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.


Daisy said...

I'm looking forward to seeing how the Twice Doomed Tee turns out! ;-)

Sandie said...

What a great opportunity, to take a class with the Mulveneys! Your roombox is lovely and the techniques will be really useful - I'd love to learn to do faux marble effects.

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