Saturday, 23 June 2012

Summer has failed to download

I saw an amusing tweet this week that mimicked a 404 error ' website not found' and announced that Summer had failed to install correctly.  That pretty much sums it up.  The longest day of the year was a couple of days ago, and I'm still wearing my autumn coat AND a woolly hat and fingerless mitts as I battle my way to work against the strong wind and driving rain.  There have been some sunny intervals but the wind has been fairly relentless, making it feel a lot colder than it is, even if it isn't actually raining.  Needless to say I haven't had any more chances to wear the summer skirts I sewed a few weeks ago during the brief heat wave.

On the plus side, the lighter evenings have pepped up my craft mojo, and I've been feeling like I am achieving more.

I finally got some borders on my teacup quilt.  I found this incredibly difficult, nothing in my stash seemed to work as it was such a busy quilt with so many colours, and the two fabrics I ordered from weren't right either.  I was getting to the point where I didn't even like the quilt any more, when at the very back of one of my boxes of stash, I discovered a pink-based tea motif fabric that I must have bought some time ago.  Trouble was, it was just as busy as the quilt so didn't look that great as a border.  Then I  had a brainwave to introduce an inner border to provide some visual peace between the two busy areas.  That turned into a major stash excavation exercise as well, as I tried to decide what fabric to use for the inner border.  I thought red would work best, but which red and did I have enough of it?  I ended up with a raspberry print with green leaves which I had to cut to avoid some lighter spots printed at regular intervals.  Adding the raspberry border made it a 'pink' quilt so now the pink border fabric works better.  I acknowledge that it is still a very busy quilt, but I like it now.  I'm tempted to turn it into a table cloth or a picnic rug.  It's sort of an 'I-Spy-quilt for grown-up china lovers.

I've been thinking that it will be time to get my quilting frame out again soon.  If we are going to empty out the house to get it onto the market next Spring, then I won't want to have a 12 foot quilting frame in the living room in the Autumn.  I think I've got at least half a dozen tops and there's probably time to make a few more.  I have quilts coming out my ears, and I've only sold one on my Folksy shop.  I did approach a handcraft shop in posh Bermondsey about taking some quilts, but they haven't contacted me so perhaps not interested. I know I could just give them away to charity, but it seems a bit of a waste after all the time, effort and money that has gone into them.

I did spend most of last Sunday quilting, and got all the pieces cut out for the Red and White Quilt, and all of the flying geese units and pinwheel centres sewn.  I was having trouble with my machine stuffing the fabric down the needleplate which it doesn't normally do.  It took me a couple of hours to remember that I still had a size 100 (big) needle in the machine from when I was making the wallet last week.  Duh.  It sewed a lot better once I changed out the needle for a 75.  This is such a vivid and cheerful quilt, nice and bright to contrast with the grey days outside.  I was a bit worried about the fabric being directional but I've decided to ignore that and I think it looks fine.

I knit a dishcloth out of pink and white Peaches & Creme that I bought in New England.  This is my first dishcloth and I will be using it as a facecloth since DS has a bad habit of destroying washing up sponges in about two days by abusing them on greasy things when he does the washing up.  I found this yarn hard on my hands to knit, but it is lovely and soft once knitted up. This is a pattern from the Lily Sugar and Creme website called the Diagonal Stitch Dishcloth and I added a crocheted hanging loop. (free registration required to view the patterns)

I had a bit of startitis this week, so as well as the dishcloth, I have made a start on the Union Jack Bag from  Simply Knitting July 2012. I had a dig around in my handknitting stash and couldn't find enough 'nice wool' in appropriate colours, so I turned to my extensive but no longer loved collection of machine knitting 4 ply acrylics on cones.  I looked it up to find that four strands of 4-ply would equal the desired Aran weight, and used a ball winder to wind three balls off of each cone.  It has the potential to turn into a huge mess, so I organised it in a plastic crate.

