Saturday, 26 May 2012


Two days after I last wore my woolly hat and fingerless gloves, the temperature leapt to 27 degrees Celsius and has stayed high all week.  This means two things:  our new well-insulated house becomes ridiculously hot all the time and especially at night when we are trying to sleep; and the 'killer grandchildren' season begins.

The killer grandchildren visit their grandparents who live next door, and although there are only I think 3 or 4 of them, they make enough noise for half a dozen.  And since we have to have all our windows open in order not to bake to death, we get to listen to them trying to kill each other for the entire visit.  Honestly.  Friday night they arrived at 6:30pm and left just before 9pm, and screamed and wailed the ENTIRE time.  If nothing else you would think they would get hoarse.  They don't seem to be able to play normally, one or more is always screaming or wailing as if they've just had a limb ripped off, and apart from a few feeble admonishments, the neighbours just let them carry on.  So not only can we not sit in our garden, we can't even get away from it in the house. Grrrr.

Meanwhile, as I sit in front of the fan in a tank top and shorts, I am of course knitting a woolly mitten with reindeer on it.  As you do.

These True North mittens are cute, but I'm not sure I like the Blackstone Tweed yarn.  It's a bit slubby and feels sort of papery, and it snaps easily.  Perhaps they will feel better when they are washed.

And I have a finish this week!  I finished the Multnomah Shawl in Trekking Hand Art sock yarn in colourway 'Sansibar' 551.

Although I was practically losing the will to live by the final rows which were so long, I'm pleased with how it turned out.  Unfortunately, I don't find the Trekking yarn soft enough to wear around my throat area even after washing with fabric conditioner.  While I've been knitting this, it's been reminding me of a friend in America who wears colourful scarves, so I am going to gift it to her.

My knitting hand seems almost back to normal when I'm knitting, but is still paining me when I try to squeeze things like closing a safety pin.  So I have been knitting this week on my Japanese Stitch Sock, Twice Doomed Tee, Advent Calendar Lace Scarf and Eyelet Lace jumper.  I wonder what it is like to knit on  one project at a time?  Bet they would get done a lot faster.

Today was my sewing group and I had bravely offered to teach people how to free motion machine quilt.  This involved me dragging about twice as much gear as normal to class, but it went off pretty well.  We managed to get all the participants going on their machines even though a couple of the machines were 40 years old, and my demos on my own machine went off smoothly with no embarrassing hitches.  I am teaching three modules, so today we started off with meandering/stippling, and hopefully they will all practice over the next month so that next time we can move on to continuous curves and echo quilting.  One of my older members, who taught adult education for several years, said I did a really great job and that I should consider teaching adult education!  I was pleased by that but as a natural introvert I was absolutely exhausted by putting out so much energy for 2.5 hours.  I think it would be pretty tough doing it regularly, but perhaps I would get used to it.  Something for when I'm retired perhaps?

I've a lot more time on my hands at work now that I have handed over various jobs, while I wait for my transfer into another department.  I've have been discovering the galaxy of time suck which is Pinterest, and bookmarking lots of neat stuff that I will never have time to make - such as this really cute Dresden Plate placemat and table runner, these charming little house ornaments, and an Iphone stand which would help me see my knitting pattern better when I'm out and about.

I will finish with some pictures of my clematis in my garden, which decided to be fabulous this year.

Saturday, 19 May 2012


I realised on Tuesday that I had completely forgotten to blog last weekend, and indeed I've been so busy the last few weeks that it all seems a bit of a blur when I try to think what I've been doing.  I must have been doing something.

 I have started to job hunt again, and I've been working on my CV so I suppose that's one thing.  I did plumb in the new dishwasher, only to have the bathroom extraction fan promptly die. I'm beginning to think our appliances are out to get us.  The electrician came mid-week to inspect it and is coming back today to install the replacement.

Last weekend we took DS to Cambridge to a university sciences open day, which was quite interesting and included a free lunch.  On the way there, as part of my move to knit with bigger yarn and needles, I cast on for the True North mittens using Berroco Blackstone Tweed in three colours. I knit about three inches that day and realised that it was going to be far too big.  I frogged it, changed down a needle size and cast on again.

