Sunday, 30 September 2012

My future sewing studio?

As part of our whole research thing in anticipation of moving house next year, I took DH up to London to the National Home Improvement Show at Olympia yesterday.  I had secured free tickets online, so if it had been terrible then we would only have been out the travel costs.

But it turned out to be really good and we spent several hours there.  It was basically a big marketplace full of companies that want to help you extend or improve your home.  There was also a programme of free lectures that were full of really useful information about Permitted Development rights, how to hire a builder, how to finance a renovation project etc.

So I present to you... my future sewing studio (possibly).  Ta Da!!!  I don't know if you can make it out, but this is a slide of a Garden Room.  A garden room is a house-standard building you are permitted to construct in your garden (yard) without planning permission, and it can cover up to 50% of your garden.  The cost is about £900-£1200 per square metre.  Most homes have Permitted Development rights (although I know our current home doesn't as it was an infill new build and has restrictive covenants)  so a giant sucker like this one could spring up like a mushroom in your neighbour's garden any day now.  So while I have been spending a lot of energy hunting online for a property that already has a converted garage to use as my studio, perhaps instead I should be looking for a cheaper property that has a big lot with room to build one of these instead? And then I could design exactly what I want.

We also came across the coolest diner furniture which I Simply Must Have as soon as possible. Although apparently imported from Canada, it is straight out of American 'Happy Days' and really well made and really comfortable.  We will definitely hope that our new house has a breakfast corner where we can have one of these sets, they were so colourful and cool and I loved them the moment I clapped eyes on them.  Luckily DH loves them too.

In other gallivanting news this week, I walked down to Sloane Square on my lunch hour and came across this dollshouse on display in a costume jewellery shop window. It was labelled as a Fairy House and yours at a mere snip of £2,800.  I suppose in the Sloane Square area, some yummy mummy might even pay that.  Although attractive, it was definitely play scale rather than a fine collector's item.

In other exciting news this week, I finally finished my first Annemor #12 Selbuvotter Glove, which I have been calling my Wedgewood Gloves.  Not only did I finish the first glove, but in an absolute spurt of productivity, I have roared through the second glove in just one week as far as the fingers.

I started these gloves in December 2010 but got very bogged down due to the pattern being incorrect, and the first Errata for the pattern also being incorrect.  Annoyingly, although at that point there were loads of people on Ravelry complaining about the pattern or who gave up and made fingerless gloves, there now seem to be lots of completed gloves so presumably they have issued even more Errata to fix the problems.  Meanwhile I went off piste and developed my own solution to the problems, involving decreasing the number of stitches above the thumb, re-centring the finger stitches to align with the centre of the snowflake, and altering the finger charts to fit the new stitch count as well as fitting my fingers.  And of course the notes I took of all my mods are absolute pants so now I need to work out what I did so that I can knit the fingers on the second glove.  But it's all part of my plan to knit down my number of UFOs which so far is going very well.  Amazing how much more productive you are when you knit on one project at a time.  Does the world know this surprising fact???

So commuter knitting has been the gloves, but I've still done some  more Gingko Shawl units and was surprised to find that I have 18 completed units and number 19 is on the needles.  I need to knit 21 in total and then seven partial units and then I can sew them together.

I also finished my Town Square badge display wallhanging, and loaded it up with all the badges and even some brooches that have been kicking around in drawers for decades.  I'm not saying it is a thing of beauty (DH doesn't think so) but it is satisfying to give them all a home and be able to see them on display, instead of just finding them here and there and wondering whether I should throw them out.  Some of them date back to when I was a teenager, others are from much enjoyed quilting trips to the States or from craft organisations I have belonged to.

I haven't done anything further on my Cityscape jumper but today I marked out the button hole positions.  Here is a picture of what it looks like so far.  It's a bit wrinkled from being stuffed into my project bag and I haven't blocked the buttonband yet.

I also finished the first sleeve on my Eyelet Lace sweater so only one more sleeve to go and this ancient project will be FINISHED!.

I will finish off with a picture of this pocket castle which we went to see on the Open Days Heritage Weekend a few weeks ago.  It is called Queen Anne's Summerhouse and is owned by The Landmark Trust and you can hire it as a holiday cottage (very expensive!!).  Inside is just one big room with a tiny kitchenette in one turret.  Downstairs is a luxurious bathing suite and toilet, while another turret holds a spiral stair that takes you up to the roof terrace where you can survey your domain in all directions.  So cute!!  Although there was a note cautioning renters to keep the door locked as passersby through the woodland will try the door and just walk right in to see what it looks like inside.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Quick Update

I've been away most of the weekend tramping around university campuses in Bristol and Bath, as we help DS decide where his home is going to be for four years of study.  So no pictures and only a quick update this week.