The knitting is intarsia, so there are so many strands hanging down from the needle that it is a bit mind-boggling, but surprisingly I am finding the four-stranded yarn is knitting rather easily on 5mm needles, and producing a good firm fabric. Perhaps this technique is going to be a way to use up some of the acrylic cone stash?

This week commuter knitting (and pub knitting) has been the Piper's Journey shawl, which is growing slowly.  And I knit the two sleeves for my machine knit set-sleeve jumper and will block those today.  I've seamed together the front and back using my Hague Linker, but I will wait until the sleeves are attached before starting the collar.

I'm still jobhunting in a not-very-dedicated fashion.  My telephone interview for the scary job went fine but they haven't followed up so I guess I didn't make it through to the next round.  I've applied to a few others that have caught my eye.  Still no news at work about when I will be moved to the other department.  Meanwhile, the re-organisation rumbles on and lots of people are unhappy or leaving.  It seems that we are signing leaving cards or going to leaving drinks at the pub every week now.  It's all a bit of a shambles and I think as an organisation we are still mired in the swamp at the bottom of the Change Curve.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Machine knitting fraud

I spent a very pleasant day today attending the AGM of the Guild of Machine Knitters, held this year near Cambridge.  I was a machine knitting fraud on two counts:  1) I am not currently a guild member, although I have been in the past, and 2) I am really rubbish at machine knitting.  But nobody threatened me with pitchforks and I was able to pay my admission and take my seat without challenge.

I had been to the AGM before a few years ago and this one followed a similar mix of guild business and talks from speakers. The morning speaker was Nick of Uppingham Yarns, handing around many different fibre samples from the basics like wool and silk, right through to pretty far out materials like jute, stainless steel, holographic, glow in the dark, and ultraviolet activated fibres.  Apparently students like the last one, which they use to knit questionable words into garments that are only revealed when they are dancing at clubs.

There was a small market where I bought two MK patterns from Clair Crowston, one for a draped front cardigan and one for a garter carriage jumper.  I don't even know if my garter carriage still works, but I liked the embossed leaf design.  I also bought some back issues of the Machine Knitting Journal, a little A5 pamphlet of letters from readers and a few patterns in each.  I'm not sure their commercial model is the right way around: I could buy a year's worth of back issues (4) for £8 instead of subscribing for a year for £11 (normally £12).  I did not buy yarn - I think putting all my stash onto Ravelry has really damped down my shopping impulses when it comes to yarn.  The competition entries were all on display, as were stands of knitting from two local MK groups.  And most importantly, there were delicious home-made cakes and scones and plenty of tea.  The afternoon speaker was more esoteric, a lady named Jools Elphick who designs artistic headdresses that she sells for as much as £500 gave a slide show of her work and talked about her artistic development and some of her concepts for the hats.  I got the feeling the avant garde styling did not appeal to everyone.  The funniest part was an older lady (almost everyone there was older than me) behind me, who I think was a bit deaf as she complained occasionally that she couldn't hear, making comments which she probably imagined were private to herself but which all of us around her could easily hear.  Her gasps of horror at some of the prices mentioned, little mutters questioning the wearability of some of the more far out styles, and comments on the presenter's technical problems with moving on the slides made the lecture much more entertaining.

I passed most of the day happily knitting.  I finished the first of the Japanese Stitch Socks, giving it a round toe instead of the standard toe in the pattern.  And I made a start on the Pipers Journey Shawl, designed by Paula who presents the Knitter's Pipeline podcast, which I am making in the recommended Quince & Co Chickadee in dark blue.  The yarn is everything that has been promised in all the rave reviews, bouncy, squishy, soft but still with body, and knits easily with no splitting.  The shawl starts out with a lot of garter stitch, which increases at both ends, so ideal for working on while watching speakers and slides. I only decided to knit it this morning about 10 minutes before we left, so had to quickly buy the download, find needles and throw two skeins into a bag.  I wound these in the car by dint of draping them over the sunvisor as I wound them off.  It is a sign of how well trained DH is that he didn't even comment on this activity until I got the second skein out.

