Saturday, 26 November 2011

We've entered a time slip...

It feels very weird lately because I basically seem to have lost Autumn.  Intellectually I know this is because I spent most of September and October getting ready for my big holiday in New England, then two weeks plus actually in New England.  And while we were in New England we passed the big autumn milestones like harvest celebrations, Halloween and my birthday (and also missed out on Bonfire Night here in England).  But emotionally it feels like I missed out on all of those things because I didn't celebrate them in my own home, with my own Halloween decorations and my own Autumn-themed quilts.  Suddenly we are back in a country which is hurtling recklessly towards Christmas, and I just don't feel ready.  The ridiculously warm temperatures are not helping this feeling of confusion (15 degrees Celsius in London last week), and I just feel like it should still be early October.

I can't help remembering how much I rolled my eyes when I was young, when my aged parents went on about how time flies by so fast and how could it be Christmas already...

Despite that, I had to put on the Christmas cheer for today, which was our last Saturday Sewing Club meeting of the year and therefore our Christmas celebration.  I wrapped up four christmas presents (two to thank the committee members, one for Secret Santa and one personal gift), got the Christmas cards out of the attic and wrote some for members, dug out the Christmas tablecloth, the Santa sack for the presents, and my knitted Christmas-themed waistcoat (complete with tinsel earrings).  Very bizarre.  And yet it was quite fun and we enjoyed our potluck lunch on the tablecloth.

My eight members had very kindly clubbed together and got me this gorgeous set of sewing-themed mug, coaster and storage tin.  Also included in the gift was a tiny glass punch bowl with ladle and tiny punch cups, which you may be able to make out on top of the tin, for my dollshouse.

My Secret Santa gift was 'Quilts for Chocolate Lovers' which I shall look forward to reading.

We have now moved onto the next stage of our UFO Challenge and today I started working on the Blue and White Mosaic quilt that I started on a Kaffe Fassett workshop in Hawaii back in 2009.  It's basically a snowball quilt, only on the workshop Kaffe forgot what measurement the corner squares should be, and told us a smaller measurement.  I therefore ran out of fabric for the cornerstones, as I had cut it all out to the wrong measurement, but I got some more in New England.  Not the same fabrics but similar colours.  It's a bit tedious as I have to work on each snowball individually to make sure it stays in the right place in the layout, and has the right colours on the corners, but I got through 1 3/4 rows today.

I also cut out a new quilt this week, using the Turning Twenty Around the Block book that I bought in New England.  The fabric is a wacky but gorgeous print of flamingoes that I bought in a Christmas sale from e-Quilter a few years ago, and I've paired it up with some random fabrics out of my stash.  I made the original Turning Twenty quilt some years ago, but didn't buy the second book.  This is the third book and while I like the pattern, I am disappointed with the directions in the book.  They are not at all clear, and omit rather obvious points like tips on fabric selection or even what fabrics you should use in each block.  The cutting directions are also very convoluted so I ended up re-writing them for easy rotary cutting.  I'm going to try to use all different fabrics in each block which I assume is correct from looking at the pictures.

Last weekend I went along to the Kempton Park Dollshouse Show.  This is our local show, not a huge one but fun to go around.  Judith of In Some Small Way was having a clearance sale as she is phasing out her attendance at shows.  All those pieces of plastic 1/48 furniture were .05p each, so I picked up a bunch of beds, night stands, tables and chairs for future projects.  I also got the three different impress moulds for brick and stone effects, and the bar bottle kit to make more bottles for my Old West Saloon in 1/48 scale.  On another stall, I got the two cute china mugs which went into my modern Canadian house, and the Christmas lights with battery pack will hopefully fit into my Mrs Santa Claus' bedroom scene when it comes out for Christmas (not yet!!!!). The two baskets of flowers were my Christmas gift from the friend that I went with, and are going in my dollshouse conservatory.

TV knitting this week has been largely replaced by work on my secret cross-stitch project.  I did start this new neckwarmer, the Cowl at the Moon free pattern on Ravelry.  It's a plain garter stitch tube shaped by short rowing.  I'm using two strands of DK like Cashmerino but not Debbie Bliss and am trying to knit quickly because my neck has been cold in my jacket from the wind.  I've forgotten to wrap my short rows a couple of times because in the Yoked Cardigan I am knitting, you don't wrap the garter stitch short rows - old dog... new tricks etc.

