Sunday, 30 January 2011

Starts and finishes

It's been a week of starts and finishes, plus a visit to the Ardingly quilt show today.  That made a nice day out as it was a gorgeous sunny day.  We were half an hour later getting there as our mini-bus driver mistakenly delivered us to a polo ground 12 kilometres away from the quilt show then revealed that he didn't have a large scale map on board (nor GPS) to find where Ardingly was.  Luckily some passengers knew the show was near Haywards Heath, so after driving in a big unnecessary circle, we arrived at the showground.  Coming home was a lot faster, he must have borrowed a map from another driver and had a look while we were in the show.

This is a fairly small show, with a ground floor of traders, and an upper room of quilts.  The quilts were mostly exhibits:  displays of several quilts by one maker, a round of mystery quilts, the quilts from a new book for beginners called 'Charmed Beginnings' (because the designs use charm squares) and some Hoffman Challenge quilts.  I didn't buy very much because I am trying to cut down and use stash, but I did get 1.5m of Steam-a-Seam-Lite, a gadget to draw quarter-inch seam lines for half-square triangles which will come in very useful for my Kaffe Fassett Stars of England quilt, a border stencil, a half-price book of quilt settings by Margaret Miller whom I heard speak on the topic at Paducah, some buttons, and a skein of Katia Ondas yarn (which is a web which knits up into a ruffled scarf).  I enjoyed looking though, and saw lots of nice fabric and a new Block of the Month club for a pattern called 'Tiny Town' which I really liked (lots of little houses in pastel colours).

The buttons I bought were for my Jaeger Natural Fleece Yoked Cardigan that I knit using the Ann Budd book of handy sweater measurements.  I wasted time at my local sewing shop (a chaotic unattractive place that is likely violating fire regulations and has terrible service) yesterday looking for buttons.  Every tube I picked up had about three buttons in it, and I needed nine.  DH drove me over to The Pincushion  in Windsor, where I got the blue polka dot buttons even though I'm not sure they are big enough.  Today I found the wooden buttons at the show, from The Button Lady.  I will have to lay both buttons out on the jumper and see which I prefer.  The cardigan itself is lovely and warm, soft and surprisingly not too heavy.  It is supposed to be finished with single crochet around the edges, but I'm not sure how crochet is going to work with this slightly slubby yarn.



I finished my Pavo Slipper Socks from Interweave Knits.  I used a skein of Cascade 220 and had 21g left over.











I sewed the first of the crockery blocks from my Dutch book of foundation patterns.  This is a six-inch block and I bought the red fabrics in The Hague several years ago at one of the International Quilt shows there. My wallhanging is going to feature a tea setting with teapot, cup, milk jug etc.













I started my Liesl Cardigan using variegated Knitcol DK yarn.  I am following the pattern as written but using the 50" size to allow for the DK yarn, as recommended on Ravelry, and I chose the wide neck option.









I added machine-knit bands to my Machine knit sock wool sleeveless pullover so it just needs to be seamed up now and it will be finished.  It only took me about an hour to knit on both bands using my ribber and main bed, so I can definitely see that practicing does improve performance.  I will have to try to keep up the machine knitting so that I can continue to improve and not backslide.










I ordered some Mission Falls 1824 cotton yarn from Cafe Knits, after reading that it has been discontinued (so it was on sale).  I've read several reviews praising this yarn, and had always meant to try it, so was a bit disappointed that it has been discontinued.  However, now that I am knitting with it, I don't really like it.  The colour of the variegated yarn ('Coast' on right of picture) is lovely, but the quality is very poor.  The yarn is like a single tiny roving, held together by a cotton thread wrapped around it.  Only the cotton thread is frequently broken (I'm on my third ball now and they are all the same) and hangs out as a loose thread, and even the roving can be threadbare or, in one bald spot, completely broken so that only the thread is holding the yarn together.  The yarn knits up well but I fear for its integrity.

I am knitting my first Baby Surprise Jacket, which I suppose every knitter has to make sometime.   I am finding it an easy knit.  I started it because I was going to a local history talk with DH on Tuesday and I worried they would put out the lights (they didn't) so I wanted something in garter stitch.  I had a good knit on the BSJ that night, and again today on the bus to/from Ardingly today.



I feel very inspired by all the lovely fabric and quilts I saw today - wish tomorrow was a sewing day and not a  Monday at work.  Sometimes work feels like such a waste of time, when there are so many lovely things we could be doing at home...