So what else have I done this week?

The two fabrics I ordered from arrived, with their usual super-fast delivery.  Unfortunately one seems too light, and the other too dark, for my Teacup Quilt.  I suddenly remembered a Civil War type stripe that I bought at Keepsake Quilts in New England, and got that out of my stash.  I think it might work as the border.  What do you think?

I finished the first True North mitten and sewed all the ends in, and made a start on the second mitten.

I also knit a second front and back for my machine knit set-in sleeve jumper.

I completed the second version of the Tri Fold Wallet that I tried out last week.  I made all the fixes to the pattern that I mentioned in my last post, as well as adding a zipper across the receipts section.  I've been using the wallet this week, so far it seems to be working well apart from the fact that I had used my old wallet for years, so it is weird having things in different places and orientated differently.

The last few weeks I've been forgetting to blog that I am working on the 16th applique block of my 25-block 'Grandmother's Last Quilt' applique quilt.  It is a rose wreath which is actually from the Rose Sampler book, only I enlarged the pattern to fit on a 17" square like the blocks from the Grandmother's book.  There are still lots of leaves to add to this block, which is all needleturn applique, and I haven't stitched down the inner side of the stem yet.

The weather continues to be cr*p - for example today, 16 June, I was dressed in the same type of outfit I would normally be wearing in October, including a woolly shawl around my neck.  It's ridiculous.  It makes me glad we sold the camping trailer earlier this year, because I would be really frustrated if we were waiting to go camping (or really wet if we had gone ahead).

In my continued attempt to get through the quilting UFOs and PIGS (projects in grocery sacks - I suppose the UK equivalent would be PICBs or projects in carrier bags) that I have accumulated over 17 years of quilting, I pulled out two colourways of a toile fabric, one in red with white scenes, the other reversed.  After googling lots of eye candy for two colour quilts, and going through my collection of rulers, I have decided to copy a quilt image I found online here.  It has two blocks:  a sawtooth star and a Martha Washington star.  After doing some calculations in my London-based studio (aka the office) I have decided on 3 on-point blocks wide by 4 on-point blocks high, with blocks of 14", to make something near to a single quilt size.  Hopefully I have sufficient fabric.  I've pre-washed the red fabric as a precaution, and I'm hoping to have a sewing day tomorrow - although first I need to shovel off the sewing table.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Jubilee week

It feels a bit weird to be blogging again when I just blogged on Wednesday - it is contrary to my normal weekly rhythm.  But as we have been on holiday all week, all our normal schedules have drifted awry in a sea of crafts, sleeping in, staying up late, meals at odd times, and doing stuff around the house.  We will have to get sorted out so that we can go back to school / work on Monday.

So this was the Jubilee week, and I'm sure you all saw some of the great national celebrations on the long weekend just past.  Sunday was the spectacular Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the river, or at least it would have been spectacular if it hadn't started to rain.  By the end it was coming down cats and dogs, and while the television presenters were making lots of pronouncements on how continuing on regardless proved our national British resilience and stoicism, I was just watching the drowned rat opera singers and thinking that it really shows we are a nation that must be a bit bonkers.  I mean come on, surely they have rain coats and would it really be the end of the world if they were singing in plastic macs?  Or better still, singing downstairs where the orchestra stayed nice and dry?  And who keeps an 86-year-old standing in the rain for three hours?  Queen of the land and she can't be seen wrapped up in a nice warm coat?  The best bit of the four-hour extravaganza was watching Twitter at the same time, where there were many amusing comments on the frankly pathetic coverage by BBC announcers who made errors of fact and grammar in amongst the drivel.  That and watching the 20 artists on the Millennium Bridge who were supposed to be recording the flotilla for posterity, trying to hold down their canvases and paper as they frantically tried to paint for the camera in the driving rain and wind.

