Saturday, 28 April 2012

Knitting related injury

I am now past my first 24 hours of cold-turkey knitting withdrawal, having developed an inflamed something-or-other in my right hand which is causing pains up my arm starting from my thumb and travelling up towards my elbow.  I didn't realise how much I depended on knitting to get me through life until suddenly I can't do it, nor anything else that involves pinching/grasping precise movements like sewing or even using a mouse or using scissors.  Watching tv last night just seemed to drag, I was actually fidgeting, I couldn't stand just sitting there.  In the end I dragged out my stack of loose knitting patterns ripped out of magazines, and started separating them into yarn weights for filing.  Today we drove 40 minutes to see some bluebells and it felt like an hour without knitting to pass the time - luckily I had a quilting magazine to read but what a waste of good knitting time.

It seems very unfair, I listen to lots of podcasts where people boast of knitting for hours, and I know Knit24seven in my knitting group knits most of every day.  Admittedly I have been knitting a lot the past week, and on Thursday probably notched up about four hours of knitting.  Friday I was happily knitting on my Moltnomah Shawl at lunchtime when I realised that my hand was starting to ache.  I finished the row, but by mid-afternoon of using the mouse at work, my whole arm was starting to ache, and by the time I got home it felt like a heated cord stretched from my thumb over the back of my hand to my elbow.  I've been taking Ibuprofen to reduce inflammation and trying not to use the hand too much, hopefully it will clear up with rest and NEVER RETURN. Grrrrr.

By Thursday I had finished the back of my multicoloured Eyelet Lace jumper and made a start on the front.

On the Moltnomah Shawl, I am halfway through the lace border.  I've also done another inch or so on my Twice Doomed Tee and knit a little bit on my Japanese stitch pattern sock.

This week I sewed together the fabric wedges for my Patchwork lampshade, making six panels to use for the six sides of the shade.  Today, since I can't knit, I applied the sticky-back plastic and cut out the six lampshade panels and started gluing them to the metal shade. I've never done this before, but hopefully it will work and not just pop off the first time the bulb warms up the glue...

I ordered a new quilting gadget and it arrived in the post this week from Keepsake Quilting in America.  I occasionally use the 'leg' that clamps to the walking foot, to stitch parallel straight lines on a quilt.  But very annoyingly, these 'legs' usually only are available to the right side of the foot, which can cause problems with the bulk of the quilt ending up being crammed into the throat of the machine.  So when I spotted a clamp on 'leg' that could attach on either side of the walking foot, in the Keepsake catalogue, I thought it was worth getting.  I haven't ordered from Keepsake for over 10 years, as they used to insist on sending things to the UK by courier which always got stopped by Customs who slapped on up to 25% of extra charges.  So it was a risk but I was pleased to have the packet turn up by normal mail within a few weeks of ordering.  Perhaps they have a new shipping policy.  They also had some placemat panels on sale very reasonably so I added those to the parcel as well, there are four placemats and a matching backing fabric. It's also kind of neat ordering from Keepsake now that I have actually been to their store, when we were in New England in the Autumn.

I stopped into I-Knit London on Wednesday night for knitting group and managed to bag the copy of Knitscene magazine that has the Gingko Shawl in it.  I'd seen this pattern in the Knitting Daily newsletter and really liked it.  It's basically a modular knit that looks like Gingko leaves or perhaps scales.  I've decided to use the hand-dyed SparkleDuck Genie fingering that I bought at the Unravel show for this, and ordered a third skein online to make sure I have enough.  Of course, I can't cast on for it yet.  Sob.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

And now it's kind of funny

Things have settled down into a new groove at work.  I know that I will likely be leaving in the next few months so things that were previously quite aggravating have now become somewhat amusing.  Our Acting departmental leader decided that Junior Manager should take over all of my Acting Up responsibilities.  Now, I've been extremely busy over the last year, doing my own job and Acting Up to about 80% of my previous boss' job.  I've now handed over about 40% to Junior Manager, including the fairly demanding responsibilities of managing our member magazine. Which leaves me feeling a bit like I am on school holiday in comparison, it's nice at the moment but potentially could get boring.

