Saturday, 26 March 2011

This and that

For some reason I don't seem to have many photos this week.  It's calmed down at work now that I've got past the printing deadlines, and I have been able to catch up on my to-do list.  I also prepared a list of how much more responsibility I have now, compared to last year, and asked for more money.  My new boss was somewhat startled but agreed quite willingly to look into it. The new interim manager starts next week so fingers crossed she is nice.

Sewing this week has been all about Kaffe Fassett.  I sewed together all the pieces I had from my design workshop with Kaffe last year, for the Hawiaian Potpourri Quilt.  I didn't completely design the quilt in the class, because it is ridiculously long (something like 62" wide and 95" inches long, which is like a single quilt for someone who is 7 1/2 feet tall).  So at the moment it has an uneven bottom edge - I need to work out how to fill in the gaps to achieve a straight edge shorter than the original pattern, while still using the three sizes of square that make up the design.  Looks good though.  And today at my quilting club, I finished sewing all the blocks for my Kaffe Fassett Stars over England quilt and laid it out on the floor with all its setting blocks.  It is one heck of a bright quilt, to the point where you almost feel you need to shade your eyes.  Lots of colour combinations I would never put together myself, but these are the authentic fabrics as I purchased a kit of fabrics from Glorious Colour in the States. I should have taken a piccy but didn't think of it.  Now all the rows are stacked and pinned up, ready to assemble. I'm not sure that this one is a keeper for while it has been exhilarating to work with colours and big prints that I wouldn't normally use, the overall effect is rather more psychedelic than I think I want to have around in my own home.  May have to find a new owner for it when it's done.

On the knitting front, I knit the 25th square for my Learn to Knit Afghan, a twisted stitch trellis in two colours.  Now I need to block them all out to size.  I also did a few rows on my Holden Shawlette, I'm on the last repeat of the chart for the wavy edge.

I picked up a cute book at the discount book warehouse by Waterloo Station for only £4.99.  "Beautiful knits for heads, hands and toes - stunning accessories for you to knit" by Alison Dupernex.  I am not normally that interested in accessories but there are some cute and useful things in here, the usual scarves, hats, bags, legwarmers, some nice socks and some really interesting gloves.  There is one pair of gloves knit sideways in garter stitch, with a different colour for each finger.  And a pretty pair of fingerless gloves with a braided cable, knit in Rowan Denim so slightly faded - and I think I have some Rowan Denim leftover from my Mustang jumper that I knit a while back.

The weather in London has been absolutely glorious this week, I ate my lunch in the park in the sunshine on a few days (with some knitting afterwards of course).  In typical English fashion, it turned grey for the weekend, and even rather chilly in the afternoon.  Our clocks go forward this evening, so I am trying to decide whether it would be better to have a lie-in tomorrow then be cranky on Monday morning from lack of sleep, or get up early tomorrow to get it over with, and be cranky tomorrow which is at least a home day and not a work day.  Decisions, decisions...

Sunday, 20 March 2011

What happened to this week?

This week has been ridiculously busy at work, as I had two publications going to print this week and my new boss seems happy to be piling stuff on me that my old boss used to do.  Therefore I spent most of my evenings collapsed in an exhausted heap in front of the telly, and not doing much crafting.

I did do some pressing and sewing on my Kaffe Fassett Potpourri quilt.  Working on this brings back so many lovely memories of my trip to Hawaii where I took this workshop with Kaffe and Brandon Mably.  This is a very bright quilt.  When I got home after the trip, I took it to my fairly traditional quilt club and unrolled it for them to see.  There was a sort of stunned silence, before one member said faintly: "it's very busy, isn't it?"  Someone else suggested adding solid sashing "to calm it down".

While it does look a little like someone vomited up a Hawaiian flower garden onto the wall, I rather like it  :)  It's very cheerful and in keeping with the Spring weather we are enjoying now.