After knitting about 2.5 inches, I realised that my jog was horribly visible at the beginning/end of rounds.  I've knit fair isle mittens twice before, but they were with naturalistic patterns and not horizontal bands.  My Latvian Braid has a bad join but I think I can fix that when I sew in the ends, so I frogged back down the braid and tried again, this time using the 'slip the first stitch of the second row of a colour' technique for combating a visible jog. That worked ok, not brilliantly, for the bands of multiple stitches but still didn't work for the single row colour bands.  I frogged back AGAIN and this time tried the Meg Swanson technique of lifting up the stitch in the row below, and knitting it together with the stitch above.  The result is in the picture, it's better but still not great. So basically I've spent the past week knitting, frogging and reknitting three inches of mitten cuff.  If you have any suggestions for hiding the jog when knitting fair isle in the round, please please let me know.

Commuter knitting has been the Multnomah Shawl, where I have now reached the final repeat of the Feather & Fan border and have so many stitches that each row seems to be taking longer to knit than an entire jumper. This is the point in knitting a shawl where I question if I ever want to knit a shawl again that isn't sideways knit. I just have to keep persevering and eventually I will get to the end.

I did some sewing last Sunday, making a drawstring laundry bag to fit in my suitcase when travelling, and another drawstring project bag which I'm using as a drawer tidy to hide lots of little bits of junk.I used two contrasting quilt fabrics with a vintage feel to them.

I also trimmed the edges on yet another quilt that I quilted on the frame last summer, and started machining on the binding to one side.

I've spent a lot of time the past week having a love affair with a larger house that I discovered for sale on a nearby street.  We've grown out of our current house, and this other house is huge by comparison, and we went round to view it one evening.  Unfortunately it needs a lot of work, and in order to buy it we would have to sell our current home which could take months.  It has been very hard to let go of the vision of a sewing studio, knitting studio, and modelling room for DS/DH,  but reluctantly I am trying to give up the dream.  I did check with my father to see if he would temporarily lend us some money, and got a stern reply back about the economy and how at my age I should be saving for retirement - which made me feel like Methuselah.  Isn't it remarkable how your parents can always make you feel like a guilty eight-year-old no matter how old you get?

This week I bagged a seat on a corporate jolly bus tour around the London 2012 Olympic Park, which was very interesting but also rather alarming as it looks more like a construction site than something that will welcome the world in ten weeks.  Our tour guide assured us it will be ready, but I couldn't help wondering whether 10 weeks was enough time for the recently laid turfing and all the sapling trees sticking out of plastic tubes to become established.  I also tried a new yoga class, which wasn't suitable for my feeble plumpness, and went on a winetasting tour at Vinopolis which luckily was only half price since I don't know anything about wine. It was fun but also a bit disappointing as I was expecting a museum all about wine and how it's made etc., and it is really just four enormous rooms with winetasting bars in each.

I did bag another couple of bargain knitting books from the discount bookstore next to Waterloo station. They were both only £4.99 each, which is pretty good.  Socks a la Carte is the book that got a lot of reviews with the pages split into three sections so you can flip back and forth to make your own combination sock pattern.  Knit2Together by Tracey Ullman and Mel Clark has some really cute patterns in it and some cardigans that I really like, and lots of chatty stories from both of the authors. Another room we were going to have in 'our new house' was a library where I could have all my knitting books ready to hand.  Sigh...

Meanwhile the weather continues to be completely erratic, and I am still wearing my woolly hat and fingerless gloves some mornings due to the cold wind.  At least I am getting lots of wear out of my knits this year.  Oh, and I sold another bag from my Folksy shop!  Not for very much, but the buyer was quite pleased and now I've sold three items.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Lampshades, cardi-bags and patios

Knitting has remained largely off the menu this week, so I've had to occupy myself with other pursuits.

I finished the second version of the McCall's Mystery Quilt, to be a completed top.