Meanwhile, I had set up my sewing machine in the livingroom and was working on a Teapot Quilt, using up a collection of teapot and china fabric that I put together about 15 years ago.  I had fussy cut loads of squares and used the same design as the Kaffe Fassett Potpourri Quilt, that I made in Hawaii, to put them together.  I really like the effect but then I seem to be on a kick of very scrappy busy quilts lately.  It needs a border but I didn't have anything suitable, so I have mail ordered a coupled of possibilities from in the States.

Monday night was the big Jubilee concert, and while it was very cool to see how they had converted the roundabout into a concert venue, and to see the projections on Buckingham Palace, the actual sound output was pretty dire.  It must have been better in person because lots of people in the audience were tweeting about how great it was.  But the television coverage didn't seem to be mixing the sound properly so all you could hear was the ancient singers bellowing tunelessly into their microphones.  The backing singers and music were not as loud, so many of the songs came across more as caterwauling especially if you knew a song well from a recording made when they were younger.  I just couldn't watch it, so I was clicking back and forth between the concert proceedings and a documentary that Prince Charles had recorded about his childhood memories of the Queen which was actually fairly interesting.

By now I am sounding like a big Jubilee partypooper - sorry about that.  I did enjoy watching the highlights of the Queen's procession through London to St. Paul's for the service there, and at least those crowds stayed dry until it started to rain once they were out on the balcony.  Do you think that balcony has an invisible roof?  The Royal Family didn't seem to be getting wet despite more driving rain.  The weather really has been pretty awful this week, apart from Wednesday and today (Saturday).

Anyway, we've had the rest of the week off which has been very nice.  Wednesday was when we went up to London (see previous post) but otherwise I have been pottering around the craft room and catching up on some gardening and minor household repairs.

I put the final stitch into the binding, and sewed on the label, of my DS's Seven Wonders of the World quilt which I started in 1999.  Luckily it was for him to take to college so I have actually finished it a year early, yay me! I've been knitting on my Eyelet Lace jumper and on my Japanese Stitch Sock.

I had promised myself I would do some machine knitting this week, when I had so much time to get it right.  Machine knitting is supposed to be so fast, but it always seems to take me forever.  This was no exception.