  • still employed
  • 14 completed Gingko Shawl units
  • completed yoke on Cityscape cardigan, and picked up and knit buttonband.
  • visited Get Knitted in Bristol where I claimed my reward for being a good mother by indulging in some more sock yarn, some Cascade 220 superwash and some buttons for the Cityscape cardi.
  • stipple quilted the wallhanging with the Debbie Mumm border print, and trimmed it ready for binding
  • At the hotel in Bristol, I was working on my Selbuvotter glove, the one where I am having to redesign the pattern, but mainly I was just knitting the thumb and then ripping back because it wasn't right.

Have a good week!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

A wage slave once again

I started my new job on Tuesday.  Have you heard of 'imposter syndrome'?  It's apparently more common in women.  It's when you suffer a lack of confidence even though your skills and abilities have been rewarded with a good job, and you feel like there must be some mistake and that at any moment they will find you out and expose you as a fraud.  Well, I've had a bit of that this week as the new company is so much more professional and high powered than the charity I've been working for the last few years.  I've even had to dust off my suits from the back of the wardrobe and start wearing them again.

However, so far so good and I have not yet been escorted from the building.  My new colleagues seem quite friendly and my new boss seems nice.  My surroundings aren't as comfortable as they were at the charity but they're ok.  I'm pleased to have a new job and it even pays a bit more than the old one, but I am struggling with my usual lack of enthusiasm for sitting at a row of desks for 8.5 hours a day, day after day.  The commute is a bit shorter but the working day is longer, so no change really in craft time apart from I'm not getting a seat on the train now in the evenings, which is cutting into my commuter knitting.  But I'm pleased to be back in work after such a short break.

Today was my sewing club, and I'm enjoying a few months off after teaching free motion quilting for the last three meetings.  We will start our next group project in January, by which time I have to come up with instructions for a mystery row quilt/wallhanging.

 I shopped my stash to pull together fabrics for a different wall hanging, which I put together today. I found this great Debbie Mumm border print of small town shops, and used it to make a square in a square design.  I fused a single house into each of the setting triangles.  In this picture it is now pinned up for quilting.  The reason the middle is blank is that I will be using it to display my accumulation of pins.  I got the idea from a quilting book called 'Memorabilia Quilts' by Rita Weiss and Linda Causee, a great book that shows several innovative ideas for displaying collections in quilt form.  The book includes a baseball themed quilt for displaying a collection of pins collected at stadiums. I don't collect pins as such, but you get given them so often at quilt shows etc. that I seem to have quite a few anyway.  I didn't use their baseball pattern but came up with a similar shape using my border print.

My Cityscape yoked cardigan is coming on well, and I'm almost finished hand knitting the yoke.  The chart is 40 stitches wide by 13 rows high, and while I did use the chart on the back of the jumper, I charted my own 80 stitch chart for the rest of the yoke.  I was trying to fit in a few London landmarks like Tower Bridge, the London Eye, the Gherkin, Palaces of Westminster and St Paul's, but it is extremely difficult to do in just 13 rows.  I need to knit about another half inch and then do the neck band.  Rather alarmingly, I am running out of white yarn.  I've already unraveled my tension swatches so I am crossing my fingers that I have enough for the bands, as this is a yarn I bought at WEBS in New England that you can't buy over here.  Once I finish the yoke, I will be steeking the front opening.

I received a nice parcel from America this week: my Ravelry order arrived.  I am now the proud owner of the commemorative project bag, a 'Bob' tape measure, and the Ravellenics 2012 pin (which I can pin to my wallhanging once it's finished).

I thought you might enjoy seeing this 'skinny' yarn which came vacuum packed with Simply Knitting magazine this month.  It seemed like an ingenious way to send yarn through the post with the magazine.

This is what it looked like once you cut the plastic and released the vacuum.  It took a couple of days to fully fluff up and feel like yarn again, and several days later it is still showing some creases.  So I'm not sure this method is very good for the yarn. Or perhaps this wasn't the right type of yarn for the method.

The small amount of commuter knitting this week has been on units for the Ginkgo Counterpane Shawl.  I'm now up to 12 completed units, so nine more full units to knit, then seven partial units after that.

Hope you've had a good week!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Academic knitting

I'm just back from three days at  'In the Loop 3', a knitting conference organised by the Knitting Reference Library arm of the University of Southampton. This was the third conference of a series, and was held in Winchester where the Library is located, although the conference venue was actually at the town's attractive library/community centre.