I knit two more squares for my Learn to Knit Afghan, bringing my total to 24 squares.  I just need one more now and I think I will call it a day.  I put them all out on the floor to have a look at them, and realised that my tension must have become looser over the years, as the earlier squares are smaller than the later ones. Hopefully they will block out, it is a pure wool yarn.  The blue and white stripe one is the biggest, I may have to pull that one out and try it with fewer stitches.

Yesterday (Saturday) we headed over to the newly re-opened Squires Garden Centre at Shepperton.  We had boycotted it for a long time, as they had closed down several independent craft businesses that leased outbuildings when they decided to rebuild.  There used to be a good needlework shop there, a wool shop, a farm shop etc.  The new building has a 'craft area' which is like a Hobbycraft wannabe, full of stuff of no real interest to people who actually do those hobbies.  For example, although the word 'knitting' appears on a lot of big signs, the only yarn they have is one wall unit of ultracheap Stylecraft acrylic.  However, there are a number of cheap craft books, and I picked up this book of memory quilts for only £3.99.  There are some really cute ideas in here for transforming your collections into quilts, be they music tickets, programmes, pins, ties, postcards, letters or whatever. I would like to have a go with some of my travel souvenirs from when I was younger.  We enjoyed a cream tea in the huge new cafe, and wandered around the sparsely stocked plant area enjoying the Spring sunshine.  As they are newly opened, they were giving away goody bags to people who brought a voucher to the till, and to my surprise we were able to get one.  It had some great stuff in it, cookies, savoury biscuits, sweets, soap, lavender bag and a pen.  Still wish they hadn't closed down the independent craft stores though.

And today we drove up to Birmingham for the enormous and always excellent Miniatura dollshouse fair.  I had committed to only keeping DH waiting two hours, so I had to run around like a madwoman, trying to get round all the tables.  I basically had to reject any table that didn't have goods that were on my shopping list - which probably saved me money.  I picked up several 1/24th items for the Fairfield house that I am building.  On the drive there and back, I was knitting on my Holden Shawlette, my Johnny Rotten mitten, and my Selbuvotter Annemor glove.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Be careful what you wish for...

Well, the work situation has changed yet again.  The consultant and I had reached a sort of detente, in which I got on with my job while he waffled hot air and blustered his way through the days earnestly pretending that he knew what he was doing.  But suddenly it was all over.  Thursday morning I came in, and he took me to one side to tell me that it was his last day.  Apparently the head of our department (my old boss' boss) had told him at the end of the previous day.  He seemed rather shocked by the suddenness of it all, and was scrambling all day to put his affairs in order and close down what he had been doing (not that much). I felt a bit sorry for him really.  And to do him justice, he did bring in chocolate after lunch as a farewell present for us.

So I am suddenly boss-less, at least temporarily.  The department head doesn't want to get involved with details, and is very eager to have me take on things that my boss used to do.  Meanwhile, apparently there will be an interim manager coming in for six months to cover another vacancy in the department, and she will have a 'dotted line' to me - whatever that means.  I'm hoping it means that I can get on with my work independently, yet still have someone for backup when I am on holiday or sick, and someone to refer the awkward people to.  I have mixed feelings really, relief that both my old boss and the consultant are now out of the picture, but some anxiety over the uncertainty and sudden increase in responsibility.  I hope the new interim manager is nice and we get along.  Oh, and apparently my old boss was incredibly upset at having her shaky arrangement with the consultant overset, and was even shouting at our department head (so I hear) but he was telling her ' you don't work here any more and we have to manage without you'.  I'm beginning to wonder if there is a master plan to engineer my old boss out of the picture completely.  I know her shambolic performance had been criticised by a lot of people.

It's like working in a soap opera.   My old job was never like this.  What is that old Chinese curse?  "May you live in interesting times..."?

Anyway, what have I been up to this week craft-wise?

I finished the crockery wall hanging and it is now brightening up my kitchen.  I did trim the border a bit narrower before I added the binding.  This was a fun project, and I am tempted by some of the other projects in the book.  There are neat quilts that look like shelves with crockery all along them.

By the way, the bottom edge of this quilt is in fact straight - for some reason it looks bowed in the photograph.

