Saturday, 31 March 2012

Why aren't I retired?

I was only in the office (which is currently a crazy place full of rumours as we all await the big organisational axe to fall next week) on Monday and Friday this week, making for a much more relaxed life with lots more hobbies.  This only leads me to wonder why I am not retired so that I can enjoy this desirable lifestyle full time.  Unfortunately, barring a lottery win or a steep nosedive in my standard of living, I am probably looking at another 20 years the way the government keeps moving the goalposts.  I am feeling quite fed up with all the office politics, and the comfortable routine is feeling more like a tedious drudge at the moment.

But in my real life, it's been a pleasant week.  I've only had one comment (thanks Daisy!) on my last two posts, so perhaps you don't like reading travelogues and will be happier to look at eye candy?

I added the border to my Easy Lone Star quilt centre.  I ended up leaving the border quite wide, so it is currently about a double size.  I rather like the butterflies flying round in the border so I think I will leave it that size.  I love how pink it is, it really glows.

Just in time for my Saturday sewing group today, the May/June issue of McCalls Quilting magazine turned up with the third and final part of the McCall's Mystery Quilt.  So I was able to work on that today.  I was pleasantly surprised with the final design, I can see it working with several focus fabrics in my stash.  The fabrics I chose for my mystery are, as usual with mysteries, perhaps not the idea ones I would choose now that I can see the end result, but it still looks fine. I am finding it quite difficult to match the seam junctions for the 'star' surrounding the focus fabric, it's taking 4 or 5 attempts in some cases because it is a diagonal line.

I was in Cath Kidston and found some very cute items for my sewing basket:  a vintage looking Thatched Cottage needlebook, a little tin book for holding pins, and some cute buttons that I may be able to use on some knitwear.

I did some dollshousing, some of which I will post on my other blogs.  But I did finally get around to sticking in the miniature faux books I made several weeks ago, into the Egyptian Museum in the top floor of my Vic-war-gency House, as well as the china plaque that I bought in Holland last weekend.

I also screwed together the Georgian Room Box that I made on the Mulvany & Rogers workshop, after putting another coat of varnish on the fireplace.  Here I have put in the furniture I bought at the Arnhem show, which is more Arts & Crafts than Georgian, but I rather like it in the room. Now i need to finish the outside of the box with the scrapbooking paper that I also bought in Arnhem.

On the knitting front, I knit the top fair isle band on the second Debbie Bliss wristwarmer, then pulled it out because the stranding was too tight.  Will have to try again.  I am working on Day 8 I think of the Advent Calendar Lace Scarf, when I finish the current chart I will pin it out and take a photo.

I am continuing to knit on the Twice Doomed T-shirt, whose garter stitch edging insists on flipping up.  I have to go to lunch with relatives tomorrow so will be taking this with me to keep my hands and mind busy.

I don't think I blogged that I finally started my first square of the Great American Aran Afghan, or GAAA as it is known on Ravelry, a few weeks ago.  I bought the pattern and the wool/acrylic blend yarn for this over a year ago, but didn't really know where to start.  I've got more confidence on cables now after completing the Cable Yoked pullover so picked one of the easiest squares to start with. I've actually done more knitting on this but had to pull back as the second repeat was looking like an attentuated version of the first.  After cudgelling my brains for some time, it finally dawned on me that I was reading the chart wrong.  The Advent Calendar Lace Scarf charts only show the right side rows.  The GAAA chart shows right AND wrong side rows but I was knitting them as if they were all right side rows, thus effectively doubling my row count.  Whether I will ever finish enough square for an actual blanket, I don't know, but I'm enjoying the texture on this one.  Perhaps I can have a Great American Aran Cushion instead.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Gallivanting abroad

Another week where I have been out and about - it makes it seem like I always go to things but I am really a stay-at-home most of the time.

This weekend we had a short break to The Netherlands where I attended the Arnhem Dollshouse show and also went to see the XX Small antique dollshouse exhibition in The Hague.  We had a brilliant time and there was lots of shopping and stash amassing.

Before we went, I couldn't resist cutting in to my Makower London fabric that I bought last weekend.  I made up a drawstring knitting project bag using this tutorial.   I used two colours on the outside, and some sheep fabric from my stash for the lining.  In this construction photo, you can see all three fabrics.