I have been very thorough in my handover, and indeed had an enjoyable morning emailing lots of people to tell them that she was now in charge and was now their contact, making sure that our switchboard know to put all magazine calls through to her now, and passing over various ongoing tasks to her.  I've also been sure to check with her about much of what I previously just got on with - she is my acting manager after all and being paid to carry a level of responsibility that I apparently am no longer qualified to hold.  I feel slightly guilty that she is now looking rather harried and is even sending emails at 7pm, but according to our Acting leader's dismissively curt note to me, she is well qualified for a job he obviously considers not very difficult (because he has no idea of the volume of work because he previously never took any interest). Good for them.

Meanwhile I've met with Previous (Stressful) Boss who thinks that my position will transfer to the new department to report to her again sometime in June or July.  I have to give one month's notice, so will try to time it to be one month ahead of the transfer.  Although where I work I will not be surprised to be told on Friday to pack my crates for a weekend move.  I now have more leisure time than previously which I am using to clean out my desk, and to tidy up my PC files etc. in preparation for leaving.  Once I get that done, I will start working on updating my CV.  Fun fun fun.  My aspiration is to either find something new with a shorter commute (currently I am commuting 3 hours + every day) or preferably part-time, so that I have a better work-life balance.  I'm starting to feel very tired of working five days a week plus a three hour daily commute, it just seems that by this stage of my life I should have more time for real life and less time having to pretend to be supportive of Junior Managers who were still in diapers/nappies when I was graduating university.

In the real world, today was my quilting club day, and I was working on my second version of the McCall's Mystery Quilt using an old Cranford Village fabric that I bought probably 10 years ago.  I have all the rows completed, and am just starting to join them together.  I fussy-cut the 6" squares to showcase quilts and houses from a companion printed fabric.

Commuter knitting this week has been a Multnomah Shawl, which I started Sunday night after seeing Slimknit wearing one at knitting group that day. This is a pretty quick knit  as to begin with it is all garter stitch, and I was able to knit all the way through the film 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen' when we went to see that on Monday night.  I've now just reached the lace border which is a feather and fan style.  I'm knitting this in the Trekking sock yarn I bought at Olympia.  It's very pretty but I don't know if it is going to be soft enough to wear near my neck, so it might be a gift for someone who isn't as sensitive about things near their face.

I've knit about six inches on my Eyelet Lace Jumper since moving the chart to the Ipad, and am moving steadily towards the shoulders on the back piece.  I'm really pleased, because that's six inches more knitting than I've managed in the past year.  You can see the colour change effect better now, which is achieved by knitting a stripe pattern with two strands of mercerised cotton and swapping colours one strand at a time.

I've started cutting out pieces to make a lampshade from a book I bought a year or so ago.  I want to make a shade similar to the one on the cover, so I've cut 15 degree wedges from a variety of 30s repro prints.

My Haapsalu Scarf book turned up on Friday, which is better service than some UK bookstores that I've ordered from, so I feel I did very well getting it from Bookshop Krisostomus for 30 euros. The book looks just as beautiful as the first Haapsalu Shawls book, so I am looking forward to reading through it.

Our suicidal appliances are largely out of rehab.  The fridge is now repaired (£222) although the guy said it's reaching the end of its lifespan so next time it goes, we should really be looking for a new one.  The dishwasher was repaired (£150) but not actually fixed so they came out again on Friday but couldn't find anything to explain why it still wasn't working properly.  We are going to give the dishwasher another chance tomorrow and may have to get the engineer a third time if it doesn't work.  I managed to fix the oven myself by ordering and installing a new element, so I am feeling proud of myself. They say things come in three's so hopefully the rest of the appliances will keep going for a while longer.