I was looking in my cupboard to see what UFO I would tackle next, and I came across this crumpled rag.  Long-time blog readers may possibly recognise it (but I doubt it) as the Potpourri Quilt that I designed on the workshop with Kaffe Fassett and Brandon Mably when I went on the Hawaii trip a few years ago.  We worked on flannel design walls (the brown taupe) and before I packed away that day, I tacked every patch to the flannel with a Micro-stitch gun so I wouldn't lose the design layout while it was packed in my suitcase.  So now I need to take off a few patches at a time, iron them and seam them together, then put them back on the design wall to keep everything in the right place during assembly.

Yesterday we went on a day trip to Calais in France.  We are on the wrong side of London for the Dover ferry so it was a very long day  - we left at 7am and didn't get back until 10pm.  We did all the usual things in France:  I bought duty-free perfume, we picked up cheap wine and booze, I had Mussels in white wine for lunch, we hit the hypermarket for some bargain clothing, and a patisserie for a mouth-watering strawberry tart.  While we were shopping in Calais, I found the Phildar store was still there.  I last bought yarn in either that store or another, about 20 years ago.  It's strange by UK standards as it sells clothing, but at the back of the store is a well-stocked yarn corner.  And they had a bunch of discontinued yarn bagged up at 50% off.  So I picked up 10 balls of Phildar 'Croisiere', a ribbon yarn in 24% cotton/76% synthetic, which I thought would make a nice summer top.  I haven't knit in ribbon yarn before, but this seems fairly tightly woven and has a nice sparkly strip running through it.  Will have to knit up some swatches and see what it looks like knitted up.  My French is pretty abysmal and the store lady didn't speak English, but luckily we both spoke Knitting so I was able to check that I had enough for a short-sleeved sweater and to ask if she had any knitted swatches (she didn't).

During the long car journey, I was knitting.  I was even knitting on the way back in the dark, thanks to the round-the-neck light that I posted about a while back.  It worked quite well in the car - DH said that the soft light didn't distract him from the road.  I think it would be better to use it with thicker yarn - I was knitting on my Holden Shawlette in fingering weight, and found my eyes got a bit strained trying to focus on the lace stitches.  I also knit a bit on my Estonian Lace Shawl and on my Liesl Cardigan during the day.  Commuter knitting this week has been the Holden (I am about halfway through the lacy border now).  I've also been working on my Selbuvotter Annemor 12 Wedgewood gloves.  Those are the ones with the big problem with the charts for the fingers.  I think I have worked out a solution, and have knit a little finger and am started on the ring finger.  I will post on Ravelry once I find out if it's worked.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

March comes in like a Lion

It has been very cold going to work this past week, especially in the mornings when there has been an icy wind dropping the c. 9 degree Celsius London temperatures down to something that feels much colder.  I've been wearing almost as many woollens as when we had the snow, including my gauntlets.  And yet the days are much lighter now and the daffodils are out, so it feels like Spring.

Not much has happened at work this week, my new boss has been too busy to pay much attention to us, and I've been quite busy as well.  The consultant is floundering, and his increasing signs of instability (talking to himself, huffing and puffing in exasperation at his PC, muttering unhappily coming out of meetings etc.) have been noticed and remarked on by several people.  Perhaps he will crack under the strain and depart, but I don't know where that would leave us then.

Last Sunday I paid a visit to Studley Grange Craft Village, outside Swindon, as we had a day to kill while DS was doing a school thing in Swindon.  I went because they advertise having a dollshouse shop, but that turned out to be almost entirely 1/12th scale Dolls House Emporium-type stuff.  The complex is aimed squarely at the family market, with a children's play area and a Butterfly World/mini zoo, and various crafty stores doing children's workshops.  But surprisingly they have quite a decent little knitting shop, called Crafty Yarn.  It was relatively well stocked with Malabrigo, Artesano, Rico, Katia, and I think Debbie Bliss (not very good at remembering these things) and she said she was just about to move across the complex to a bigger unit.  Telephone 01793 855535,  I bought a skein of gorgeously soft lace yarn called Filigran Lace No 1 from Germany, 100/% merino superwash in a light robin's egg blue.