  • I chose a fairly simple set-in sleeve top hand knitting pattern, and matched it to some Rowan Pure Wool 4-ply in my stash.  The required tension was 28st and 36 rows. So I knit up five tension swatches starting from 6 and going up to 7-.  .  The Rowan 4-ply knit happily at all of these tensions on my Brother 881.  However, when I washed and blocked them, they nearly all measured 30st.
  • I tried again, knitting four more tension samples from 7.. up to 9.  Unbelievably they still all measured 30st.  The best fabric seemed to be at T9 which was 30 st and 38 rows.
  • I gritted my teeth and sat down and wrestled with math for two hours to write my own pattern for a set in sleeve jumper at a tension of 30 st, using the Ann Budd Handy Book of Sweater Patterns as a jumping off point.  She doesn't go that small with the tension, so I had to do lots of arithmetick which made my head hurt.
  • So the next day I spent all afternoon knitting the front and back of the jumper.  The reason it took so long is that I misread my own handwriting and knit the back 20 rows too short, so I had to rip it partway out, rehang it on the machine (which took me about 45 minutes to get right) and re-knit it.  The actual knitting went alright, I could remember how to do most of the basic stuff with the machine.
  • After letting the two pieces rest overnight, I washed and blocked them.  To my disgust, they were way too big.  Much too long for one thing, which turned out to be partly because I had miscalculated the length by forgetting to include the welt.  But mainly because when they dried and I re-measured the tension, the correct tension turned out to be 29st and 39 rows.  So basically I had spent a couple of days knitting two giant tension swatches.
  • Gritting my teeth, I sat down yesterday and spent another hour or so recalculating the pattern.  I cropped Ann Budd's suggested length and made sure I included the welt this time.  Luckily I think I have enough of this yarn to knit the jumper without having to unravel the first two pieces (although I will have to do that eventually).  Then I headed out to the knitting shed and knit the back, AGAIN, and this time when I blocked it has come out to the right size - yay!  I didn't want to knit the front until I had checked the back was right.
  • Meanwhile, a fast hand knitter like Knit24Seven could probably have finished the jumper by now.
The other thing I did this week was to try out the Trifold Wallet pattern from the Lisa Lam book 'A bag for all reasons'.  This is an impressively well produced book, with full size pattern sheets, coil binding, high production value illustrations, and came with a lot of positive reviews.  I was therefore fairly disappointed to find that the pattern instructions were flawed, or in many cases, ambiguous as to what you were meant to be doing.  Luckily I had gone into this project with the mindset that the first wallet would be a trial piece.  In case you were thinking of making this pattern, here is what I found out about it.
  • A pretty major flaw is that the wallet will not fold closed with a credit card in the two innermost slots, if you position the card slots according to the pattern.  In my next wallet, I will move these slots outwards so the cards will not block the fold line.
  • The instructions completely miss out the step where you attach the concertina coin pouch to the Notes slot.  I went ahead and sewed this down after attaching the flap, centering it and just sewing down the two folded edges according to how it is pictured in one of the photos.
  • The instructions miss out having any kind of closure for the coin flap, so there is nothing to stop your coins pouring out if you tilt the wallet.  I sewed velcro onto my flap as I was constructing it, and similarly to the concertina body as I sewed that.
  • I found that as the Notes Slots is not interfaced, it is poking up through the gaps between the stiff card slots, interfering with sliding the cards into the slots particularly for the end one where the seam allowance adds to the bulk.  In my next wallet, I will interface behind the card slots to stiffen this area.
  • The instructions for the card slots were a bit vague - the 4 3/8" measurement should be across the fold, and the interfacing should run perpendicular to this (so it is doubled when you fold the card slot).   When you trim the interfacing, discard the 1 1/4" piece she tells you to cut, it is the wider piece that is fused to the card slots.
  • According to the design of the wallet, the top edge of c. 1/4" plus protruding above the Notes Slot is not interfaced at all.  This leaves it floppy and inclined to fold down.  In my next wallet, I am going to take the heavy interfacing right up to the seam line.
  • The way the wallet is designed, the lining of the exterior floats free.  This means there is nothing to keep it flat and it wants to protrude upwards, or pleat itself.  In my next wallet, I am going to see if I can work out how to back it with fusible web so that I can press it flat after turning the wallet right-sides-out.
  • I found it almost impossible to evenly turn in the top edge of the wallet after turning it right-sides-out.  this is partly because of not being interfaced, but in my next wallet I will mark guidelines for where to fold the fabric so that I end up with an even line along the edge of the wallet top.
  • Being right handed, I would prefer to have the tab closure on the right side of the wallet so that I can press the stud closed with my right hand more easily.
  • As this is an American pattern, the notes slot is far too big for UK paper money.  I am going to look at whether I should make the wallet smaller by eliminating one set of card slots, or whether I should just seam the bills slot to be shorter.

If you are in the UK, I hope you enjoyed all the Jubilations and had a nice week - and stayed dry.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

A day in London

Although I've worked in London for over 20 years, 95% of that has been 'go to work, sit at desk for 8 hours, return to home'.  However, in the remaining 5%, I have come to know some things in London and continue to enjoy visiting this fascinating city.  Once a tourist, always a tourist, I guess.

So at least once a year, we like to have a tourist day up in London to visit some of our old favourites and discover new ones.  This is a record of our day out yesterday.