The weather has turned unseasonably chilly so I've been wearing my Debbie Bliss wristwarmers every day, they are perfect for the changeable weather which has given us everything from hail through torrential rains to thunder and lightning storms this past week.  In between spells of bright hot sunshine.  Ridiculous. Hope your weather has been calmer where you are!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Life goes on

Thank you for the sympathy expressed after my woe-is-me post last week.  I felt better after relaxing over the four-day weekend, although I had to work at not brooding. Not much has happened this week at work, and a general air of misery pervades the building as more and more tales unfold of people being disrespected, overlooked, facing redundancy, and generally kept uninformed as to what is going on.  There were a couple of mornings where I really struggled to get up and go to work - leaving my nice warm bed to make the 90-minute trudge in the cold up to London to spend the day not knowing what was coming next just seemed like the daftest idea in the world.  One amusing moment on Friday came after three managers met to discuss what to do with part of my Acting Up responsibilities (I wasn't invited).  Completely predictably, the most junior one approached me afterwards to ask what exactly I have been doing for the past year and could I put it in an email for them.  Honestly.

It has been quite cold some mornings, with strange days of sudden heavy rain, thunder and even a lightning strike on my train line which caused delays for a few days.  Luckily I finished my Debbie Bliss Wrist Warmers and started wearing them even before I had darned in all of the ends.  Despite not being pure wool (Baby Cashmerino is about 30% microfibre and 15% cashmere I think), they are quite snuggly.  I don't think it was the best choice of yarn for fair isle as it is quite smooth, so the stitches don't grip each other.  But they fit well and have been perfect for the weather this week.

I also finished and blocked out my Fan Stitch Half Circle Shawl with knitted on Willow border.  I am really pleased with how this turned out, and the Zitron Filigran yarn blocked out beautifully.  I'm glad I didn't knit the full set of rows in the pattern, because this has come out fairly large (to my elbows almost) and I didn't have much yarn left over.

I finally got some photos taken of my Garden Sampler BOM quilt, which I sewed the binding onto a few weeks ago.  This is the one I made last year and then quilted on the frame in the summer. 

I'm still only about halfway through the pile of quilts waiting for binding, after my big frame quilting marathon last summer.

I also finished my Georgian Room Box, applying the scrapbooking paper to the outside that I bought in Holland, and painting the exposed edges brown.  The Mulvanys paint their exposed edges black, but I thought that looked a little harsh, and the brown edges tone in with the floor.  After some thought, I applied the paper to the outside in such a way that the box can still be unscrewed, since we went to so much trouble to maintain that possibility during the construction.  I glued the paper on with Mod Podge Matt, and then applied a coat of DecoArt Sealer afterwards to protect it.  I also glued on the course certificate that we given, onto the base of the box.  I've also made a dust cover out of two pieces of plexiglas cut down from a cheap poster clip frame that I salvaged from work (it was going to be thrown out).

One of the best things I did this week was to convert the charts for two of my oldest knitting UFOs for use on the Ipad, and already I have knit more on one of them in a few nights than I have in the past several months.  The Ipad is the greatest knitting gadget ever.  Both these projects have big charts that I tried to keep my place on using magnets that kept getting knocked off, or Post-It notes that kept losing their stickiness, and it was all too difficult.  So I took photographs of the charts and pertinent instructions using my Iphone, emailed them to myself so I could download them to the Camera Roll on my Ipad, and then turned them into PDFs that I could use in GoodReader.  GoodReader is a brilliant app that lets you highlight chart lines, move the highlighted line up or down, add typed notes, make marks to indicate increases etc etc.  So my Eyelet Lace Jumper and my Haapsalu Shawl are now brought into the 21st Century and will hopefully get a lot more done on them.  Speaking of the Haapsalu shawl, I discovered that the Estonian authors have brought out a sequel called the 'Haapsalu Scarf'.  I was astounded to find this was selling on Amazon for about £92!!!  And it was still about £60 or £70 everywhere else.  After a bit of Googling, I found it for sale from an Estonian online bookstore for only 24 Euros, and even with postage it is only about 30 Euros.  So that is winging its way to me now.

I've done well for books this week.  I picked up 'Top This!' by Nona Davis for £3.99 at the discount book store up at Waterloo.  It has several cute quilting projects for Table Toppers, wall hangings, runners, aprons etc..