And here is the finished article, a useful size for sock knitting.

I also did some work on the next project from our quilting club's UFO Challenge.  This month it is an 'easy' lone star that was supposed to be a quick project.  It's probably about 5 years since I cut the diamonds out of Kaffe Fassett fabric  and set them with a green background.  It's sat there ever since, so this week I was looking at what border or setting to use.  I had cut a narrow red border to put around it, but hadn't sewn it on yet, then when I was looking through my stash I found this flower border pink fabric.  I rather like the over-the-top pink and flower effect of butting it straight up to the centre square with no interim border.  It would then make a large cot quilt or small lap quilt, and look a bit like flower borders around a 'lawn'.

Arnhem Dollshouse Show

I last went to the Arnhem show about 20 years ago - my only memory is of how disgustingly smoky it was as everyone, customers and vendors alike, were smoking like chimneys.  I could only bear it for about 45 minutes and I'm not sure I even bought anything.

What a different visit this was!  The show was in the wonderful 15th century gothic church the Eusebiuskerk in the centre of Arnhem, for the last time as it turned out since they will move next year to a new location. And of course no-one is smoking inside the show now.  Our hotel, the NH Rijnhotel, was doing a special rate for dollshouse attendees.  I wasn't expecting much as it looks like a tired concrete hotel in pictures, but it turned out to be clean, friendly, with superior food, and we even had a private terrace overlooking the Rhine river where we put our feet up while we sipped drinks each night. It was about a 15 minute walk back into town, but no hardship as it was level along the river.  We did some sightseeing Friday night and Saturday morning, enjoying some of the historic buildings that survived the war, as well as some more recent imaginative buildings like this thatched residential house.  We even stumbled across a windmill just outside the centre.

Then I went into the show while DH went off to explore some of the military monuments and relics.  It was much larger than I was expecting, laid out all over the floor of the immense church in a bit of a tangle which made it a challenge to visit in a logical fashion.  One of the first rooms I went into had a wonderful display of 1:12 room boxes from guest artist Sylvia de Groot, including a lovely Cape Cod style beach hut, and this really amazing Turkish hammam which had a domed roof over the central pool.

I was surprised at the diversity and generally high standard of the show.  When European traders come to the London Kensington dollshouse show, sometimes their taste can seem a little over the top to my eyes, and the prices are generally very high.  But the prices at this show were generally fairly reasonable and indeed there were some rather astonishing bargain.   I really enjoyed looking around as there were so many traders that were new to me, and spent a rather exhausting three hours in the show (including one trip out to the cash machine to top up as almost nobody was accepting credit cards).

I took the following photos in our hotel room which as usual with hotel rooms wasn't very well lit.

(above) This is handmade furniture from Loes Snoodijk, in a Arts and Crafts style.  I bought the bar in two scales as I am wondering if the smaller one will fit in my Fairfield.  The pieces were fairly reasonably priced and I liked their slightly unusual designs.  They aren't as well finished as some other furniture makers' pieces but came with all the accessories shown and the drawers and doors all work.  The desk closes up to a slanted front.

(above) The handknit fairisle sweaters in exquisitely small stitches were my bargain of the century.  They had a price above them which was obviously the price for the pattern, and I asked how much the sweaters were.  The lady quoted the price that was written on the placard.  I just looked at her.  9.50 euros.  That's less than £8, for hours of work.  I picked up all of the cardigans to look through to see which one I wanted, and the woman behind me who had overheard this revelation panicked and squeaked "You're not buying all of them!!"  Apparently the trader's niece knits them, and the trader didn't seem to think that the price was low at all.  I saw worse knitting on other stands for four times the price.  I would have bought more if there had been more colours to my taste.  Sorry but I can't remember the name of the stand.  Those will go in my knitting shop, and the spools of thread and the miniature needlecard from another trader will go in the quilting shop.  The basket of knitting (which also has a packet of needles not in the photo) and the bobbin lace cushion on a stand were both from Bibaminis.

