Saturday, 24 September 2011

Work hard, play hard

Crafting has not been on the radar much this week, as I had to work late four days out of five and I've either been too tired or too crowded to do much commuter knitting.  But today I took my hard-earned money up to Miniatura, one of the UK's biggest dollshouse and miniatures fairs at the NEC in Birmingham, and had a very enjoyable shopping spree and got several things for my Fairfield and Willowcrest dollshouses, as well as a few extras pictured below.

  • the Dee-Daw Designs box of cigars was a free gift they were giving away to subscribers of Dolls House and Miniature Scene magazine, it's an opening box with cigars wrapped in tissue inside.  Great free gift! I will put that in my Vic-war-gency period house, probably in the gentleman's study.
  • The leather bound aged books are for my Gamekeepers Cottage, and the pumpkin is hopefully going to look like a large pumpkin on the porch of my 1:48th scale Hallowe'en house.
  • The lovely pillows have handpainted designs augmented with a bit of embroidery and were amazingly cheap, only about £1.25 each.  I will probably put the lavender pillow in my French Tower House, and the others might go there too or in my Canadian modern house.
  • The two teapots, one shaped like a thatched cottage and the other like the Little Old Woman who lived in a Shoe, are my annual treat from Sally Meekin Miniatures and will join my growing collection of house-shaped teapots.

In the car on the way up and back, I was working on my Drop Stitch Shawl, I'm still decreasing for the second tip.

Haven't really done any TV knitting this week as I have been sewing down the binding on my Sunflower Quilt. I also got the binding machined onto the Stars over England quilt but haven't started the hand-sewing yet.

I've tried to do a few passes on the panto each night on my Vintage Lone Star quilt on the frame, and have now reached the halfway point.  It's going quite well apart from one of the 70-year-old seams coming apart on the Lone Star and trapping my hopping foot.  I did some emergency triage by just machining down the loose flap so I could keep quilting the panto pattern.  I will have to unpick that and fix it properly once it is off the frame. Obviously I am going to have to treat this quilt gently but the close quilting should help to hold it all together.

I also spent a few hours trying to decide what knitting project to take with me on our holiday to New England next month.  Yes folks, I haven't finished all the holiday arrangements yet as I've been too busy, my house is a mess, my desk is covered in paperwork, but I did find the time to identify a knitting project!  Just shows where my real priorities lie.  I am thinking of going with the Fan Stitch Half-Circle Shawl  (Rav link) by Martha Waterman from 'Traditional Knitted Lace Shawls' and using a pure merino laceweight in lovely acqua.  It looks interesting enough to keep me going but simple enough to do in the car or at a restaurant.

Kudos to the lurkers who came out briefly to introduce themselves:  Loulee, Tee2, and LindaWMarthaaMay pointed out that some people read blogs at work and don't get the chance to comment, and I've certainly been guilty of that myself in previous jobs.  My current job is too busy for doing much surfing unfortunately, plus I am open-plan.

My love affair with my Ipad is deep and evolving, to the point where I have even started to dream about it and my DH is getting a bit worried.  It just does what it does so incredibly well.  That's probably another reason why I haven't done as much crafting, as I have been frittering away my free time learning how to use the Ipad.  I went to a couple of excellent free classes at the Apple shop on Tuesday night, and today I was practicing with the Maps app by tracking our progress in the car on the way to Miniatura.  I also managed to read the Deep Fall Knitty online magazine on the way back - hurray for 3G!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Lurked much lately?

I have been blogging fairly regularly since 2007, when Swooze first got me into it.  Most of the time I really enjoy it, it's a bit like writing a diary - if I were writing a diary for friends to read.  I like the discipline of recording what I've been up to each week craft-wise, plus the blog serves as a palliative record for those darker days when I start feeling like I never get anything done.

Blogger now shows you simple statistics on how many page views you are getting (I never used to remember to go into Google Analytics to see how many visitors were coming, so this is an improvement).  I was a bit afraid to look in case I am talking to myself here, but it turns out that page views peak at a little over 100 on a weekly basis after I have posted.