Saturday, 22 January 2011

It's been a fairly busy week at work, so that's been taking up a lot of my mental energy this week.  Despite that, I have worked on various knitting projects, plus put together some dollshouse furniture kits for my Fairfield house that I'm working on.

A big thank you to Sue, who pointed out that I will be able to visit Webs yarn store when I am in New England.  I am so excited, I've listed to the Ready Set Knit podcast for quite a while, but as my geography is rubbish I hadn't made the connection that they were in New England.

And just to go off topic - we went to see The King's Speech today, as it had been highly recommended by friends and has been picking up a lot of award nominations lately.  It was very very good, the acting is excellent, and it is quite funny in parts.  It isn't quite as heartwarming as I think the makers had intended, since your view of the film is coloured by your knowledge of what actually happened both then and up until the modern day, but it is still very good.

I finished the knitting on my Sanquhar Gloves, and now just need to darn in the ends and block.  I've been waiting on the darning because I am going to need good light to sew this fine dark yarn into fine dark stitches, and it's too dark in the evenings.  Sometimes I balance a daylight lamp precariously on the back of the sofa behind me, but that doesn't work very well. So I was delighted to see the 'Huglight'  reviewed in the latest issue of Knitty, the online knitting magazine.  Before I'd even read the rest of the article, I googled for a UK supplier and ordered one.  I think this is going to be just the thing to boost my middle-aged eyesight. It's a flexible tubing that hangs around your neck, with two LEDs at each tip.  You can turn on just one LED or both LEDs for more light shining on your hands.

Also this week, I seamed together the two halves of the neckline on my Machine Knitted Sock Yarn sleeveless pullover.  Knitting the second half only took an hour, so 30 minutes faster than the first half, proving that practice does help.  Now I just need to do the armbands.








As discussed in my previous post, I ripped back the yoke on my Jaeger Natural Fleece Yoked Cardigan and am re-knitting the yoke in stockinette.  I have knit about an inch of the chart on my second Johnny Rotten mitten.  I've switched to two circular needles for the mitten as the metal dpns I was using kept sliding out of the stitches in this soft squishy yarn.  I took my Selbuvotter Wedgewood Gloves on the daily commute one day and have knit most of the palm now so will be able to start the little finger soon.  And on Thursday I took my second Pavo Slipper Sock along to knitting group at I-Knit, where I managed to get up to turning the heel.  Having drunk a bottle of strawberry/pear cider by that point, I decided discretion was the better part of valour, and that trying to count heel stitches and wraps for a short row heel would not be a good idea.  I turned the heel the next day, soberly on the train. 

I was going to use the variegated Knitcol DK yarn I bought last year at Malvern for the Feather and Fan jacket pattern which is in 'Jackets for Work and Play'.  But then I saw a variegated 'Liesl' cardigan on Ravelry which looked really nice so I've downloaded 'Liesl' from Ravelry this week.  It's designed for Aran-weight yarn but several people have knit it in DK weight simply by knitting a bigger size than usual.  So that might be the next project I start.

I haven't done any sewing this week.  As well as cutting out the Kaffe Fassett project last week, I had printed foundation patterns for a wallhanging for the kitchen, featuring crockery.  I had chosen fabric and got it all ready to sew, but I have spent the week walking past it on the sewing machine without actually doing any.  Bad quilter...

I bought a deep fat fryer.  Actually, I've bought two, because the first one was lobbed over our six-foot-high garden gate by the idiotic deliveryman and suffered a cracked lid.  So that one had to go back and a replacement has arrived, which we christened tonight with sweet potato fries and fried chicken.  My husband was very sceptical about sweet potato fries, and even more sceptical when I told him I had enjoyed them on a trip to Indiana, sprinkled with icing sugar.  Guess what, he loved them.  Why don't they just listen to us in the first place?

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Getting back to normal

It feels like it is getting back to normal.  We are all more or less healthy, bar a few sniffy noses.  The weather here near London is back to the usual mild and wet winter weather (10 degrees C).  The holiday decorations are all put away (although the tree is still thriving on the patio in the wet weather.  It seems a shame to dispose of it when it is still so green and healthy, so we've left it out there on its stand, like a new garden feature).  Work is back to the normal treadmill.  The cut on my finger is healing well and hasn't been interfering with knitting (although it's made it difficult to do anything fiddly like dollshousing).

