Saturday, 25 February 2012

Summer in February

Bizarro weather in the UK leaped to 15 degrees on Thursday (which the papers were calling 'T-shirt Thursday'), and I actually got a sunburn on my face from sitting outside a pub at Friday lunchtime.  Sunburn.  In February. It continues to be gloriously sunny today, which made being cooped up inside the church hall for our Saturday Sewing Club somewhat less attractive than usual.  I will be out and about tomorrow though, as we are off to Unravel, the fibre festival in Farnham.  And if I make it back in time, I will also drop into my local knitting group to show off what I've bought.

Last weekend I sewed some vinyl dustcovers for a couple of my dollshouses, and some doll clothes for another one.  Today I was making some oven gloves, using some Insulbright thermal batting that I bought at Keepsake Quilting when we were in New England.  The packaging suggests that you can just cut out the oven gloves using one layer of Insulbright, a top fabric and a lining fabric.  I made up a few sandwiches like that and quilted them diagonallly.  Then it occurred to me to test them by holding my hand to the hot iron.  Disappointingly it was only a few seconds before my hand became painfully hot.  But with two layers of Insulbright, I could hold my hand right on the iron and not feel anything.

So I made the oven gloves with two layers of Insulbright.  That made them really stiff, which made them a bit hard to turn through to the right side, and has also made them come out smaller than my old oven gloves.  But they still fit me, and my DH can get his hand inside although it is a bit tight.  They look a lot better than my old tatty gloves and the Insulbright only cost $8 so it wasn't an expensive pair of gloves.

The other thing I made today was this easy fabric storage box, working from this tutorial. I only had really thick interfacing, Peltex 72F, so I couldn't turn over the top lip but had to let the lining come over to show on the outside.  I think it looks nice though, and I am keeping my receipts in it now, instead of in their previous home in ancient tupperware.

Knitting this week has been mostly trying to knit the front bands on my Cabled Yoke Sleeveless Pullover. The button band was relatively easy.  But I had to make two attempts at the buttonhole band.  The first time, even though I had picked up the same number of stitches in each section as for the button band, the yoke came out scrunched up.  I ripped out and cast on again, and the second time it is pretty good and generally matches the other side (I am standing crooked in the photo, they do match).  I used a one-row buttonhole, although I don't know if there would have been a better choice for a garter stitch band.  I've got some lovely glazed china buttons which I will sew on and then it will be done!  Woo hoo!

Just what you want to wear when it's sunny and 15 degrees outside.  Not.

Commuter knitting has been decreasing for the toe of the second Harry Potter vanilla sock.  TV knitting once the the Cabled Yoke bands were done was Day 4 of the Advent Calendar 2010 lace scarf.  I got in a hopeless mess and had to rip back and start again.  With care and attention I have now completed the first chart repeat and am started on the second and final repeat.  So I am keeping up with our two patterns a month and will be ready to start Day 5 in March.  Touch wood.

I will finish with some eye candy.  This is a lampshade that I bought after seeing it on special offer in a newspaper, from the Lighting Company.  I've installed it in my upper hallway where it catches the sun in the daytime and glows at night.  Hard to take a photo of though.  I love the glowing colours.

Saturday, 18 February 2012


I am slightly envious of those people who adjust effortlessly to change, who shrug off last-minute alterations to long-laid plans, who book their holiday abroad the weekend before, who embrace risk.  I'm not one of those people. I can adjust to change eventually, but it takes me a while and in the meantime I experience higher levels of anxiety and stress.

My interim manager, whom I have worked with happily for the last 10 months, has left the building and it feels like a gaping void at the desk next to mine.  Quite apart from being a nice colleague, she was the buffer zone between my role and the unpredictability of senior management, who have shown an alarming tendency in the past to swoop down the floor and demand incomprehensible things at short notice.  There are no plans to fill her role as the original incumbent is still on indefinite assignment to a different team, and they are supposed to be hiring another manager who will take over some of the role but not the part that manages me.  I don't know how this is going to work and I feel exposed. 

Meanwhile, back in my real life, I've been doing some dollshousing and lots of knitting.  No sewing apart from patching up a 10 inch rip in my son's trousers, but I am planning to tackle a couple of vinyl dustcovers for two of my dollshouses.

I decided the Fan Stitch Half Circle Shawl had gotten big enough, so I stopped knitting at row 140. I am now doing a knitted on 12 stitch edging, which is the Willow Border from the Myrtle Leaf Shawl in 'Victorian Lace Today'.  It's quite an easy border and yet I managed to muck up the first six inches. When I was joining it to the live stitches of the shawl, I somehow twisted the stitch funny, so had to rip back and start again.  [Ipad user note:  I used the Ipad camera to photograph the Willow Border chart, used the PDF PROvider app to convert the image to a PDF, and now I am using the highlight function in Goodreader to keep track of where I am, so I don't need the pattern book.]