I didn't really know what to expect, as there was surprisingly little advance information available.  They didn't seem to do much advertising, and their own website was sparsely populated and not updated with new information such as the final programme until shortly before the event.  Even components such as the two workshops and the dinner only had details posted a few weeks ahead, by which time I had already made my travel and accommodation arrangements as I expect others had also done. Even Ravelry had virtually nothing about the event, apart from a few stray comments from other attendees.

But I had decided to gamble and take advantage of having my week days available (due to being unemployed) and go along to see what it was like.  I'm really glad I did, as it was extremely informative and endlessly fascinating.  It was very academic, probably the closest I will ever come to attending an academic conference.  A different keynote speaker delivered a 45-minute talk to open each morning and afternoon session over the three days, and the remaining time was filled by a variety of speakers delivering 20-minute papers.  The majority were academics, or from an academic background holding PhDs or MAs, and the language and delivery for the most part were very much from the world of research, methodology, citing references and other research work, citing and quoting from sources, all delivered from a podium with Powerpoint slides going in the background.  There were probably about 100 attendees, although I think at least a third of those were either speakers or associated with the organising body.  The majority were women but there were a few men, and there seemed to be a lot of old friendships from past conferences being renewed.  There were no traders apart from a book stall of knitting books, and a welcome opportunity to shop the duplicate vintage patterns and magazines on sale from the Knitting Library,  and no formal knitting opportunities such as a knitting lounge, although several people were knitting during the lunch break or in the audience. We did get a wonderful goodie tote bag largely stocked by Rowan, including a huge (and heavy) hardcover book of Rowan patterns, some loose Rowan patterns, a ball of Rowan yarn, a pair of needles, some other leaflets, a vintage pattern, and a 10% discount voucher for CandH Fabrics in Winchester. You might have thought everyone would be wearing knitted articles, like you see on attendees at a knitting show, and there were some examples of shawls, cardigans, and tops to admire. But that would be less than half of the attendees.  Socialising took place during the coffee breaks and at lunch, plus there was an included Reception the first evening, and a ticketed dinner the second evening (which I didn't attend due to travel issues).  I was there by myself, but found lots of friendly people to talk to on the breaks. And the afternoon tea breaks included cake!

So it was basically a lot of sitting in a lecture theatre being talked at, but the talks themselves came from so many different perspectives and from so many unexpected sources that it was endlessly entertaining.  I had wondered what there would be to talk about for three days about two sticks and some wool, but the variety and expertise was mind blowing.  You can read the programme here, but a few highlights included:

  • Knitwear as performance enhancer in relation to the Olympics over history, delivered by a Senior Lecturer in sports history.
  • The contribution of knitwear to the success or failure of polar expeditions during the Heroic Age of Exploration, delivered by a textile archaeologist and historian.
  • An exploration of whether the emphasis on the social potential of knitting detracts from the creativity inherent in individual, possibly introverted, endeavour, with reference to studies on Introversion and the world of work.
  • Research into the psychological and social benefits of handknitting, including actual impact on wellbeing, and the potential to make greater use of knitting as a therapeutic tool in healthcare.
  • An exploration of how the 'myth' of the Aran jumper can be related to anthropological studies into the spread of romanticised 'folk' stories in the context of tourism and globalisation.
  • A discussion on whether yarnbombing is illegal, with a wider look at how 'illegal' activities become popularised and accepted in the mainstream, delivered by a Lecturer in Criminology from Australia.
  • A look at how traditional Nordic knitting design came to be so intrinsically linked with the American ski industry.
  • A criticism and indeed condemnation of the darker elements of the current mania for everything vintage, which very entertainingly compared lightweight 'craft' magazines such as Mollie Makes to pornography, delivered by a lecturer in Critical and Historical studies who specialises in fashion history and theory.
And in addition, we heard from several more projects investigating a branch of knitting history, or family knitting roots, or from artists whose medium is knitting,  from fashion designers about their knitwear work, from fashion historians about couture knitwear, and on and on.  Many were polished speakers, obviously at home behind the podium, others less polished but still confident.  A very few were so aloft in the academic cloudsphere as to be largely inaccessible to a normal audience - and I say that from the perspective of an ancient Bachelor's degree in English - but the majority were clear and articulate, some even quite entertaining. Timekeeping was ruthless and adhered to, and the atmosphere very positive and friendly.  At the end of each half day session, all the speakers from that session took the floor for a brief question and answer exchange with the audience.