To beat the January blues, I've been planning our holiday later this year to New England.  I've always wanted to go, and as I have a significant birthday coming up, I decided to go for it.  We will be flying into Boston and doing the usual loop around Maine, Vermont etc. on a self-drive tour.  Of course, I plan to hit the quilt museum in Lowell, visit Keepsake Quilting, and the quilts at the Shelburne Museum.  Please let me know if you have a favourite dollhouse shop or knitting shop in New England that I really shouldn't miss either.

This week I kept on sewing and got the Chevron Daisies quilt to top stage.  Once all the fiddly cutting out was done, this was an easy quilt to put together, and quite effective due to the fabric.  This is a twin size, which will fit onto my quilting frame although I will only be able to quilt the middle section on the frame.  I will have to quilt the borders off the frame.











While I was working on this quilt, I was getting frustrated about not having a place to pin it up as a work in progress.  I do have a design wall but it is a folding one that isn't quick to put up.  I had been pinning the top onto the top of the wardrobe door frames, but they were of hard wood and my pins kept bending and the top kept falling down and it was all getting very frustrating.  Then I had a brainwave and ran down and fetched the staple gun.  I folded over a strip of fabric about three inches wide, in half, then in half again but leaving the folded lip sticking out slightly.  Then I just stapled the fabric along the top of both wardrobe door frames, leaving the lip protruding slightly (about 1/8").  The resulting pinning strip is fairly unobtrusive, yet easy to shove pins through when I want to pin up a quilt to look at vertically - magic!  I have two doors next to each other, so will be able to accommodate up to king size just by pinning across the gap between the two doors as in this picture.



Isn't it nice when you solve a little problem that's been frustrating you?

I went to visit a friend last weekend, and we exchanged belated Christmas gifts.  She gave me a little dollshouse cat, designed to hang off the edge of something like a bed or shelf.  I found a perfect home for him on the dock of my Rik Pierce Cottage, striving towards the (dusty) duck in the (dusty) river.







Thanks to several bursts of commuter knitting, I am almost finished my Sanquhar Gloves as I am on the last digit:  the lefthand thumb. I'm going to my knitting group at the pub this afternoon, so I can probably finish it there.










And in the evenings I've been working away on my Jaeger Natural Fleece Yoked Cardigan.  Having completed the second sleeve, I joined up both sleeves and the body on a long circular needle and started knitting the yoke.  Last night I got almost to the end, about twice the yoke depth of this picture, and tried it on.  I realised then that I don't actually like the purl pattern, it is falling too low on my shoulders and looks untidy.  So it looks like it's back to the drawing board, I will rip the yoke out and try again in stockinette.  Perhaps introduce some purl rows higher up the yoke, where they won't look so much like football shoulder pads.


Yesterday was my Saturday quilting group meeting, and I spent the entire day, well, about four hours, cutting out a Kaffe Fassett quilt pattern called 'Stars of England'.  It's a simple star pattern but of course with his magic touch in combining crazy fabric patterns and colours.  The pattern was in Quilters' Newsletter Magazine in June 2007 and I took up the offer of ordering a kit of fabrics from Glorious Colour, which had been sitting in my stash closet ever since.  I generally don't really like making cookie-cutter copies of published quilts but in this case there isn't a lot of choice.  Most of these fabrics are not ones I would choose off the bolt, yet somehow they all go together if you do it his way.  The kit was fairly generous on fabric but still portioned so that you needed to cut the right components from the right fabrics to avoid running short.  It was fairly complicated to stare at the magazine photo to identify all the fabrics from the kit and work out which ones needed stars, corner triangles, side triangles etc. cut out of them.  Got there in the end, so now I have a complete quilt cut out and ready to sew.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Bleah

I am not a happy bunny this weekend.  My cold cleared up sufficiently that I had to go back to work, but has now taken root in my sinuses.  I'm feeling generally rubbish and to top it off, I managed to slice my left index finger (my knitting finger) fairly deeply while cutting a template today.  I have an older friend in America who told me once that she has made a pact with all her friends of a similar age, that they won't talk about their aches and pains, because otherwise that's all they would ever talk about.  I can see where they are coming from.