I succumbed to buying 'Knits for Nerds: 30 Projects, Science Fiction, Comic Books, Fantasy" by joan of Dark, a.k.a. Toni Carr, after hearing about it on various podcasts.  It is full of geeky projects inspired by everything from Firefly to Star Wars, and even a couple of vests from Big Bang Theory, Star Trek dresses, etc. etc.  Very amusing to read through, and while there are a lot of things I would probably never make, there are a few I like and it just generally made me smile.

Much more serious is 'Knitting with Two Colours: Techniques for Stranded Knitting and Designing Color-Patterned Garments' by Meg Swansen & Amy Detjen. I would say that this isn't really a beginners book.  It focuses on techniques and doesn't have any patterns as such although there are a few charts used in the examples. It's probably more for Improvers who have tried Fair Isle and know what their own particular challenges were, so that you could look up the appropriate solution in this book.  It's a good addition to my library, although I did find that some of the explanations weren't very clear and would likely need to be supplemented by additional online research.  It did make me want to get started on the Alice Starmore 'Marina' pattern that I bought wool for a year or so ago, but I need to finish at least one of the charted UFOs mentioned above first.

I'm going to finish with some pictures of tulips in my garden.  These came from bulbs purchased in the Autumn with some gardening vouchers gifted to me by my sewing group for my significant birthday, and some of them have colourings I've never seen before.  Really pretty and brightening up an otherwise not very interesting at this time of year garden.

Hope you had a Happy Easter!

Saturday, 7 April 2012

There's good weeks and then there's the other kind

When I was younger, it seemed less complicated to be happy.  Somehow as you move through middle age, even the good times have an undercurrent of bittersweet - because you know that what goes up will inevitably come down and the you-know-what will hit the fan for a while.  We just have to grit our teeth and keep going and wait for the needle to edge back into the black.

My week:

SUNDAY - so we were kindly invited to a family pub lunch in honour of a visiting couple from abroad. I barely know said couple as they are DH's relations but we show willing because it's family and there will be ten guests, and I take my knitting (Twice Doomed Tee) with me in case of emergencies. After almost two hours, the food is all finished, I'm getting a little bored, so I get my knitting out - it's stockinette so I can knit without looking at it.  Female visitor soon moves closer and starts speaking somewhat accusingly through my m-i-l but at me, and says she's not used to seeing people get their knitting out in a restaurant.  I smile and say that it's more and more common now that knitting is so popular. She says that they don't do that in her country. I mention a large city in her country famous for its knitting shops and an upcoming fibre festival, and also drop in that Ravelry now has two million members, many of them from her country.  She retorts that they don't knit in restaurants in her part of the country at least.  M-i-L, watching the tennis match from between us, somewhat desperately asks what I am knitting.  I say it's a t-shirt and speak briefly about the silk/cotton yarn and how drapey it is.  Female visitor watches for a minute, sniffs, and says to my m-i-l that if she wants a t-shirt, she would just go and buy one, she wouldn't try to knit it.  And this woman IS a knitter.  By now I am feeling slightly savage and as it has been 2.5 hours of the visit, we decide it's time to go home and that we won't go back to the in-laws for coffees.  Female visitor complains peevishly as we say goodbye in the parking lot that she's hardly had a chance to speak to us.

MONDAY - so today the re-organisation that has been percolating at work for over a year finally is announced officially to staff, in a series of group briefings.  A bizarre state of affairs as many people are basically told they are redundant or at risk of redundancy during the group briefing, rather than in the privacy of a one-to-one meeting.  I find out that not only are they moving my job out of my department into a completely different department, but that they intend once again that I will report to the manager who so stressed me out a few years ago.  Afterwards I put in requests for meetings with HR and with my acting head of department so that I can communicate my decision that I would rather leave the organisation than report to that person again.

TUESDAY - despite yesterday's news, life goes on and I have far too many meetings today, where I am given much work that I now don't know if I will still be in the organisation to actually do.

WEDNESDAY - today was actually a good day, as we were on holiday and chauffeured DS to an Oxford University Sciences open day where we were given a very entertaining admissions talk and got to see inside two of the colleges that he is considering.  Trying not to think about how I am going to afford his university if I have to quit my job. Puzzled in evening to see email from my acting head of department that he is trying to reach me, because he knew I was on leave. Also see an email from HR declining to meet with me as I am not actually at risk of redundancy.