(above) The laser cut piece of paper-thin plywood will make up into a castle for my Fairfield boy's room, from Houten Miniaturen, who had a whole stand of amazing fairy-like constructions in laser cut wood, everything from entire nativity scenes to tiny shop scenes stocked with dozens of accessories not much larger than the head of a pin.  I thought even the castle looked hard to build, but they assure me it isn't hard and are going to email me instructions in English.  The handpainted traditional wooden basket and souvenir dollshouse shopping bag came from another anonymous stall, and the kit from Sylvia's will make up into a 50s-style sewing machine for my quilting shop.

(above three)  These are all from a stall selling the most tiny china objects, and I was so busy choosing that I don't think I got a business card.  The piggy bank in the top picture is about the size of a grain of rice, and the lid of the pink box and of the Delft box both open up.  The '144th' scale bathroom makes up into quite a cute room box although larger than 144th.  The tea pot with lift-off lid and four cups and saucers are 1:24th scale I think - I managed to break the spout off when getting it out to show my DH so will have to glue that back on.  The Egyptian plaque is for the Egyptian museum in my Vic-war-gency house, and the flower decoration could go in there too.

Then I met up with DH, and after an amazing Dutch-style high tea at a cafe, we went out to explore and shop.  The selection of flowers which will work for 1:24 scale came from a big railway modelling shop, and the variegated Regia sock yarn came from a knitting shop called Steekje Los at 25 Hommelstraat which had a medium selection of sock yarns and novelty yarns.  I also spent some time drooling inside a wonderful woodworkers and cabinetmakers shop which had all kinds of hand and power tools.

We found a big Hobbycraft-style craft store which had much more reasonable prices than Hobbycraft, called Pipoo's, and I picked up some sheets of scrapbooking paper to be dollshouse wallpaper and to go on the outside of my Georgian room box.  The sun was shining all this time which made it a lovely day to wander around.

We saw several wonderful Easter displays, especially in chocolate shops where we saw this three-foot-high chocolate egg dollshouse which was all fully edible apart from the figures.

XXSmall Exhibition

Today, we took the train from Arnhem to The Hague, where we visited the XX Small exhibition at the Gemeentemuseum.  This was the last day of the exhibition and it turned out to be a lot more extensive than I thought it would be.  It was a collection of museum miniature pieces from several European countries, focusing on how these tell a story of what life was like in times past, and sprawled through several rooms in a very confusing layout. There was a big article on the exhibition in the January 2012 issue of Dollshouse & Miniature Scene magazine which you may have seen.  It was everything from antique dollshouses and baby cabinets through to apprentice pieces, an extensive collection of miniature silver objects, and many dressed dolls.  Some of the workmanship was just so amazing that it seemed impossible:  linen underclothes sewn with stitches barely visible to the naked eye, a cherry pit that was hollowed out and contained a 500-piece gold dinner set that looked like golden pepper sprinkled across the mat, exquisitely carved paper-thin ivory fretwork, displays of dozens of miniature blue & white china vases, dollshouses that were about 12 feet high, even an exhibition of Barbies wearing vintage couture outfits from the 50s and 60s. DH didn't think he would like the visit and ended up being fairly interested.  In addition, several of the exhibition rooms were actually historic period rooms that were presumably brought from elsewhere to be installed in the museum.  Well worth visiting, plus we had a very nice lunch in the museum cafe before getting the train to the airport to come home. Unfortunately I didn't get any photos of the exhibition, I don't think they were allowed.

Shopping wasn't quite finished because at the airport was a giftshop from the Rijksmuseum which had a whole line of fridge magnets in the shape of Dutch houses, cut from wood.  I spent so long debating which ones I could afford to bring home for my collection of house-shaped fridge magnets that we had to sprint a bit to get to our gate on time.  Ooops.  Here they are on my display board, where they look very nice but now I need another display board from Ikea as it is all getting a bit crowded.

This is turning into a very long post so I will just say that commuter knitting this week was the second Debbie Bliss wristwarmer which is almost finished, I'm just doing the thumb now.  Travel knitting was still the endless edging on the Fan Stitch Half Circle Shawl, plus I made a start on a sock from the Japanese stitching sock book that I bought a few weeks ago.  I once again successfully brought my wooden circulars on board the plane, so was able to knit on both flights as well as on our train journeys in Holland and on our terrace at the hotel.