So instead I will tell you about the incredible coincidence that happened earlier this week, when you beat the kind of odds that make you wish you had bought a lottery ticket that day.  I was late coming home as my normal train was delayed, so I got on the slow train.  It was about 20 minutes slower even than it should have been, so I was quite late as I exited the station and walked along the block to the junction.  I was very pleased to see my DH pulling up to the junction in his car, thinking he had come especially to pick me up.  As he drew up, I opened the door and hopped in. However, he was rather startled to see me, because it was completely random that he was there at all.  He has to drive home around the M25 motorway, which often holds him up, and on the way home he impulsively decided to go into town and buy some milk from the store near the station.  When I saw him, he had just pulled out after having been in a slow check-out queue to buy milk at the store.  So this means that together we beat the random factors of motorway traffic, train problems, slow check-out queues, my seating position on a long train, etc. etc. so that the precise moment I reached the curb, he pulled up in his car.  Now where's that lottery ticket...

I treated myself to the Winter 2010 Interweave Knits for Christmas, and this week I cast on for the Pavo Slipper Socks, partly because they looked simple, and partly to use up the Cascade 220 I acquired at Knit Camp.  This was a straightforward, satisfying knit, starting from a magic cast-on at the toe, and proceeding with two cables to a slipped heel and a short cuff.  And they fit perfectly.  I've done one, and am just increasing for the toe on the second one.  A good TV knit.  I did it on dpns, as I find Magic Loop a bit of a faff, having to stop and start all the time.









And I actually did some sewing this week!  I spent a considerable time on Bank Holiday Monday cutting out this striped floral fabric and fussycutting flowers for block centres, for a Chevron Posies twin size quilt that I saw on Swooze's blog last year.  I loved her quilt, and ordered the fabric from America, but when it turned up, I had a much more blue-green colourway than hers which was a bit disappointing.  The pattern is straightforward, but the cutting out takes quite a while as you have to cut the stripe very exactly.

So I've made 39 of these blocks, and now I'm joining them together.












Today (before I cut my finger), I went out and did some machine knitting, adding half a neckline to my Machine knitted sock wool sleeveless pullover.  It's very disheartening as it took me 90 minutes to do half a neckline.  About 10 years ago I was really into machine knitting, and was fairly good at it.  Now that I haven't done much for a long time, I've forgotten so much and simple things take me ages.  I also decided to tidy up the machine knitting shed, which is something I avoid as it is only a shed, and therefore attracts spiders and snails and there is a general air of damp this time of year even though it is insulated.  I find it depressing, not least because it is fairly crowded and it's hard to move around in.  Storing my handknitting stash out there makes it even more crowded, but I don't have room in my smallish house to store the stash inside.  But I did give it a good tidy, sorting out all the magazines and loose patterns and stash that had built up.  The roof seems to be leaking again, sigh...  I dream about having a purposebuilt, brightly lit, spider free studio.  DS will be moving out eventually but his room is smaller than the shed - although at least there are not usually spiders in it.  Hmmm, I wonder if I could persuade DS to sleep in the shed...

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Happy new year, and hopefully a healthy one too

My cold got a lot worse before it has finally started to feel a bit better, just today.  Yes, I've been sick all week and managed to blow my way through an entire box of tissues, and I've had a few rough nights.  Please can someone find a cure for the common cold...  Not the way I had planned to spend my holiday.

In between naps, and lying feebly on the sofa, I did manage to finish my first Johnny Rotten mitten.  The kit was actually a christmas present from last year, so I suppose it is appropriate that I am working on them this festive season.  I had some trouble stranding three colours at once, the stitches don't lie as flat over three strands as they would over two strands.  These should be fairly warm though, with three strands padding out the mitten.  Hopefully when I block them, the stitches will flatten down.

I've also been working on the Hawaiian Memory Quilt.  If you recall, I had added the lefthand 'jungle' border, but I eventually decided that I didn't like the way it was interrupting the panorama in such a harsh dark slice of colour.  I decided to reinstate the panorama effect by sewing back on the piece of sky that I had cut off (when it was excess) and to turn the jungle border into a promontory.  I added more sea, waves, some more underwater life and fused on all the palm trees that I cut out earlier.  And for a final touch, a boat.  I think it is more or less finished now.  The perspective is kind of crazy, but there are lots of things in here that remind us of our holiday, like the whale DH saw cresting on the horizon when he was swimming in the sea, and the turtles we swam with at the beach, and the stingray and coral reef that I saw when I was snorkelling.  Working on this quilt has brought back some lovely memories of our trip in February 2009, it's been nice to think about tropical isles while the UK is plunged into drizzle and greyness.



Happy New Year to everyone, I hope 2011 brings you what you wish for and that you stay healthy and happy. 

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