Saturday, 27 November 2010

Getting back to normal

It's felt more like getting back to normal this week.  No FK to worry about, no parents' evenings at the school to go to (yay!), and work hasn't been too busy. One minor bombshell Thursday night when DS suddenly discovered that there is a deadline of 16 December to have located a work placement and to register it with the school - we thought we had until next summer to find one.  Not too much we can do about it now, except nag him to get looking.  I've even been able to work on my dollshouse in the evenings, although I am now set up on a tiny little workstation in my bedroom which is so NOT ergonomic.  I keep knocking things onto the floor when I reach for something else.

I haven't done any sewing but I have plugged on with the knitting.  I have a pleasant sense of finishing stuff off recently, and I remarked to DH that I will need to start some new projects.  This provoked an incredulous reponse which involved references to my new knit tidy full of project bags.  I had to explain about the need for projects that meet different requirements.  Currently I only have one portable project left, which is the Sanquhar gloves.  I was working on them today while enjoying a lovely cup of tea at a fellow knitter's house.  Six of us from our local knitting group descended on The Pincushion yarn shop in Windsor and had a good rummage, before retiring to her house for refreshments.  I picked up some DK yarn for a xmas tree tea cosy I want to have a go at, plus some chunky striped yarn which I think I will use for fingerless mittens.

I have knit two of the bands onto my Freedom wool cable vest, using the same twisted rib as the bottom band.  Just one more band to go! I've tried it on and it fits well and looks pretty good.














I finally finished the Broken Rib socks from the Little Box of Sock Patterns, knit in Tofutti yarn which is actually more pastel than it looks in the picture.  They are still wet in the picture which is making the colours look more vivid than they really are.  For some reason I found the broken rib pattern really tedious to knit.  It is two rows of 1x1 rib, 2 rows of stockinette, then two rows of 1x1 but staggered one stitch from the previous rib row.  They look nice now they are done.  The broken rib is actually quite stretchy, so really I could have knit these a bit smaller as they are a bit loose on my leg.


I'm almost finished the construction phase of my Fairfield dollshouse also.  Really there is just the landscaping to do, and then it will just be a case of furnishing and decorating the rooms.  That's taken six months because I can only work on it occasionally during the week.

It's turned incredibly cold here in the UK, even in London where I am.  It's been about 6 degrees C the last few days, a good reason to wrap up warm in hand knitted mittens and lots of scarves.  I'm also wearing my legwarmers from Sally Melville's Knit Stitch book, in Cascade 220, every day to work to combat icy chills up my ankles.  They are predicting it will get worse this coming week and we might even have snow, which used to be pretty unusual down south here.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Au Revoir to the FK

Saturday morning we breathed a huge sigh of relief as we said Au Revoir to our French Kid (FK) from Marseilles. Apart from the inconvenience of having a stranger in the house all week (having to hide the clutter, having to serve proper meals at regular times, not being able to undertake our normal activities), we managed to actually  lose him twice, so it was all rather stressful.  He was a sweet kid, with lovely manners, but spoke virtually no English and evidently had no wish to learn any more, as he spent most of the week hiding in his room.  He would show up to silently eat breakfast, and supper, and the rest of the time we never saw him.  I did try a few times to get him to come out and watch television or play video games, but he always refused - very politely of course.  The first time we lost him, he had asked if he could attend a birthday party for another of the French exchange students.  We said he could as long as we knew where it was - both so that we knew where he was and also to be able to pick him up.  He went off anyway without providing an address, despite us trying to contact him several times by phone.  So I get home from work, and DS is there but no FK.  In the end I had to call our teacher emergency contact and explain the situation, and provide our only crumb of information which was the christian name of the English party host.  Our teacher had to contact their teacher etc. etc.  And meanwhile, as we are waiting for information, who should call but FK's mother, from France!!  She didn't speak much English, and I sure couldn't think that telling her we had lost her son was a good idea.  So I asked her to call back later.  Eventually the other teacher called back with an address, so my husband could go and pick him up.  FK was completely oblivious, he probably thought it was the plan all along, although god knows how he thought we were going to retrieve him.  ESP?  He disappeared again at a school awards evening, we turned our back for one second as we were filing into our seats, and he was gone again for the rest of the evening.  Predictably for a teenage boy, we found him afterwards near the refreshments.

So today has been a happy day, as we retrieve our clutter from its hiding places and once again take up our hobbies and normal lifestyle.

This week I finished and blocked the Hand-Dyed Sock Blank socks.  They fit fine and I am pleased with the colours.  Because of the problems with snarling and having to re-wind the yarn so many times, I'm not sure that the socks bear much resemblance to my original blank.  You can perhaps make out some diagonal lines of colour on the socks.



I finished knitting the body of my Freedom Wool Cable vest and blocked it prior to picking up for the bands.

I also finished knitting the front of my machine knit Sock Wool Vest and blocked that. This was after I adjusted the pattern to reflect the tension achieved on the back (which came out too big, despite having done a tension swatch on my Brother 881 machine).

Saturday was my quilting club day.  As well as making a start on my next applique block, I pieced a random strip 'jungle' border for my Hawaiian memory quilt.  I think I may need to add some fused detail to interrupt the straight line a little. I asked my little sewing group for their opinions on how to treat the edge of this quilt.  Some thought I should add a definite border, like a picture frame, around the entire quilt - perhaps in green, or in blue.  Others thought that a straight border in blue across the top edge would set off the straight jungle border, and be sufficient to frame it.  What do you think? This will be a wallhanging.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Life gets in the way - but provides photo opportunities

Life has rather gotten in the way this week, as I had another parent's evening at the school on Monday, and then the rest of the evenings were spent trying to tidy our cluttered house in time to welcome the French exchange student who arrived on Friday.  He is a teenager from Marseilles and will be with us all week until next Saturday.  He's very sweet but speaks very little English, so it's a bit of an uphill struggle.  I've had to tidy away the dollshouse I was building in the kitchen, amongst other things.