That's great news, and you are all very welcome here and I hope you like what you see.  I'm just a bit surprised as my number of followers is relatively low, and I don't get too many comments.  Perhaps I am just being visited by 85 search engines once a week?    Perhaps 65 people looking for 'kit' are really bad typists and are accidentally sneaking an 'n' into the word? Although I suppose that couldn't happen every week.  Must be the search engines.... :)

This week I had a finish:  my Summer Flies Shawl in Patons Linen Touch.  I finally finished the bind off at knitting club last Sunday, and then got it blocked this week.  The Linen Touch is fairly sturdy so didn't stretch out much in blocking, compared to the picture on the pattern where you can see that their knitting has been hard blocked and has really opened up.  Mine drapes well and has a much more ruffled edge which I like, but it has come out a bit more like a shawlette than a shawl.  I like the way the crisp yarn shows off the texture of the stitches in this pattern.

I've also been having a lot of fun making hats for the Innocent Big Knit charity campaign.  I put my basket of DK acrylic balls onto the sofa and just sort of 'doodled' every night.  None of these are particularly original ideas, but I did make up my own patterns for them all apart from the fuschia.  I particularly like the animal head which was meant to be a teddy bear but has come out a dead ringer for Rowlf, the pianist from the Muppet Show.  Quite enjoyable to just knit something for fun, and I have packaged up all the hats now to send off to Innocent.

On the quilting front, I decided I was doing fairly well on the flowery panto so I loaded up my Vintage Lone Star doublesided quilt.  This is the first time I've tried to line up a pieced backing, so hopefully it will work out.  I measured the vertical and horizontal centres in order to start the top in the right place on the back.  The quilting is going fairly well:  I think doing that Baptist Fan pattern on the last two quilts has really improved my panto skills.

Saturday was the monthly meeting for my sewing guild.  My feline random number generator (who now has diabetes so we have had to learn how to inject him with insulin twice a day) picked the piece of food on top of the number six, so we are working on project number six in our UFO challenge for the next two months. 

Project number six for me is a quilt from the Eleanor Burns Quilt in a Day Fans and Flutterbys  book.  I bought the book about 10 years ago when it was published, and at the time I thought the designs were wonderful.  I had great plans to make myself a big bed quilt, and I bought some suitable fabric from eQuilter online.  The years passed, and my tastes have changed, and I no longer want a big bed quilt that is so girly.  So I am going to make a small cot size quilt, possibly in both patterns.  Yesterday I cut out and put together the Fan strips (they're a bit wrinkled from being packed for the drive home).  The base of the fan is fussy cut from the fabric that I will use for the border, and the curved edges are finished with ric-rac.

I have to confess something now.  I have jumped on the Ipad bandwagon. I know, I know, everyone and their auntie has got one and they all like to brag about them and seem to be surgically attached to them.  I resisted for a long time, even when my netbook got stolen in the burglary. But I started looking at what I wanted to do online, and a tablet just seemed to make sense.  I definitely didn't want an Ipad because of the whole Stepford Wife vibe, and the lack of Flash, so I was looking at the HP Touchpad (crashed and burned on launch in July and HP have now gone out of the tablet business) and the Samsung Galaxy Tab (reviews universally damn it with faint praise for not being an Ipad).  But eventually my resolve crumbled, and I found myself looking at the Ipad forums on Ravelry and at all the neat things people were talking about doing with theirs.  So I did it.  I sold out.  I went to the Apple Store on Regent Street and eventually worked out how to buy one (this is a shop designed to make you feel old and out of touch:  there are no prices on anything, there is no sales literature, there are no cash tills, there is no obvious way to actually buy anything), and I bought a cool case on Amazon (the Stilgut white case, works fabulously.  There, see, I'm boasting already...)

I still don't really know what I am doing with it but I am gradually figuring things out, and I've signed up for some free classes back at the Apple store next week. I can listen to podcasts, I've been watching vidcasts, I watched some catchup TV on the Iplayer, I synced my music to the Ipad (although I have to say the speaker is very tinny, even though it can be turned up fairly loud which is good for listening to podcasts when you are sewing on the machine), and I even tried my hand at some games - much to my son's amusement.  On the whole, it works far better for all that type of online entertainment that my desktop PC.