Saturday, 17 March 2012


Lots of gallivanting around this week, so I ended up not posting mid-week like I had planned to. I went off by train last Sunday to stay two nights in a B&B in Holt, near Bradford-on-Avon, while I attended a two-day Masterclass with dollshouse architects extraordinaire, Kevin Mulvany and Suzanne Rogers, which was really fun. And today I’ve spent almost the whole day at the Stitch and Craft show at Kensington Olympia and had a great time.

Dollshouse course

The Mulvanys occasionally offer three different Masterclasses, in between working on their commissioned projects, and I went on the class to build a Georgian Room Box. As the aim was to teach us techniques, and to cover as much as possible in the two days, the box was already semi constructed when we arrived. The picture shows the starting point on the first day.

Over the two days, we learned how to:

• Neatly cut mat board, and to use it to simulate Georgian panelling

• Lay floorboards, stain and wax them

• Accurately cut miters for door frames, cornice, dado rail etc.

• Build a fireplace from moulding and strip wood

• Marble the fireplace with a faux-marble effect

• Paint the room to a high standard

This is my finished box, displayed with some loaned furniture at the Mulvanys. I chose Farrow & Ball 'Dix Blue' as my paint colour, but other people chose rich red, or old Gold.

The course was really fun, they are both lovely people, and we were working in their actual workshops so got to see lots of past projects up close as well as the commission that they are currently working on. While I was familiar with most of what we covered, I learned how to do it all better and picked up loads of great tips about tools, adhesives, materials etc. They also treated us more like guests in their home, we had a freshly cooked lunch each day sitting around their kitchen table, tea breaks with warmed croissants, and we all admired their gorgeous old farmhouse which was beautifully decorated like something out of Period Home magazine. There were only five of us on the course so we got very individual attention and I think we were all quite pleased with the end result.

The reason the box is three sided is that they build their houses as carcasses into which slide individual room boxes. The boxes themselves come apart so that you can complete processes working on a flat piece - so much easier than trying to glue mouldings in by sticking your head inside a dollshouse. I may put a ceiling and front plastic panel on mine to keep out the dust. We’re going to the Arnhem dollshouse show in a few weeks so I will have to look out for Georgian furniture appropriate for the setting. Sadly the type of house I normally build would not be suitable for a liner, but I will keep it in mind in case I can use the technique.

While we were there, Kevin told me about a gorgeous moated Tudor house nearby, which has been used in films such as The Other Boleyn Girl. It’s called Great Chalfields, and is open in the summer through the National Trust scheme, so I will definitely have to go back to see inside of it.


During my trip I was working on my Fan Stitch Half Circle Shawl, my Glynis sock (which I have since pulled out because the pattern looked terrible in my semisolid yarn), and a new project which I am calling the Twice Doomed Tee. This is the Yoke Pleat Top from Debbie Bliss magazine. When I looked on Ravelry to see what other people had done with it, I was dismayed to find mostly negative reviews, several frogged projects, and more than one person explicitly saying “Don’t knit this pattern”. The complaints seem to be mainly that it comes out ridiculously large and hangs like a potato sack, and there were some very scary photos. Resolving that I would try to re-write the pattern to fit, I knit a tension swatch in the yarn that I bought from WEBS sale room in New England, which is ‘Cruise’ from Twinkle. I had trouble knitting the swatch as the yarn has a lot of twist and kept twisting back on itself, twisting around the needle cable, around my arm etc. etc. and was also very splitty – it’s quite easy to miss a strand or two when knitting. I looked the yarn up on Ravelry and with a sense of déjà vu found several people saying they didn’t like it and won’t knit with it again. I am probably stupid but I am pressing on. I have tamed the yarn by trapping it inside a cut-off leg from a pair of tights, and have recalculated the pattern to fit my own measurements. I’m on my second ball now and I can see the knitting is also really biasing. Hopefully it will all turn out fine.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve finished off Day 6 of the Advent Calendar Lace Scarf 2010 and started Day 7.