Today was a miserable November day, cold (6 degrees C) and drizzling rain all day, very typical English weather but not very welcoming to someone from the Mediterranean.  We drove him down to see Stonehenge in Wiltshire.

And then drove over to nearby Salisbury, and took him inside Salisbury Cathedral.



Yesterday, we delegated my son to be host because DH and I had tickets for the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall in the afternoon.  It was the first time I've been to a performance there - it's pretty darn impressive. We were in a box on the Grand Tier, but I think most seats have good views because of the oval shape inside.  The Festival is a combination of both performance and a service to Remember the Fallen, and parts of it were extremely moving.



Before we went up to London for the concert, we took the boys to Windsor so our guest could see Windsor Castle.  We had tea at a cafe opposite 'The Crooked House', an old house which is leaning pretty dramatically.




I am going to show off my new yarn tidy, which I ordered after seeing it in one of the knitting magazines.  It's really intended for putting your recycling in, but it does a good job of tidying up all my various knitting projects in progress.





So the only craft I have been doing this week is knitting, because I didn't have time for anything else.


Here is my progress on the Johnny Rotten mittens so far.  Considering I have knit several stranded projects before, I am surprised at how difficult I have found stranding three strands of worsted weight.  The pattern suggests using the magic loop method, but after several attempts, I had to give up as I just couldn't strand the other two colours loosely enough.  I switched to dpns, and still had to start over a few times.  I eventually worked out that because the yarn is thicker, the act of trapping it with the working yarn (to avoid loops) is enough friction to prevent it from pulling out loosely enough even when I stretch out the stitches when I am picking up the next colour.  I have to stop and physically stretch the mitten when I change colour, to drag through enough of the other two colours from underneath the trapping, to keep the mitten loose.  This isn't helping my tension, but I think the mitten is going to be really warm with these three strands.

And I've almost finished the horrible Hand-Dyed Sock Blank socks - yay!!  just one more decrease row and some kitchener stitching, and they are done.  Finally.






The chilly weather lately made me feel like knitting something really warm and cosy.  I dug out some Jaeger Natural Fleece that I got half price at John Lewis a few years ago.  I couldn't find any suitable patterns for this chunky yarn, so I have written one based on the Ann Budd Handy Book of Sweater Patterns Yoked Cardigan pattern.  The Jaeger is 100% wool, and is a loose roving wrapped around by a spun 1-ply yarn.  It knits up quickly at 10 stitches to 4 inches, so after I took this picture, I managed about 8 inches of knitting just while we were in the car on the way to Stonehenge.



Saturday, 6 November 2010

Remember Remember

Happy Bonfire Night if you are in the UK.  We had supper early and went out to take in a few of the local school fireworks displays. We ended up standing directly underneath one display because we parked in a car park behind where the display was being set off. Which was spectacular as it exploded over our heads for 15 minutes, but started to feel a bit dangerous when a few burning embers crashed down only 10 feet or so from us.   Very exciting though, you don't normally get to stand so close to fireworks [because it's not safe, duh...] It's so dark in the evenings now that the clocks have gone back.  My walk from work is suddenly through darkened  streets lit by streetlights and headlights.

Due to a parents' evening at school, and being tired from the time change, there hasn't been a lot of crafting this week.  I did make it to I-Knit one evening, where I was knitting on my Sanquhar Glove and on my Sock blank socks.  I am finally almost finished the socks, just need to do the toes and then the entire not-very-enjoyable experience will be over.

I haven't conquered the Startitis yet, and this week have made a start on my Johnny Rotten Mittens, a kit from Skein Queen which was one of last year's Christmas presents.  It has the most gorgeous hand knit yarn in the kit, really squishy and soft and luscious.  You have to strand three colours at a time to do the Union Jack design.  I experimented with my finger clip for a while, that holds three strands at once on the index finger, but I found the yarns kept getting twisted oddly because of having to catch in the other two colours on the back. Plus it was hard to strand loosely.  I've gone back to just picking up the colour I need and dropping the other two.

I've done some work on my Hawaiian memory quilt, running a border of exotic blooms up one side.  I cut out and fused on several blooms to blur the join between the ocean and the flowers.  It's been fun making this because it brings back so many memories of our lovely holiday.











I'm getting ready for the 15th block of my Grandmother's Last Quilt 25-block applique quilt.  I laid out the other 14 blocks on my bed, to see what fabrics I had used so that I could select the best fabrics to use for the new block.  This quilt is all in reproduction bubblegum pinks and acid greens.  I quite like doing needleturn applique when I'm actually doing it, but I find the long preparation process very tedious:  making templates, making bias stems, tracing templates onto fabric, cutting out, pinning into exact position on the block, and then FINALLY you get to do some sewing.

Tomorrow we have to tidy up the house in preparation for my son's French exchange partner, arriving from Marseilles next Friday.  I'll have to move the dollshouse construction project out of the kitchen, sadly, to make more room for having a fourth person at the dinner table.  I've also done a load of cooking today, to get some prepared meals into the freezer so that our guest doesn't have to subjected to our usual erratic meal provision (which is highly subject to how tired I am after work plus how distracted I am by craft projects).

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