9am - We arrived at Vauxhall and crossed the road to visit LAASCO's London base at Brunswick House. This is an architectural salvage firm, and the first time I came here I was convinced I was lost because you walk past several new luxury high-rise riverfront buildings before suddenly coming upon this relic of a bygone age.  I wanted DH to see it, because the building is fascinating.  It's a dilapidated old Georgian house which still has some of its architectural features like cornicing, and a main drawing room. Very atmospheric to wander around, particularly in the crumbling cellar where you can still see the vaulted ceilings and coal hole, and old kitchen shelving still stuck on the walls.  I forgot to take a picture, so have borrowed one from the Chelsea College of Art and Design's blog. Somehow a dilapidated old beauty is so much more romantic than one that's been kept pristine (so there's hope for me yet...)

9:30am We walked through one of the high-rise buildings and strolled on the Thames Path along the riverbank.  You could still see some evidence of the Jubilee flotilla crowds because a lot of the shrubbery looked rather battered, probably from being stood on.  Next stop was Cafe Madeira, a Portuguese cafe tucked in the arches under the main Waterloo line near Vauxhall Station.  I discovered this after becoming hooked on Portuguese custard tarts while on holiday in Lisbon, and being desperate for a fix once I got back to London.  They have stacks of them here, plus loads of other goodies, and very efficient service.  At this time of year, they have converted the verge into a little bit of European cafe land, with lots of outdoor seats in the shade of a big tree, almost like being on holiday.  This picture is from their website.

10:30am  Two custard tarts each and a cup of tea later (oink, oink), we caught the Tube up to Chancery Lane and went to find S and M Tools at 57 Leather Lane (warning, be prepared for a shock if you try googling THAT name).  This is the bricks and  mortar shopfront of the Proxxon tool people who go to the big dollshouse shows with all their tempting hobbyist tools.  The actual shop is more a mixture of neighbourhood hardware shop but still with lots of hobbyist tools, adhesives, gadget, lighting etc.  I bought two fine-toothed razor saw blades like we were using on the Mulvaney Master Class, a small hand drill, some contact adhesive, and some flexible filing sticks.  Image from, but after this I started taking my own photos.

11am  We particularly wanted to see the exhibition on the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens which was on at the Foundling Museum near Coram's Fields, so we walked up there from the tool shop. They were doing a 2 for 1 offer for V and A members, so we only had to pay one £7.50 admission fee.  It was well worth it, a fascinating and well-displayed exhibition which really told the story of this 18thC proto-theme-park.  There was a large scale model, loads of contemporary illustrations, artefacts such as paintings that have survived from the Gardens themselves, contemporary accounts, and even a cool light-up picture (I got to push a button!!) to give an impression of what the Gardens looked like at night.  We looked around the rest of the museum, which tells the story of Captain Coram and his vision to provide a home for some of London's many abandoned babies.  There is one magnificent room which is a re-installation of the original room where the Governors met. I took several photos of the cornicing, panelling, ceiling etc. as a reference for future dollshouse work.

c. 12:30ish Fuelled by another (very expensive) cup of tea from the Museum cafe, we strolled to the nearby Skoob bookshop, one of our favourites.  This subterranean crowded secondhand bookshop is a treasure trove of the classic and marvellous, all at very affordable prices.  I even found some knitting books in the Design section as well as enjoying perusing tomes on everything from Moorish Interiors to the Grandes Horizontales of Paris in the 19thC.  I didn't buy anything but DH found a few books that needed to come home with him.

c 1:30pm  And if you go to Skoob Books, then you have to have Japanese food at the Hare and Tortoise, a noisy fast-service noodle and sushi place that always has a bit of a queue because the prices are pretty good for London and the food is tasty.  It's in the Brunswick Centre on the other side from Skoob books.