I continued to work on my Patchwork Lampshade and it's basically finished. I just need a bit more grosgrain ribbon to glue on the inside bottom rim to hide my ugly glue job.  I followed the instructions in the book for a basic lampshade, but the author just says to use 'white glue' to glue everything to the metal frame, without specifying what this magic elixir would be.  I used Aileen's Quick Dry Tacky Glue, which stuck but not very enthusiastically.  So there are a few gaps here and there which the trim hides.  Anyway, I'm quite pleased with it for a first effort and it looks good with the Royal Doulton lady.  She used to be my grandmother's in Canada, and came to me in the 80s after my grandmother passed.  She arrived in the UK with me over 20 years ago and spent the last few decades languishing in the attic waiting to be re-wired for British electricity.  I finally took her into a place earlier this year where the lamp was re-fitted for the higher voltage and different lightbulbs, so the new shade means that she can finally take pride of place after over 20 years.

This week I wore my charity shop find Monsoon lambswool cardigan to work for the last time.  I realised in the harsh light of the office toilets that it was really time to say goodbye to it.  It was a bit felted when I first found it about 15 years ago, but I always liked the embroidery and the fancy fastenings.  I was going to throw it, but decided to experiment to see if it would felt even more. 

I cut the front edges off and overlapped them for a flat seam, and cut off the sleeves to make a square.

The bottom hem of the cardigan became the top of the bag, so I squared off the neckline end to make a bag shape.  Then I seamed across the neck end, seamed up the sleeve openings, and sewed across the corners to give the bag a shaped bottom.

I used the sleeves to make bag handles.  Annoyingly, I managed to twist these when I sewed them on, and had to unpick and re-apply after felting.

This is the shapeless bag before felting.

And this is the bag after a 90 degree wash, but before I fixed the handles or put some stiffening in the bottom.

So it shrunk somewhat in length, but didn't felt as much as I had expected - presumably because it was already a bit felted to begin with.  I should have been a bit tidier with my seams, I just flung it together expecting the seams to vanish into the felt, which they haven't so much.  But as an experiment, it was rather fun, and the nice felted texture is very tactile.

About halfway through the week, I decided to start knitting a bit.  I realised that all the knitting I've been doing lately has been in fingering or lace weight on small needles.  So I dug out the Lamb's Pride Bulky that I bought in New England and cast on for one of the Nesting Boxes from the Mason-Dixon Knitting book.  This is knit in two strands so is quite big knitting, and I found I could do it for 30 minutes or so at a time without my hand hurting too much.  It was very tightly knit on a 6mm needle, so tightly that I actually checked the book twice to make sure I hadn't mis-read the needle size.  It wasn't until I had finished it and was seaming it up, that I thought to check on Ravelry to see if anyone else had had the same problem.  THEN I discovered that the needle size was errata, and it should have specified a 10mm needle.  Grrrr.  Also annoying was that one box took most of a skein of dark blue, plus about a third of a skein of light blue.  The book doesn't specify yarn quantity but I thought I would get at least two boxes for my money.  Each skein was about £5 so this was a pretty expensive box!  I felted it at 90 degrees and it shrunk up a fair bit even though it was so tightly knitted, and the result is fairly stiff. It's the right size to hold DVD cases standing upright.

The wet and windy weather continues.  This weekend is a long weekend as Monday is a Bank Holiday.  It wasn't raining yesterday so we did the traditional home improvement thing and dug up part of the lawn to expand our small patio.  We didn't want to spend a lot of money, so used a mixture of cheap slabs, stuff we had hanging about, and the three mosaic stepping stones I made a few years ago.  Since taking this picture, I've filled in the edges with a few more small tiles and some stone chippings. We had to dig out loads of dirt and grass first and made two trips to the dump to dispose of it. I am so stiff today!  I'm not used to heavy labour as I am a big office softie.

Tomorrow I am hoping to do some sewing.  I had a very boring two hour meeting on Friday, in which my only required contribution was to turn my head towards each speaker to make it look like I was listening.  Meanwhile I was doing a mental inventory of projects around the house that I wanted to tackle over the weekend (like plumbing in the new dishwasher and making the patio bigger) and crafty things that I wanted to sew, so hopefully tomorrow I will get to do some more of them.

I will finish with a shot of bluebells which I took on our rainy bluebell walk last weekend. These are probably the wrong kind of bluebells (Spanish invaders rather than native) but they were very pretty.

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