I revisited a few older projects this week, knitting a few rows on the second Debbie Bliss wristwarmer on the train one day, and finishing the index finger and starting the thumb on the 'make it up as you go because there is no errata for the pattern' Annemor #12 Selbuvotter glove.  I just hope I can remember all the adjustments I have made to create some fingers for this glove, otherwise it is never going to have a mate.

My main TV knitting this week was to pick up stitches along both sides of the machine knitted strip for the body of my Drops Cabled Yoke sleeveless cardigan, knit the top and bottom borders and seam the body to the yoke.  I had to use a family member as a mannequin to get the body to fit the yoke properly, but I've been forbidden from saying which one as they are embarrassed about it.

It's looking pretty good, now I 'just' have to knit front bands that hang properly and include non-saggy buttonholes.  I've made the length longer than the original midriff-exposing sample - nobody wants to see my midriff...

I will conclude with some eye-candy specially added for my friend Swooze, who likes this quilt.  I happened to have it on display in my staircase, so I took some extra photos of it.  This is called 'The Neighbourhood' and is one I put together at least 10 years ago using blocks from an online themed swap.  I was trying to arrange the blocks on a design wall, and by a trick of the eye realised that I had perspective due to the differing size of the houses.  I unpicked the houses from their backgrounds and blended them all together into a picture quilt using extra bits of 'bush', 'sky', 'trees' etc. to fill in the gaps.  I like this one.  The house at the bottom left corner is my original block, all the others were made by the participants.

P.S. Speaking of change, the previously freezing weather leaped up to 15 degrees Celsius yesterday, which was too warm even for me to wear woolly hats or gloves.  Bizarre weather.

Saturday, 11 February 2012


The UK is in the grip of a Siberian deep freeze, and even here down near London it is hovering around freezing during the day. It's been very cold for about a week now, and we've had a dusting of snow twice: about four inches the first time, but only about an inch and a half on Friday.

This is what our garden looked like on Friday.  So I've been wearing layers of woollens to and from work, gloves inside mittens, legwarmers etc.  Our house is fairly warm but I still feel chilled some of the time and am wrapping up in quilts while I watch TV.

I knocked off another 'Cowl at the Moon' out of the Debbie Bliss Fez that I bought online.  These cowls are so wonderful that I am living in them every day - they solve the whole problem of endlessly arranging a scarf to block out all cold drafts down the neck, and fit smoothly under a coat.  I might even knit a third one out of the Knitpicks Sierra that I have left. In fact, I'm wearing one right now as I blog, which is keeping my neck warm.

I finished piecing the centre of my Kaffe Fassett Snowball Quilt.  I am pleased with it but unfortunately I have the perfect blue & white toile fabric for a border but not enough of the toile.  I spent ages searching online but toile fabric seems out of fashion at the moment, so perhaps I am going to have to improvise with what I have.

I finally got around to blocking the strip of sideways knitting that I did on my knitting machine, which will be the body of the Cabled Yoke sleeveless pullover.  Now I am picking up stitches along one edge to knit a row of garter stitch then cast off again - this will be the top edge that I seam to the yoke.

Despite the cold weather, it has been gloriously sunny.  DH and I ventured out today to enjoy an afternoon at the antique shops.  We went to The Swan at Tetworth, a rambling ex-medieval inn with about 80 dealers, where I found this lovely two-cup teaset in Aynsley China.  It's some kind of chintz pattern but I can't find it online, but the backing mark dates it to likely the late 1930s.
I love chintz china and if I won the lottery then I would collect loads of it.

There is a discount book store near Waterloo Station that I check regularly, as they often get knitting books in cheaply.  I found this book "Knitted Socks East and West" by Judy Sumner this week.  The sock patterns are based on stitch patterns found in Japanese stitch dictionaries, and there are some really interesting architectural patterns in it.  I particularly like 'Kaiso' which is a lace pattern separated by garter ridges, so I might have a go at that one next.

I turned the heel of my second Harry Potter Vanilla Sock during an evening talk that I attended at the travel company that we booked through to go to New England.  They were showing slides and talking about other areas of the world that they go to, so lots of eye candy and wine and nibbles as well, while I knitted away.

Last week I was awarded the Kreativ Blogger award by Daisy whom I met when she moved to our area and started our local knitting group.

So, the first step is to thank the person who gave you the award, which I've done above.

Second, I have to tell you 10 things that you may not know about me.

1. I was born in Canada, but have lived in the UK for over 20 years.  Still have an accent though!

2. I work in communications, and among other responsibilities, I am the editor of our staff magazine which goes out to over 1,000 staff.

3. I have the collecting bug, and have several collections, including about a hundred or so old needlework magazines from the late 19thC right up to the 1980s.  Love to see the period fashions and advertisements.