If you are a crafter and have an Ipad, are there any good apps you would recommend?

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Back to School

DS started back to school last week, so we have shifted back into our autumn routine.  The weather encourages the Autumn mindset, as it is grey and overcast and blustery - although alternating between cold enough for woolly hats and 20 degree humidity.  Bizarre.  I've also banished all my summer clothes to the underbed storage, and dug out my winter woollies, the official sign of a seasonal change.

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Another sign of seasonal change is that it's time to be knitting hats for The Big Knit for Innocent Drinks, which raises money for Age UK.  They put the hats on their smoothie drinks in supermarkets, then donate money from each bottle sold (c. £160,000) to the charity. I usually knit 3 or 4, and I've just made a start today with this Fuschia hat.

Just in time for it NOT to be summer, I finished Project Number Four from our quilting club UFO Challenge, which was a bright summery quilted knapsack.  This was adapted from a Susan Briscoe pattern in one of her books, and modelled after a similar bag that I saw a knitter carrying around at Knit Camp last summer.  It's got an external pocket on either side and two at the front, all with elasticated tops.It turned out fairly well, and I did wear it to work for my daily commute several days this week. It's relatively comfortable, although the straps aren't as padded as my usual knapsack so the day that I brought home some library books, the new straps felt a bit like they were cutting into me.  The main reason I stopped using it though is because it just isn't sufficiently ergonomic for the life of a commuter.  I need to be able to quickly get out my wallet to pay for things, my season ticket at the train station, or my phone when it rings.  I don't have time to un-button fiddly button loops or drawstrings, plus the useful outside pockets left said wallet and phone too much on show for my liking, considering all the warnings about pickpockets in major stations.  Still, on the whole, it was successful and would be fine as a knitting bag or for a daytrip that wasn't too a major city (I work in London).  I'm beginning to wonder if the best way to get a useful knapsack is just to buy a knapsack and slipcover it in patchwork.  This bag has eyelets around the top edge and a drawstring, and the inside has zippered pockets, pen pockets and a key ring.

I finished quilting my Kaffe Fassett Stars over England quilt.  It went relatively well, although it felt a bit weird being back in front of the machine to do free motion stippling, as I got so used to doing the pantos from the back of the frame. I just did a large scale stipple on it, as the quilting hardly shows (I used a red thread).  In fast, the quilting showed so little that I had trouble seeing where I had already stitched when I was doing the border, even though I have a side mounted lamp throwing the quilting into relief.
I loaded a practice sandwich on the frame and practiced a panto called 'Lily' which I am going to use on the next quilt, a vintage Lone Star which I reset into a new background with a new border. Usually a Lone Star has each diamond quilted individually and maybe a motif like a feather wreath quilted in the blank background squares.  But you can't do that on a short-arm quilting frame like mine, so I've decided to do the curvy panto instead as a compromise.  It's going to have a pieced backing which is another quilt top of reset mini-Lone Stars.  Hopefully all the seam allowances aren't going to be a problem.  I've ordered a new hopping foot from Cotton Patch in Birmingham which will take a few days to come, but may get over bumps in the fabric better than the original plastic-inset hopping foot on the Pfaff Grand Hobby Quilter.

I took my Machine Knit Doll into the local Shooting Star charity shop (supporting hospices for sick children) and they were very pleased to have it even though they said they aren't supposed to accept new hand knits, but they thought she was too cute to turn down.

I have to show you this neat little makeup bag I bought after seeing it featured in one of the knitting magazines.  It had sold out from the featured dealer, but I found it on another website which had free postage through so that worked out better.  It's one of the Needles & Pins line from Disaster Designs, and it looks just like an old sewing pattern envelope. It's even got buttons on the zipper pull.  It's too cute to use as a makeup bag, so I will probably use it for knit notions.