c. 2:30pm  Much fuller, we waddled up towards the British Library to visit their free exhibitions, visiting another secondhand bookshop on the way which wasn't as good as Skoob. But as we were about to cross the road, my eye was caught by another 'Books' sign which turned out to be 'All books £2'.  Always the bargain hunter, I headed in to find a very odd assortment of junk and treasure, including for no apparent reason a bunch of recent quilting books sitting on the floor at the back. Several of those came home with me, as well as a couple of other books that looked like they needed a home also.  They only had one knitting book however, but perhaps worth revisiting in case they restock from time to time.  The shop is directly across the road from the British Library entrance.

c 3pm Although we can't claim the dizzying heights of a British Library Reader's Ticket, we can visit the free exhibitions in the Lobby.  As well as an interesting exhibition on the St Cuthbert's Gospel, they have a permanent exhibition of some of their great treasures such as the Magna Carta, Shakespearian volumes, illuminated manuscripts etc. which is well worth a wander around. Also low stress while you are digesting a lot of Japanese food. I got to push some more buttons in the interactive Magna Carta exhibition.

c. 4pm  Having watched a documentary series on TV where English Heritage spent a lot of time arguing with the Kings Cross station developers about whether or not to preserve vintage brackets, we wandered down the road to inspect the finished result.  The new ceiling is spectacular, and the brackets are impressive, but what we really wanted was a drink by this point.  So we found what appeared to be the only pub, the ParcelYard Bar, which was an absolute oasis of calm and light.  It says it is the biggest pub in a UK station, and it was virtually empty when we were there.  Several rooms, all clean and fresh, with skylights or windows so loads of light, and vintage touches here and there.  It was heaven, and we found a lovely corner with a sofa which was ideal for knitting on my Japanese Stitch Sock while I read the paper and sipped my Pimms.

c:5:15pm  As I thought they might notice if we slept the night in our cosy corner, and it was starting to fill up a bit, we reluctantly dragged ourselves out of the comfy chairs and headed to the Tube station.  This time we were heading up to Camden Town where I had found a leafy Regency villa that was opening their garden for charity through the National Gardens Scheme.  A short walk from the station, we found the signs and paid our admission and claimed our included glass of wine to enjoy a wonderfully lush stepped garden with pools and cascades.  You could still hear all the traffic noise from outside, but you could have been in the deep countryside.  We lolled around on various benches and talked about when we win the lottery and what kind of villa garden we might have.

c 6:15pm  By now I was feeling the need to sober up a bit, and as the weather had stayed dry, we decided to walk back through Regent's Park.  Again, it is hard to believe you are in one of the world's greatest cities when you are surrounded by parkland, people playing football, lovely rose gardens and waterfalls, all completely free.  It was spitting a light mist of rain at this point at the same time as being sunny, and we spotted this rainbow in the sky.

c 7pm  Having worked out from my map that we were going to end up near Baker Street Tube station, and DH deciding that he was hungry again, I remembered from a long time ago a work outing to a Dim Sum restaurant near there.  Thanks to Maps on my Iphone, we rediscovered the Phoenix Palace, and enjoyed a light meal of baby octopus, crispy aromatic duck, prawn toast and Dim Sum - which was slightly confusing for the waiter but was what we fancied.

c 8:10pm  Once again extremely full, we realised that we were going to have to hoof it if we wanted to get the 8:28pm train from Waterloo.  I do not recommend charging up escalators when you have just eaten a big Chinese meal, but we did make the train with literally two minutes to spare, and were home by 9:15pm.  A lovely day:  lots of good food, relaxation, bookstores, history, and just enjoying strolling through London.  My kind of touristing, and I hope you enjoyed visiting it all with me.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

I've been sewing...

... and it's not quilting!  I stumbled across this Five-Minute Skirt Tutorial just after I'd dug out my summer clothes from under the bed and having suffered the usual disappointment of things no longer fitting or being worn out.  As we were in the middle of a heat wave (it's gone now), a short cotton skirt seemed very appealing. So I ordered the Fold Over Elastic online from Klein's in London in four different colours.