Stitch and Craft Show

I’ve been to the Kensington Olympia Stitch and Craft show several times over the years, it used to be mostly cross-stitch and papercrafts. I don’t think I went last year, but this year was attracted by the publicity that there would be a floor of knitting. I was pleased to find that it was also a floor of quilting, with several more quilting shops than I remember from previous years. Almost immediately I fell off the fabric wagon and suffered a major relapse when I spotted the new Makower London range of fabrics. I bought some of all the range, with extra of the multi print because I think it will make really cute knitting project bags.

While wandering around the knitting stalls chanting ‘must not buy yarn’ and steering well clear of the Black Sheep’s tantalising pile of discounted yarn bags, I bumped in AlpacaAddict and had a nice chat, then found these two attractive sock yarns: Lang Jawoll Magic Degrade in rainbow colours, and Trekking hand art in ‘Sansibar 551’ which is peacock blues and greens with a yellow thread running through it.

I was also sucked into the ‘3 issues for £1’ deal for The Knitter magazine, which also netted me this free giveaway craft tote. I might use it for my livingroom knitting supplies.

An unexpected bonus was a fairly large quilt show of all the lap quilts (or at least, quite a few of them) being given to the Olympic athletes. Some of these were really attractive and I took several photos for inspiration. They also had on display 2,000 of the 15,000+ stitched pennants that people have made for the athletes. My quilting group made some of these (I didn’t make one myself) and the huge variety was very impressive – some of them had an incredible amount of work in them, like all over needlepoint or fabulous embroidery.

I bought a batik or tie-dyed indigo small tablecloth from an ethnic fabric stall. I can’t take a photo of it because it’s in the washing machine to remove excess dye. Then I had a wander of the extremely crowded cross-stitch and embroidery floor (I’m proud of myself for not buying anything) and went down to the lower ground floor to gawp at the papercrafting (gawping as in 50% ‘why do people even do that?’ and 50% ‘oooo, that’s pretty..’)

Then I had a superb two hour workshop which was one of the most well organised and professionally delivered workshops I have been on in years. The tutor was Celia Banks of Sew Fundamental Limited, and she walked us through comprehensive sample pieces of a centred zip, lapped zip and invisible zip, and then even a small zipped pouch. Everything was included as well as informative hand outs. I tottered happily out, exhausted, just in time to catch the craft shopping channel doing a live demo in front of an audience of how to mount stitching in a frame (she always puts a piece of padding behind the stitching, such as Warm & Natural fleece).

There was loads of other interesting stuff to look at, like the Knitted Village and the Knitted Cats and Dogs Best in Show.

All in all, a very enjoyable day, lots of inspiration and nice things to bring home.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Post will be late this week

I am lucky enough to be attending a two day master class on building techniques for dollshouses with the Mulvaneys this week so will blog when I get back. Have brought my cookie A sock, fan stitch shawl and a new t-shirt project with me to knit on outside class time.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Pigs in Space

Anyone who is old enough to remember watching The Muppet Show will remember the voiceover announcement for the 'Pigs in Space' segment, or maybe it was the ending, intoning "tune in next week for the continuing stooooooorrrrrryyyyy of.... "

It's a bit like that at work now.  Not only has my manager left, but the director of the department (the one who had the heart attack last year and was off for six months) abruptly left on Friday.  He'd been behaving oddly ever since he came back, and in retrospect I think he must have wanted to leave for some time but was negotiating his package with HR.  We were only told on Wednesday.  So we are completely rudderless now, at a time when there is a major reorganisation going on and some pretty big announcements expected in April including redundancies.  Fun fun.  I'm not worried about redundancies in my department but who knows what else is coming at us.  Am keeping my head down and getting on with things.  Luckily I am relatively autonomous.

Other than that, it's been a good week.  I sewed the Injabulo ceramic buttons on my Cabled Yoke Sleeveless Cardigan and wore it to work.  It was incredibly warm due to being in pure wool New Lanark DK yarn, and so glowingly blue that I felt happy every time I saw my reflection.  But did one person say anything??  No.  not even when I wore it to a meeting.  I am baffled - is it so expertly crafted that no-one thinks to ask if it's handmade, but not attractive enough for anyone to say 'you look nice'?  Are they thinking I am big-headed, 'showing off' my knitting again so they aren't saying anything?  Do I look so odd that they are all embarrassed for me and not wanting to draw attention to my humiliation by saying anything?  Enquiring minds want to know.  I was pleased with it anyway.  It's hanging really nicely and fits well, and the buttons weren't gaping.

