spitalfields area.  We enjoyed a lovely stroll around the Sunday market inside the old Spitalfields market building, admiring all the handmade items and offbeat items.  I bought these two lovely handmade ceramic wreaths from Despina Handmade Ceramics because I just fell in love with them. 

I also bought this strange bag from a stall that was selling them in various sizes.  It is assembled from one continuous zip, so you can unzip the bag completely, or zip it up into a bag - so weird!

 We had tea and sumptuous pastries at Patisserie Valerie then went off to visit the Dennis Severs House on Folgate Street.  This is a very unusual period house dating from Huegenot times, set up as a kind of walk-through still life art installation.  Every room is crammed with antiques and artefacts, all supposedly telling a story about the occupants who have just stepped out of the room before you entered.  Sound effects and smells complement the visual displays.  There is a bit of a jumble of periods but it is extremely atmospheric, especially since visitors are asked not to speak and to just enjoy the rooms in silence.  The rooms are all crooked, with uneven floorboards, lumpy walls, stained paint and plaster, and lots of personal items strewn about such as letters, half-finished cups of tea, needlework in progress, discarded clothing etc.  It made me realise that my dollshouses are just way too perfect and could benefit from some of these added details.

After a lovely lunch back at Spitalfields market, we walked north to the Geffrye museum, a quiet museum located in former almshouses.  We've been there before, and principally went this time for a quiet sit in the free reference library, where I was looking up information on Georgian interiors around 1810 (because I have a dollshouse supposedly set in 1810 which I haven't done much work on at all). The museum showcases period interiors through the ages and has recently improved its gardens.

I had my Clapotis with me all this time, and did lots of knitting in pubs, cafes, parks and in the hotel room.  I've finished the increase rows and am just starting the straight section.  I dropped my stitches to see what it was going to look like and I am a bit worried about how long my loose strands are, but perhaps it will shrink up a bit when I block the shawl at the end.  I don't want to be snagging it all the time on handles etc.  I've heard people say this is a boring knit but I've found it so far, just the thing for when you are people watching or TV watching.  I laid the shawl out on the sofa to take a picture and one of our cats decided that it was the obvious place to lie down if she wanted some attention.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

My new job is great!

The first day of my new job, and compared to my experience starting my last job at my old company a few years ago, today has seemed like heaven.

- I had a desk ready and waiting for me (unlike my last job) in an 'open plan' area with only five people in it, in a quiet corner

- People were friendly and welcoming and even gave me chocolate

- They don't have team meetings!

- There is no clean desk policy!

- The lifts (elevators) work (at my last office they were constantly on the blink)!

- The building was just refurbished two years ago so everything is lovely and new
- My boss encouraged me to take my full hour for lunch, and she was out the door herself at 5:01 pm!

- they had a proper induction process, induction documents waiting for me, I was set up on the IT system already, and got my new pass right away.

I'm so relieved.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Lots of dollshousing, and a book review

I spent the entire Easter long weekend working on my Greenleaf Fairfield dollshouse kit, which some people are following on my separate blog here.  This included a trip to Hobbycraft, where I mostly bought stuff for the dollshouse, but I did throw in one ball of Sirdar Juicy yarn.  I'm going to crochet down the long sides of my Sirdar Juicy Lace Stole because I find the edges tend to roll in.

In the evenings, I have been piecing the back for the Stack and Whack quilt top out of leftover whack fabric and the Y2K collection.

I have also made a start on my Clapotis which I need for the Clapo-tea-party event at Knit Camp this summer up in Scotland.  I am knitting mine out of Paton's Linen Touch which I got on sale at the Internknit Cafe in Farnham a while ago.  It is 74% cotton and 26% linen and has a nice crisp feel without being as harsh as some linens.  This is my first Clapotis, and I was thinking about knitting a half width, but have decided to knit the pattern as is and go for a shawl look.  In case you don't know what a Clapotis is, it is a pattern by Kate Gilbert published on which has something like 14,650 projects on Ravelry, for a shawl or scarf with an dropstitch lattice pattern on the diagonal.