THURSDAY - Turns out that my acting head of department wanted to see me because he had a formal letter from HR terminating the extra money I have been getting over the last year to cover the additional responsibilities formerly done by the ex-boss who has been on secondment.  Terminating it as of 31 March, which was last week.  Disregarding the total lack of notice which almost halves my salary, I enquire who will now be doing those acting up responsibilities, which constitute at least 60% of my current role and are in some cases fairly important and are on tight schedules.  He looks confused as that obviously hadn't occurred to him, and the department being short-staffed, there probably isn't anyone else.  He asks me to put in writing what all the additional responsibilities are, so that he can consider what to do.  He also requests me to put in writing my decision not to work for ex-boss again and my reasons and send it back to HR.  This takes me a while as it is difficult to find appropriate professional words that are about me and not about the manager - it would have been a much shorter note if I could have included words like 'nightmare' and 'lacks people management skills'.  Have to work right through lunch to catch up on the work that piled up when I was on leave and the work from Tuesday's meetings.  Exhausted by the time I get home.  Break into Easter chocolate early for a pick-me-up.

FRIDAY - Today we realise that the refrigerator is starting to make the whumping noise again, indicating that it has iced up inside the fan for the third time since January.  The oven stopped working on Tuesday, and we've had to stop using the dishwasher since DH heard a weird noise at 4am on Monday night and came down to find the dishwasher still cycling noisily even though it should have finished hours before, and then next time we tried to use it, it smelled like burning plastic.  Come to the realisation that all of our appliances are committing suicide simultaneously.  Every time we now press a button on an appliance, we hold our breath a little to see if it actually turns on.  And as it is a bank holiday in the UK for Good Friday, no engineers or appliance firms are going to be answering their phones.  Try to relax and get on with all the jobs I don't normally have time for when I am at work.


I will stop there, before I bring you all down with me.  And I am feeling better as we have a four-day weekend for Easter.  And I've done a little sewing and knitting in the evenings to take my mind off things.

I finished my McCall's Quilting mystery quilt top.  I like this pattern because it uses big 11" squares of focus fabric, so it's good for prints that would suffer if cut into small pieces.  I've started cutting out fabric to make a second one using a busy fabric print of a fantasy American quilting town that I've had in my stash for ages.

I ran out of the red fabric for the first one and not only had to substitute two other similar fabrics, but actually had to piece a few segments out of smaller scraps.  So I don't think I can try selling this quilt, it will likely be a charity donation or a gift.  The focus fabric is of lots of pretty birds and flowers, so it might be good for someone who gardens. It's about 71" square so it's a small double or a very wide single size.

I finished Day 8 of the Advent Calendar 2010 lace scarf.  When I pinned it out for the photo, I didn't stretch out Day 6 enough, so that looks a bit odd.

And I took the never-ending knitted lace edging of my Fan Stitch Half Circle Shawl with me on the car drive to and from Oxford, and am now almost at the end!!  Obviously it looks like a crumpled rag at the moment until it gets blocked.

A nice squidgey arrived in the post this week which was the final instalment of sock yarn from the I-Knit London Sock Club - a lovely Royal Blue Malabrigo sock yarn.  It's much darker in reality than it looks in the photo.  I think I am safe posting a picture as everyone should have received theirs by now. This would make a nice shawl.

I had a nice comment from Teresa feeding back that the 'prove you are a human' squiggly words in the Comments box are a bit tiresome.  I tried turning them off as an experiment, and all week I have been receiving long spam comments selling various products including a very long email full of links and all in Spanish.  Blogger's Spam filter is catching them but they made me nervous so I have tried to turn back on the squiggly words but I don't know if it worked or not.  I'm sorry about the nuisance. I hope you will all persevere as I do enjoy getting feedback.

I'm hoping to do some more work on my Georgian room box this weekend and glue on the scrapbooking papers that I bought in Holland.

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