Commuter knitting (and knitting club last weekend) has been the Debbie Bliss Wrist Warmer.  I finally made it up to the thumb gusset where I had to do some more improvising (as I am knitting this in the round but the pattern is for flat knitting, so the charts aren't set up for round knitting and the original stitch count was too loose).  I had to add a few extra stripes to get the thumb gusset big enough before going into the chart for the hand.  I think I might add some extra rows at the top as well, so it comes up to my knuckles.  This is in Debbie Bliss cashmerino and doesn't feel particularly warm so far, I think because the microfibre content in this yarn feels cool to the skin.

I found out yesterday that there is going to be an International Quilt Festival in Galway, Ireland from 7-10 June 2012.  Perhaps because it is being organised by an American expat who also runs a travel company, they are thinking big and planning a very Paducah-like programme of workshops and tours around the quilt show.  I will think about whether this might make a nice summer holiday for me while I leave DH to look after DS and the house.

P.S. (updated a few hours later)  I've just slogged through balancing my credit card statement against my receipts and was delighted to find that the exchange rate on the card was a lot higher than what we got for travel cash.  Therefore all my fabric and yarn purchases were quite a bit cheaper than I thought they would be - result!!!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Yardage shock

I've spent several hours last weekend and today (Saturday) excavating, photographing, and stashing my yarn onto Ravelry.  I couldn't do it in the week because it's dark when I leave and get home, and I'm using natural light for the photos. 

I've set up a primitive photo studio made out of two pieces of foamcore with some freezer paper clipped to them.  Despite tinkering with various settings on the camera based on advice from websites (white balance etc.), I was unable to get the camera to faithfully reproduce the colours of the yarn.  Using the natural light setting is the closest, although still a bit lighter in colour.

I think DH was pretty stunned when I brought in my storage crates of handknitting yarn from the machine knitting shed.

And I certainly wouldn't have taken my card index of yarn to work, to type it into Ravelry in the office, because that would be wrong.  :)

I'm still not finished, but so far I have stashed 129 yarns.  Ravelry lets you download an Excel spreadsheet of your stash, and on that you can add up your yardage.

106,728 yards.   So far.  I haven't even put it all on yet.

I am a bit stunned as well.  Considering I am not a particularly fast knitter, that is really a rather horrific (or splendid) total.  It's also a bit of an eyeopener that the entire stash is about 1/3 pink, 1/3 blue, and 1/6 purple.  Not only do I have enough yarn to keep me knitting for the rest of my life, but I will be very recognisable due to always being dressed in the same three colours.

I think it may be time to seriously consider going on a yarn diet.  Or at least banning myself from buying sweaters-worths of yarn - sock yarn and lace skeins shouldn't count, they're low fat.  Perhaps that should be my resolution for 2012, to only knit from my stash.  I think I have a bit of a collecting problem, because I have mammoth stashes for all my hobbies. Obviously somewhere in my brain is a voice screaming "buy it now, you might never see it again! What if it all disappears and you don't have enough!", etc. etc.

TV knitting this week was the cotton baby hat kit that I bought in America.  In the end, it was too small for me as the stranded knitting pulled it in too much.  After this picture I washed it, and it is currently drying in the airing cupboard.

I also made a start on the other kit I bought in New England, for the Tilly Thomas bag.  This is a pure silk drawstring bag, with a quilted top edged with grommets where you can pick up stitches onto a circular needle.  This makes the first few rows a bit challenging to knit, as the quilted fabric is bunched up under your needles, but it gets easier once you are away from the grommets.  The kit comes with mercerised cotton yarn in red and two blues, and the instructions are basically 'knit what you like until you've covered up the lining'.  I am doing some fair isle patterns with a few purl rows thrown in. I am using the extremely useful 'Complete Book of Fair Isle Knitting' by Sheila Macgregor, which has charted designs grouped by the number of stitches in the repeat.  I have 108 stitches, so I can use any of the 4-stitch repeats and also the 12 stitch repeats.

I've also done some tv knitting on the Drops cabled yoke sleeveless cardi.  This is much easier to knit using Stitchminder on the Ipad, because I can run two counters simultaneously, one for the cables and one for the short rows.  I'm getting near the end of the yoke, just a few more inches.