Commuter knitting this week has been the Summer Flies Shawl and I'm almost finished!  I am currently doing the Picot Bind off along the edge.  Since that involves casting on two new stitches before casting off five stitches, I shudder to think how many hundreds of stitches I am now dealing with (it was 395 before the bind off).  I've just knit what's in front of me, and going to an incredibly tedious parent's evening at DS's school helped get several inches done.  I'm now in the final stretch, so hopefully will be able to block it soon.

I wore the Liesl cardigan to work again, and this time I fastened it with a large brooch instead of the giant safetypin/shawl pin.  I think I am just going to do that, and not bother with buttons at all.  Once again, noone at work said anything, but I got some compliments on it at I-Knit on Thursday. I actually told my manager my thoughts on buttons, and she agreed it didn't need them, but she did not then go on to say  anything about how lovely it is.  Perhaps I look like a variegated coloured sausage in it, who knows...  I like it anyway.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

How many quilts does one person need?

For some reason work has been manic this week, causing me to have to work through my lunch and stay late two days in a row.  It's a bit stressful again at the moment, lots of office politics flying around, and my interim manager's contract is coming to an end soon with no certainty as to what happens then.

I did get out to I-Knit in London on Thursday night for a pleasant evening of knitting, the first time in a while that I have dropped in.  I also picked up the issue of Interweave Knits with the Dahlia Cardigan pattern that everyone on Ravelry has been adding to their queue.  I like the doiley-like motif on the back, but I don't like the front of it.  Apparently there are more options for customising it on the Interweave site, will have to go have a look.

I was working on my Summer Flies shawl, and that's also been my commuter knitting this week.  I am now on the final section, which is incredibly tedious as the stitch count has doubled to 395 stitches and it's worked in stockinette.  395 purl stitches every alternate row, groan.  But I am soldiering on.  Meanwhile the weather has jumped forward to October so my dreams of wearing this over a sleeveless t-shirt on a lovely summer day will have to wait until next summer.

TV knitting has been the Berroco Eyelet Jumper and I am just a few rows away from decreasing for the armhole.  It's been so long since I started this that I had to look for several minutes to find the rest of the pattern to find out what to do at the armhole - I've only been carrying around the chart in my knitting bag.

Knitting Magazine had some cool free stitch-in labels as the gift on their recent issue, including "Stay calm and carry yarn" and "I heart knitting" so I may sew those onto some of my knitting bags.

I'm about halfway or a little more through stippling on the Kaffe Fassett Stars over England quilt.  The other thing I did this week was to move my dollshouse construction worktable so that I could get at my quilt cupboard for a longer overdue airing of the quilts.  With DH's help, I got them all out and spread flat on the bed to spend a day relaxing, before we refolded them at the end of the day.  I always mean to count them when we do that, but always forget.  I have more quilts than I have room to store, and I don't use them as much as I did in our previous house which was much colder than our current home.

I used to be a semi-prolific quilter and I just wonder how many quilts does a person really need?  I've got several vintage or antique quilts which I really love to look at, some family heirlooms which are not as loveable but they are heirlooms and have sentimental value, a bunch that I have made over the years, and some made by friends.  I decided I have to get rid of some of them, and chose three bed-sized quilts that I will try to sell.  But in the UK there isn't any good way to sell quilts - the majority of people would only pay the price they would pay for a blanket.  I don't think Etsy is an option as the overseas postage costs would be a killer (c. £90 to post a quilt, been there, done that) and there isn't a good UK equivalent that I know of - Folksy has a number of quilts that either don't seem to be selling, or are on sale at ridiculously low prices.

I want to sell my Year in the Garden quilt - this is a picture of when it was just a top, but it's been professionally quilted since.

Also this sampler quilt - also professionally quilted.

And a third quilt made from a pattern in McCall's Vintage Quilts magazine several years ago, which features bright yellow circles against pieced blocks, set in red sashing, very bright.  Can't find a photo of it though.

If any UK readers have any good suggestions on where to sell quilts, I woul love to hear them.  I know there is Ebay, but I don't like their recent changes (high commission charges, forcing use of Paypal).

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