I quilted my crockery wallhanging.  I straight stitched around all the elements and the border, and then did free-motion quilting along the diagonals of the border trellis, and meandering in the background.  When I first started the quilting, it felt so strange, like I'd almost forgotten how to do it.  I can't remember the last time I quilted something off the frame, and I haven't even done frame quilting for well over a year.  The flip side of 'practice makes perfect' is 'use it or lose it'.  Anyhow, although the trellis quilting is a bit shaky, it doesn't show against the print, and I felt more confident by the time I got to the meandering.  I am thinking the border is a bit wide (3") so I may trim it down to 2 1/2".

What I need is to find a BFF who hates piecing, but loves doing a fabulous quilting job.  Although then I suppose we would fall out over who got to keep the quilt.

I've been feeling fairly tired in the evenings and not up to tackling anything complicated, so I dug out my oldest knitting UFO.  This is the 'Learn to Knit' Afghan by Barbara Walker, and is the project on which I re-learned to knit back in 2006.  There are some 65 squares in different patterns in the book, and this week I completed the blue cabled square which is my 21st square.  I bought 4 lots of Debbie Bliss Merino Aran for this project, a yarn which is now discontinued, and I'm running out. I may just aim to complete 24 or 25 squares and call it a day, rather than try to match the yarn.  I can remember how difficult some of the squares seemed when I was learning, and I feel a sense of achievement that at my current skill level it was fairly easy to knock off the cabled square (having said that, I twisted the central column of stitches the wrong way and had to drop back several rows and crochet the stitch up again...).  I will need to block all these squares to a uniform size before I can join them with crochet.

I finally got around to starting my Cookie A 'Sunshine' socks, in Colinette Jitterbug.  These are my first Cookie A socks and I was a little bit nervous, but so far they seem straightforward enough.  I am getting good stitch definition with this yarn and the lacy cable seems quite elastic so perhaps they will even stay up, unlike every other pair of handknit socks I have ever produced.

I saw in a knitting magazine that there is going to be a new fibre festival, and for once not in the depths of Wales or somewhere else far away, but in Thurleigh, Bedfordshire.  Fibre-East will take place 23-24 July 2011. There's not a whole lot on the website yet, but presumably more will be added.

I'm wearing my Jaeger Natural Fleece Yoked Cardigan today and it is so cosy and warm, just the thing for March.  It's not as scratchy as the Rowan Scottish Tweed cardigan I made a year ago, which is also warm but I don't like it on my bare skin as it irritates, so I have to wear it over a long sleeved collared shirt.  I'm wearing the Jaeger over a short sleeve t-shirt, and no scratchiness or irritation, lovely.

Our passive-aggressive 12 year old cat seems to be developing a death wish.  He regards my place on the sofa as 'his' and many evenings has decided that he wants to go to bed and that I should therefore vacate the spot.  When I don't cooperate, he seemingly inadvertently starts getting in the way, by sitting on my knitting pattern, sitting on my yarn, or his favourite which is climbing into my lap and turning around in a circle as if settling down, but in reality tangling up his limbs and head into my knitting yarn as much as possible.  I tolerate this to a certain degree, but a few nights ago he went too far.  It was fairly late, almost 11pm, and he had been sitting next to me on the sofa glaring steadily, as he tried to persuade me to move by just using the powers of his mind.  Suddenly, with no warning whatsoever, he turned his head and bit down on the tip of one of my bamboo knitting needles sticking out of my knitting basket, splitting it in half.  Before I could even react, he turned his head back and resumed glaring at me.  Now this wasn't playfulness, or attention-getting.  It came across as pure unadulterated spite: "you ain't moving so look what I'm going to do."  I still haven't forgiven him, and now I feel like I need to keep my knitting up out of the way when I'm not actually using it.  I'm going to try sanding down the split tip, because it is one of my set of Clover bamboo needles.  Stupid cat.  And his insurance bills have gone up sky high since he had an expensive thyroid problem last year.  He should get a job.

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