I finally blocked the Seriously Gorgeous Silk Drop Stitch Shawl, although I haven't taken a photo of it being worn yet.  It's really lovely, like silky gossamer but surprisingly warm.

I had to sit through two hours of speeches and other people's children one evening this week, in order to applaud my son's year and my son in particular who picked up two academic awards at the prizegiving.  DH dutifully clapped for a solid 60 minutes but apart from clapping my son's year, I was knitting on my Fan Stitch Half Circle Shawl and the Debbie Bliss fair isle wrist warmers.  I didn't get a lot done on the wrist warmers in New England because I switched the yarns between hands halfway through the first one, and decided I didn't like the effect, so had to rip back to where I'd switched and knit again.  I knit fair isle with one yarn in each hand, but I always have trouble with the tension being uneven, it's hard to judge how far to spread out the stitches and sometimes I end up with tight or loose stitches.

Today I've had a lovely peaceful day as DH and DS were out, so I spent the morning working on finishing some of the quilts that I did on my frame before the holiday.  I did some stitch in the ditch and a bit of free motion to finish off the Christmas gingerbread house wallhanging, and put it through the wash to remove the marks, so it is currently drying on the door.  I trimmed the edges of four more quilts and cut the binding out for them, ready for some marathon binding sessions.  I've also been doing a secret cross-stitch project for a gift.  I love the look of cross stitch but can only do it for about 30 minutes at a time because my eyes go funny and my wrist starts to hurt.  There's a woman at work who churns out about one massive cross stitch picture a week, I don't know how she does it.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

But where are the little chocolates?

As you have probably guessed from a few days without posts, I am back home now and back at work. It feels strange to be back in the real world, it was a particular shock to have to plan and cook meals again.  DH misses the hotel turndown service with the little chocolates left on the pillow. 

So we had a night flight and arrived very early Sunday morning back in the UK. I can’t really sleep on planes so I was very tired on Sunday and still feeling a bit bleah by mid-week. I’ve gradually worked through my loads of laundry, the piles of mail, and have made some small inroads into the taped television shows.

 After my last post, we had a day where we drove up to Plymouth to visit the Plimoth Plantation, a partially-living history recreation of the first colony including a recreation of the Mayflower ship. I enjoyed seeing some of the antique or recreated textiles on display in the wooden houses. Up in the main town, there was a knitting shop advertised on the local map, Knitted Treasures, but when we walked past it, it had been replaced by a different business.

DH offered to take me back to Tumbleweed Quilts but instead we used the excess weight allowance to go back to the fabulous Parnassus Books on Hwy 6A on Cape Cod, in Yarmouth Port, to buy a 1911 set of Encyclopedia Brittanica that DH had fallen in love with. The volumes were fairly small so by judicious distribution, we managed to end up with four bags that were all just under the weight limit of 50 pounds.

On our final day, we drove up past Boston to visit Lowell, one of the cradles of American industrialisation. Here the famous mill girls worked in the cotton mills in the 19th C and we were able to visit the museum with working (and incredibly noisy) looms where I bought a few tea towels woven on site. We also visited the boarding house exhibit which shows how the girls typically lived. But first we went to the New England Quilt Museum  (pictured left) – all the sites are within an easy walk of each other within the National Historical State Park – which had a great gift shop but not that many traditional quilts on display. The main exhibition which took up most of the small display space was of new quilts made in Haiti. However, the members’ lending library was open, what a fabulous resource. I wish I lived in the US just so I could borrow from it. The library also had a sales rack where they sell donated books and magazines and I was very pleased to score a couple of early Rowan knitting magazines full of classic designs by many recognised names such as Kim Hargreaves and Kaffe Fassett. One is issue seven, I think, and the other doesn’t have a cover but must be a similar time period around 1989. There are some great designs although of course most are unflattering boxy drop shoulder designs, but could probably be adapted. Even just taking out some of the excess width (up to twice body width in some cases) would help a lot to update the designs. We just had time to nip over to the American Textile Museum and I wish we had gone there first as it was an excellent introduction to the different fibres, their uses in textiles in America, how the textiles were made including a large display of working looms with an excellent audiovisual presentation, loads of historical fashion galleries and even a small knitting display – which had an exquisitely knitted baby bonnet of very fine thread. I parked DH in the lobby and had a very quick whiz around the displays, would love to go back.