4. I have a somewhat embarrassing taste in books, reading mostly urban fantasy (werewolves and vampires), paranormal romance and historical romance.  I blame my English degree which ruined me for serious literature.

5.One of my favourite places in the world is Venice, and yet I haven't been there for about 12 years.  Time to go back.

6. I have a terrible sweet tooth, and very little willpower when sweet things are in my vicinity.

7. I had severe math anxiety as a child and am still really cr*p at arithmetic.

8. I have an almost perfect record of picking lottery numbers that don't come up, not even one.

9. One of my favourite foods to order when we go out to dinner is Crispy Duck in Pancakes.

10. I played saxophone and clarinet in my school band, and had years of piano lessons as a child.  Don't play a thing now!

Now I am supposed to bestow the award on six other bloggers (this is like a chain letter, isn't it?). If any of these people want to do the Kreativ Blogger (don't feel like you have to - it's entirely optional, but it's a fun way of finding new blogs) just follow the instructions above.

I don't actually get time to read many blogs very regularly, I tend to skim about the net just clicking on pictures I like, plus I listen to podcasts while I am doing things.  Daisy's (who gave me the award) is one that I do try to keep up with, because I know her.  Let's see if I can come up with six others.

1. Marthaamay O_o epitomises the new young trendy crafter, and is even in the Shoreditch Sisters WI.  I enjoy her pictures and her take on life. We met at an Innocent Big Knit night.

2. Mark in Mayenne is creating with his green thumb rather than with yarn or fabric.  My friends Mark and Anita moved to France to live the dream several years ago, and their gardens are just amazing.  Lots of nice pictures from beautiful French and European locations as well.

3.Quilter Kathy is a quilt teacher in Canada who turns out the most amazing quilts.  She is incredibly productive and always creative, an inspiration to us all.

4.Paula at Knitting Pipeline produces the most wonderful podcast which I listen to regularly.  This may be cheating as I listen to the podcast rather than reading her blog, but she has a lovely way of sharing about her life and knitting that really makes you feel included. 

5. Swooze is a quilter in Texas who actually got me into blogging in the first place.  She's had a rough few years and suffered a bit of blog-fade, but is recovering her blogging mojo now. She makes some great quilts and also does knitting on looms.

6. Creating Dollshouse Miniatures is a fantastic archive of links to all kinds of dollshouse videos from all over the web, everything from how-to tutorials through to tours of museum dollshouses and privately-owned dollshouses.

Whew!  That was hard work.  Thank you, Daisy, for my award.

Saturday, 4 February 2012


I have been fairly distracted this week as I discovered the 'Urban Fantasy' group on Ravelry, and within that discovered a link to a free novella by Ilona Andrews from the 'Kate Daniels' series of urban fantasy novels.  I liked that so much that I ordered all five books and have been working my way through them this week, one book a day.  They are not great literature but quite enjoyable, reminding me a bit of the Patricia Briggs novels.

So all the time in the evening and on the train that I would normally be doing crafts, I had my nose buried in a book this week.

I have sewn together several rows of my Kaffe Fassett Snowball Quilt. It's going together fairly well although there are a lot of seams to match which can be a bit tedious. (the red and white is from another quilt underneath).

I had a business trip on Thursday, with a two hour train ride each way, so as well as reading my books I did manage to finish the first Harry Potter vanilla sock.  I am proud of myself that I re-started this sock and have managed to produce a sock with negative ease instead of the baggy socks I normally turn out. I've started the second one and have managed to get the colour striping to match as well (I think). I still need to graft the toe closed on the first one.

Work is becoming increasingly busy, and on a very frustrating day I took a 30 minutes time out and did some furtive yarn shopping in a minimised browser, investigating some of the vouchers that came with Knitter magazine.  I found some balls of discontinued Debbie Bliss Fez on Wool and Buttons, which I bought to see if I can make a cowl - I knit a Christmas stocking out of this camel hair yarn a few years ago and liked it, it goes almost felted when it is knit up.  I also found this gorgeous sock yarn on Addicted 2 Knitting from Nurturing Fibres, in colour Peacock.  I got two skeins and plan a shawlette or lace scarf to wear to work.

I did manage to finish Day 3 of the Advent Calendar 2010 Lace Scarf knit-along, hampered by having to rip back around six rows after forgetting to slip the first stitch of each row for a while.

The March/April issue of McCall's Quilting has turned up so I now have the instructions for the next step of the Mystery Quilt that I started last month - so I might work on that tomorrow.

UK readers may be interested to hear that I found a pop-up storage box at PoundStretcher today for £2.99.  It is fairly sturdy, has a 'board' bottom, and makes a great sock yarn storage hamper which fits into one of the shelves that I've taken over in our media cupboard.  It holds quite a lot as it is relatively tall.

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