Then I dug out my very dusty overlocker (serger) from under the sewing table, and after spending about an hour drafting a paper pattern and finding the instruction manual and rethreading the overlocker, ran up my first skirt out of some quilting fabric.  This one is fairly short as I will usually be wearing it with leggings.

I haven't made any clothes for years, so I felt a ridiculous glow of achievement especially when I wore it to the cinema about five minutes after hemming it.

It seemed a waste after all that effort to get the overlocker going, not to make another.  So I made a longer version out of some different quilting fabric and wore it to work.

Then when I was at Primark looking for summer shoes, I saw a really cool retro 50s skirt which was a size too big and styled to make any woman look as fat as possible unless she was a twiglet to begin with.  "No matter", thought I, and bought it anyway, brought it home, and used my skirt pattern to cut it down and resew it into something I can wear. Result!

So today I was going to put the overlocker away, but I had one more look through my quilting stash for anything else that looked like 'skirt fabric' and made one more skirt from batik.

Now that I have the pattern fine-tuned, the skirts really are remarkably fast to make up:  just two side seams, a rolled hem and zig-zag the elastic straight onto the top raw edge.  I thought quilting cotton might crumple too much if I was sitting in it at the office all day, but it really wasn't too bad. And they are really comfortable to wear.

Technical stuff:  I started out by following the tutorial instructions to draft my pattern but found that I had to make the following adjustments:
  • Adding 3" to half the waist measurement made the waistline far too big and I had to cut away most of it, so I think it should read 'add 3" to the waist measurement and THEN half the number"
  • Adding 22" to the hemline made the skirt far too wide, especially for the shorter version.  I trimmed off about 6" to reduce the angle at the sides.
  • Curving the bottom hemline by just 1/2" was insufficient to stop the side seams drooping below the hemline level once the skirt is on.  I found I had to curve my hemline up by about 1 & 1/4" before it would hang straight.  DH was useful here for helping get the first skirt level by eye so that I could adjust the pattern.
I might even be doing some more sewing this week as a book I ordered turned up: "A bag for all reasons" by Lisa Lam, who runs the website for people who like to sew their own bags. I have sewn several bags and they rarely turn out the way I would like them to, so I have invested in this extremely-high-production-value book for help.  There are quite a few useful tips in it and I am tempted by the knapsack and wallet patterns.

Knitting this week was hampered yet again by injury, since I somehow tore a muscle in my back which was quite painful for a few days (it might have been from lifting out the heavy overlocker from under the table, not sure).  I did finish the first True North Mitten and darned in most of the ends, and TV knitting has been finishing Day 9 of the Advent Calendar 2010 lace scarf and a few more inches on the Eyelet Lace jumper.  Commuter knitting has been the Japanese stitch sock on which I have now turned the heel.

DH surprised me with a fully-painted set of 10mm high Marlburian soldiers, which when painted with two coats of gloss varnish, look like china figurines in dollshouse scale.  He had made quite a lot of them, so I couldn't find homes for all of them.

I put a pair into my Canadian house in a corner cupboard, and another pair onto the mantel in the Gamekeeper's cottage.

I put another pair onto the mantel in my French Tower House.

And yet another pair onto the mantel of the dining room in my Vic-war-gency house.

It's quite a big weekend here in the UK as we celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.  There are all sorts of events going on up in London which in true British style seem set to be blighted by wet weather, and we get Monday AND Tuesday as holidays - yay! DH and I have booked the remaining three days off as leave so I get a whole week to do crafts and catch up on jobs.  I also need to prepare for a telephone interview the following Monday for a very scary sounding job, but it will be good practice to do an interview.

I will finish with my little bit of happiness for today.  I went to have my start-of-summer pedicure and the manicurist asked if I wanted a pattern on my big toe.  I've never had one before so said 'yes' and watched in fascination as she free-handed this delicate little floral tracery out of nail varnish.  So now I am looking at my toes every few minutes all day.  I don't want to wear shoes all week in case it wears off  :)

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