The trip home was uneventful apart from a smaller plane with Virgin Atlantic which was very cramped. I had to ask the flight attendant to ask the man in front of me to put his seat back up for the meal, because we were so close together that I literally could not spoon food out of my meal tray to my mouth because of his seat back being practically in my face. My wooden interchangeable needles once again made it through Security so I was able to knit on my Fan Stitch Half Circle shawl during the flight. This has been a really enjoyable travel knit, and I might even knit this design again. My only complaint is the shorthand in which the pattern is written makes it very difficult. You are asked to repeat large quantities of rows, which in themselves ask you to repeat smaller quantities of rows, so it got very confusing and in the end I just had to write all the row numbers out on the back of our itinerary, with the corresponding pattern row next to each one, so that I can keep track of where I am. It’s the kind of pattern that could benefit from advance preparation with an Excel spreadsheet before you start to knit.

TV knitting has been the kit for the baby hat that I bought on Cape Cod, which is knitted in a no-name cotton yarn of approximately Aran weight. The pattern is in three sizes for Child’s small/medium/large. I chose the medium and commenced knitting in the round, but after about 2.5” I started thinking it looked awfully big. I am a loose knitter but I know that so had gone down a needle size. I tried the hat on and it actually fits me snugly. So I asked DH if I would look stupid in the child’s design and he doesn’t think so, so now I am knitting it for me. It’s one of these colourwork patterns where they just tell you to ‘follow chart’ without specifying whether the original was knit in intarsia or fair isle. I’ve chosen fair isle but it does mean carrying some of the floats for quite long distances. I am weaving them in on alternate stitches but because it is thick and grippy cotton yarn, the floats are peeping through which is a bit annoying. Perhaps it will get better when it’s washed and blocked (the eternal knitters’ hope).

I’ve had time to put away my quilting fabric and haberdashery purchases, but all my new yarn is sitting in (spilling out of) a plastic crate in the living room, waiting for attention. I've decided the time has come  to break down and photograph my stash for Ravelry. It’s just gotten too out of hand, it’s too hard to keep track of what I have and what project I bought it for. I was dreading the job, it will take ages to find it all, photograph it all and make sure the right photograph ends up with the right details on Ravelry. Also kind of dreading the realisation of just how much I have – more than a few lifetimes at the rate I am knitting. I don’t want to fall victim to Shopper’s Remorse…  So far I've just done some of my sock yarn, and it's already taken about three hours.  Bleah.  I am photographing 12 at a time, and storing them temporarily in numbered partitions in a cardboard wine box to take over to the computer to catalogue.

I took more than 500 photos (the majority being either autumn foliage, heritage wooden homes, snow or coastal scenes) so won’t subject you to all of them, but here are a few.


Quilt at Shelburne Museum

Antique bandboxes at Shelburne Museum

Keepsake Quilting

The back-room Sale area at WEBS, Northampton

Very strange knitted dress in a gift shop in Chatham, Cape Cod, with a bodice made out of gloves and mittens, and a skirt made out of detachable and interchangeable knitted petals

Friday, 4 November 2011

Yarn shop burnout

I think I have finally burnt out on yarn shops, much to DH's amusement. We were driving along the Cape on 6A when DH spotted Ladybug Knitting, which turned out to be quite a big shop. A few friendly ladies were knitting and the older lady begged my British husband to say anything so she could enjoy his accent. So she started quizzquizzing on what he had for breakfast etc while I chuckled my way down the aisles. I found two great kits, one for a Tilly Thomas bag with a fabric top and yarn to knit the sides. The other for the cutest multi coloured baby hat.

but after that I was really feeling like I was done, and worried that our bags are getting too full. So when DH spotted yet another yarn shop, only about 15 minutes down the 6A, I just covered my eyes and shouted "drive, drive!" so I wouldn't be tempted. They must do a lot of knitting on this island, to have three big shops only 20 minutes or so apart.