Anyway, I cheered up Friday morning when I checked my personal email and discovered that I had sold one of my quilts on Folksy!  My first quilt sale.  It was one of the cheaper ones, but still a decent price by UK-non-handcraft-loving standards.  It was a sampler quilt, one of my early efforts but still quite attractive.  I'm very pleased, and packaged it up to post off to its new owner today.  I wonder if it is a Mother's Day gift as UK Mothering Sunday is coming soon?

I also finished my Harry Potter vanilla socks and grafted the toes closed.  They fit well and have come out as almost a matching pair, so I feel pleased with myself that I got the colour sequence right with this self-striping yarn.

Commuter knitting has now switched to the second Debbie Bliss wristwarmer and I also worked on it when I went to a Fair Trade coffee morning that Daisydaisydaisy told our knitting group about (there was cake!).

I finally finished Day 4 of the Advent Calendar 2010 Lace Scarf and motored right on to complete Day 5 fairly quickly.  I am enjoying this knit - I like the Huntingdon yarn from Valley Yarns and the lace charts are fairly short so I don't lose the will to live.

And look what I found in the charity shop on the way back from posting my quilt at the post office - an XL pure new wool fully fashioned sweater in a gorgeous blue yarn.  So I could unravel and recycle the yarn, or I could felt it.  Will put it by and see what I feel like. When I've looked in the past, all the sweaters were acrylic and cut & sew, so this was a lucky find.

Tomorrow I will be going to the Kempton Park Dollshouse & Miniatures Fair, which is my local fair, should be fun.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Catch-up post - shopping!

Trying to clear off my desk so am blogging my purchases from Unravel at Farnham last weekend so I can put them away.

I went on Sunday and was back in time to show off my purchases to my local knitting group at our Sunday afternoon meeting.  Sunday was the second day, and I kept hearing traders talking about how busy it had been on Saturday.  It wasn't too bad on Sunday, enough people to feel sociable but not so crowded that you couldn't easily look around.

I like this fair, it's not too large and yet there are lots of traders that I don't usually see at bigger fairs like the Alexandra Palace show.  There was yarn graffiti on the approach pathways, and a sheep and three lambs outside in the parking lot. The building itself is really interesting, a former warehouse and oast house I think, with some of the market stalls set up in what were the former drying kilns.  There was a big exhibit and demonstration area by the Hampshire Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers, and the Surrey Knitting & Crochet Group.  The Machine Knitters Guild had a stall and I stopped by to say 'hi'.

The 'Best in Show' exhibit of entries was small but well formed, with several attractive and interesting entries, including this great knitted flower basket by Rebecca S. complete with patchwork hanging basket.

There were other exhibits and activities going on, including talks and workshops.  I had a good wander around but was mainly there to shop!  I am sticking to my post-Ravelry-stash-upload-eyeopener and not buying any more sweater's worths of yarn, but I was looking out for pretty yarns suitable for shawls.

At Sparkleduck I found two skeins of 'Genie', 60% superwash bluefaced leicester, 20% silk and 20% nylon, in luscious shades of blue and mauve.

And at Knitting4Fun I found another skein of Filigran Lace No 1, which is the same yarn I am knitting my Half Circle Fan Stitch Shawl out of and really liking.  This one is a semi-solid in gorgeous blue shades, 100% merino superwash.

On the same stand I found this Lang Jawoll Magic Superwash, 75% wool / 25% polyamid nylon which I also really liked.

I picked up more gorgeous buttons from Injabulo.  These are fairly large and I was wondering if I could turn them into brooches. I love their buttons, and the ones I am using on my Cabled Yoke Sleeveless Pullover came from them as well, purchased at the now-infamous Knit Camp.

On the way out, I shopped the charming Maltings gift shop, which stocks a mixture of crafted articles and vintage finds.  I picked up this lovely little embroidered linen, I loved the house and it could be a feature patch on a bag or quilt.

Miniature Collections

Miniature Net Ring

This site is owned by

Want to join a
Miniature Network Ring?

[Next] [Previous] [Random] [List Sites]