In between the easy knitting on the Clapotis, I have been trying to sort out the stitch count for my Freedom Spirit sleeveless vest.  I ended up knitting the ribbing several times.  The original pattern has a deep band of close fitting 1x1 ribbing which would not do my middle aged dumpling figure any favours.  I substituted a band of broken rib but had to start over a few times before I got enough stitches to fit comfortably.  Once I had it finished, I tried it on again and decided I didn't like it.  So I ripped that and reknit the band in the twisted rib that I used on my Rico Poem Warm Ears Hat and Mittens, which is nice and stretchy, but I had to rip that and reknit it twice before I ended up finally with 189 stitches which goes comfortably around my ample middle.  Unfortunately, 189 stitches bears no relation to the actual pattern, which has a rib pattern of K5, P1, and a central cable panel.  Add to this my inability to count a given number of stitches and end up with the same number twice in a row, and you have several hours in front of the tv mumbling stitch counts and moving stitch markers.  I think I am finally there.  The twisted rib pattern is based on a K2, P1, so I am blending that into the K5,P1 pattern and have inserted a few stitches to bring the cable pattern up to its correct count.  Of course, I may now get a few inches knit and find out that it isn't fitting me at all.  Luckily this is a DK yarn so it knits up quickly.

I wanted to do a book review because I just finished reading through a great little book I really enjoyed.  It is called "Jane Austen's Sewing Box:  Craft projects and stories from Jane Austen's novels" by Jennifer Forest.  I have a paperback and the ISBN is 9781741963748, published in 2009 by Murdoch Books.

This is a beautifully produced book on thick quality paper, with copious full colour illustrations including fashion plates from the period, artful closeups of Regency furniture, domestic paintings and engravings.  Each chapter discusses a different aspect of life during Austen's time, with an emphasis on women's domestic activity and particularly on their craft pastimes.  The narrative is supported with pertinent excerpts from Austen family letters and from Jane's novels.  Then a pattern and instructions are given at the end of the chapter.

For example, a chapter with a pattern for linen pillowcases talks about preferred fabrics at the time, and how Cassandra and Jane Austen made their brother's shirts, and what the fashion trends in clothing were.  Another chapter with a pattern for a tapestry cushion discusses interior design trends and has quotes on the hobby of 'carpetwork' or tapestry.  Chapters include patterns for a letter case, pillowcases, workbag, paper flowers, purses, Huswife, Carpetwork, a muff and tippett, a pincushion and thread case, a transparency, bonnet, reticule, knitted rug and muslin cap.

I have never been able to read the Jane Austen novels (I'm hoping that is something I will grow into) but I was a huge fan of Georgette Heyer's regency novels as a teenager and still re-read them occasionally.  I've enjoyed the Jane Austen television and film adaptations, I just find the books themselves really difficult because all the action takes place in the dialogue.  But I learned a lot reading this book and enjoyed a glimpse into the lives of our crafting fore-sisters.

Friday, 2 April 2010

A start date at last

I will be starting my new job on Wednesday.  I met some of my new colleagues on a training course this week, and they seem like a nice lot, so I am trying not be too nervous.

Meanwhile I have the Easter weekend plus a few days so I have finally stopped procrastinating and made a start on my Greenleaf Fairfield dollshouse kit.  I won't say much about it here, because I will be talking about it on a separate blog.  However, it will likely be hogging a lot of the craft time for the next little while. My family are dutifully eating on the picnic table as I have once again taken over the dining table to be my work area.

My big news this week is that I finally got my oldest quilting UFO to the top stage.  I started this Wonders of the World Stack and Whack quilt back in 1999, back when Bethany Reynold's first book was a  huge craze in the quilting world.  I got several yards of a novelty print featuring world sights from and started cutting.  Unfortunately the piecing of the LeMoyne stars was less quick, and it gradually dwindled into being the project that I pulled out of the cupboard when I had nothing better to do.  Luckily I said it was going to be for my son to take to college, and he is only 15 even now, so I still have a few years to finish it.  The starting point was the attic windows centre panel where I framed all of the sights featured in the fabric, then each star is a kaleidoscope based on a different element.  I'm pleased with how it has turned out. Also slightly amazed that it has finally turned into a top, after years of being a bag of crumpled fabric.

I finished my Rico Poem mittens to match my Warm-Ears hat.  I even wore them proudly yesterday as the weather has turned quite cold here.  My pride soon turned into chagrin because it started raining as I was walking DS to the station.  I got out the folding umbrella I always carry, and was staying dry and warm underneath that while we waited for the train.  Suddenly a gust of wind yanked the umbrella out of my admittedly loose grip, and threw it onto the tracks where DS's approaching train promptly ran over it.  And it was a Cath Kidston umbrella which wasn't cheap.  Grrrr.  But the mittens are lovely and warm, this yarn is so soft and fuzzy.  It is a self striping yarn.  I tried to start at the same place in the colour run for the two mittens, and they are similar but not identical.

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