Besides, the Ladybug ladies had told me about a quilt shop in Barnstaple where the 6 A meets the 132, Tumbleweed Quilts. This turned out to be a huge and fabulous shop, perhaps as big as Keepsake quilts in terms of bolts, not sure. Big sections of kids prints, Kaffe Fasset, 30s, landscape, batiks, solids, sale fabrics, books, bag corner, patterns, notions, loads of other stuff, great shop and highly recommended. I bought a few yards of fabric, some Pellon 72F interfacing, some 36in zippers, some webbing for bag handles, some bag hardware, a storage box for thread, AACew rulers on 50%off, and some other stuff I can't remember.

When we got back to the hotel, I weighed all the bags and the good news is that Inam still in my weight limit!! I could buy more!! (DH now groaning loudly)

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Few more yarn stops

After a walk around the historic harbour of Newport, we stopped into Knitting Needles at 555 Thames Street. Small knitting shop, a lot of novelty yarn. The owner said that customers mainly want to knit hats, scarves and socks in this area, to keep warm. Therefore she had very few lace yarns.

We stopped at Tivertom, RI where the local knitting shop had just gone out of business, but the friendly hand weaver (who had a fabulous studio, I'm very jealous) sent us to Sisters of the Wool which had just opened in Westport at 770 can't remember the street name. This was a bigger shop but they seemed a bit disorganised because of just opening. I picked up two skeins of Plymouth Happy Feet in both red and dark Wedgwood blue, and when I asked if they had any white, the woman started showing me DK baby yarn in acrylic mixes which was a bit weird. I really wanted Cherry Tree Hill sock yarn but haven't seen any this trip, not even in Vermont. The Happy Feet seems similar. I wanted it for Selbuvotter mittens and other fair isle.

Now we are in Cape Cod, our last stop on the holiday. We fly home on Saturday (sob) and let's hope all the yarn and fabric makes it through customs ok...

Stumbled across the Yarn Basket in Eastham, on Hwy 6 west side. Varied selection, some nice alpaca yarns, lots of sock yarn, some cashmere, Auracania, Plymouth, and several brands new to me. I bought four skeins of Dye for Me (2 sock, 2 alpaca lace) to go with the yarn dyeing book I bought in Montpelier, will have to get the dyes in the UK.

I am just possibly starting to feel yarned out...

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Sock yarn score

After touring two of the Newport mansions, which make English stately homes look like victims of an austerity drive, we stopped into Miniature Occasions and Dolls at 57 Bellevue Avenue. Interesting to look around but more dolls and collectables than minis. Very few houses, some Bespaq, very few Artisan made minis. A selection of DIY materials and lights. Friendly owners. Didn't buy anything.

In the afternoon we drove up to Providence to buy tickets for the Jack o Lantern Spectacular at the zoo (which really was spectacular, 5000 carved pumpkins around a lake) and I innocently suggested we stop into Fresh Purls knitting shop at 769a Hope Street. I soon regretted it as we got caught in the Escher-like tangles of the city's motorways. DH had about three nervous breakdowns before we finally made it. Small shop but interesting selection of yarns, I had a good fondle and came away with a sky blue handpainted semisolid sock yarn, cant remember the label and it's in the car.

Tomorrow we will try to find the Newport knitting shop and enjoy more of the city's fabulous houses.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Nose against the glass but no yarn for me

Bit frustrating on the yarn shopping front the last few days, thanks to the snow. Colourful Stitches in Lenox looked like a fabulous store and should have opened Sunday afternoon, but never did. Other stores were open and the roads were fairly clear, but I guess the owner decided it wasn't worth it. We tried three times, and I took a pic of the yarn bombing out front. We did find Pumpkin Patch quilts open in nearby Lee, and I stocked up on thread and a bit more fabric. this was a fairly basic shop, not too large.

Today we drove south, and stopped at Creative Fibres in Windsor, which also looked very good. Also closed due to widespread power outage in the area after the snowstorm. On to Mystic, with a quick stop at a Michaels craft store on the way (got some sponge brushes,only 39 cents over here, and some Zap a Gap glue). In Mystic, the yarn shop is closed on Mondays and also looked good ( whimper...). i did however pick up a beautiful stained glass panel by a local craftswoman at an artisan store, I think it was called Company of Craftsmen, on the main shopping street, had some lovely things.

Now we are in Newport and there is a dollshouse store just down the road from our hotel!

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