I feel I got a lot out of the three days, and not just the expected inspiration and historical education.  The breadth of the topics covered was so wide and the content so unexpected,  that I was exposed to a huge variety of contexts, information and thinking patterns far beyond my normal sphere.  So basically what I think I am saying was that it was 'good for me' as well as enjoyable.

Needless to say, I can't sit for hours, much less three days, doing nothing.  So I was knitting.  I knit through the rest of the ball of yarn I had brought for my Ginkgo Shawl and have now reached a total of 8 3/4 units completed, out of a required 21 full units plus 7 partial units.  I've pretty much got the pattern memorised now so the units are progressing more swiftly.

And I completed the remaining sock of my Japanese Stitch socks, the 'Kaiso' pattern from Knitted Socks East and West.  When I arrived at the conference, I was still knitting the cuff.  So I had to turn the heel in the dark, pick up for the gusset, knit along the foot, and decrease for the toe. There was some light from slides, but this inevitably led to some minor differences between the two socks.  The most obvious being that I knit the slip stitch heel specified in the pattern, completely forgetting that I had decided to knit a plain heel for the first sock instead.  I hadn't written the mod on the pattern.  Nor had I written the pattern for the star toe that I substituted for the pattern's standard toe, so I was reduced to trying to count stitches on the original toe in the light from the PowerPoint slides, to work out how to do the second toe.  And in one lecture I was so fascinated that I completely forgot to knit the reverse stockinette rows and knit about two inches in the lace pattern so had to rip back and pick up stitches in the dark.  If anyone was sitting behind me watching, they were probably wondering why this woman who obviously didn't know what she was doing was even bothering to try knitting a sock.  But in the end I have two socks that bear a strong resemblance to each other, and they're FINISHED.

Oh, and I have a job!  I start a six month contract on Tuesday for the scary job that I wasn't sure I wanted.  My reluctance perhaps translated as professionalism and cool demeanour in the interview, somehow.  So now I am having intermittent minor panic attacks whenever I think about what's coming on Tuesday.  I'm glad I had the knitting conference as something completely different and thus more resembling a holiday break.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Fixing a Brother 950i electronic knitting machine

Long time readers may recall that early in 2011 my Brother 950i died in a puff of smoke and burning plastic odour when I tried to turn it on.  After an appeal on, I think, Yahoo, I was kindly sent some instructions for repairing the machine by the MK Guild help line.

Apparently this is a relatively common problem with ageing electronic machines, and can be traced to the capacitors in the power supply which have become too elderly and subsequently burn out / give up.

The fix is to remove the end of the knitting machine where the power supply plugs in, fish out the circuit board, and replace the two problem capacitors. As this involves soldering, I had been procrastinating for about a year and a half.

But today, making use of the free time I now have due to being unemployed, I brought the machine inside to the kitchen table and had at it.  I was partly reassured by looking at all the pictures on this page where you will find friendly instructions on how to repair a KH930 knitting machine.  That's a different machine, but the process is very similar.

Following the instructions I had been sent, plus reading the 930 page, I managed to unscrew the end cap of the machine.  On my 950i, I had to unscrew three screws at the right hand end of the needle bed, and also pop out one plastic rivet on the back right hand edge, and two plastic rivets on the bottom of the machine.  The end cap then came away in my hand, still tethered to the machine by cables.

In order to get at the circuit board, I then had to unscrew the plastic bar holding down two cables (two screws), and also unscrew the power plug (two screws) from the outside.  The circuit board then slid out of the plastic cap.

I took a picture of the circuit board before doing anything to it, so I could remember which capacitor went where.  This isn't that picture because the circuit board is upside down in this picture.  The black bit is the power plug, and the switch hanging loose is the machine's power switch.

I could then see my two capacitors, both of which had indeed cracked open.  I used a soldering iron to free them from the circuit board, levering gently with a screwdriver until the melting solder released them.

The instructions I had been sent specified purchasing two replacement capacitors:  X2 275v 0.1uf, and X2 275v 0.047uf.  These matched the old ones I removed, apart from the old ones were labeled 250v. I also replaced the fuse which was a 0.5A.  I took the old components with me to an electronics store called Maplins.  I was able to purchase two replacement 275w capacitors (they didn't have 250w except in two incorrect sizes), a tube of solder, and a packet of 10 fuses for just over £8.

The only issue I ran into was that my .1uf capacitor had legs that weren't wide enough for either of the two possible sets of holes on its place on the board.  By bending the legs outwards, I got it into the narrower set of holes at a slight angle.  This meant that when I replaced the circuit board, I could only slide it into the plastic holding groove on one side but not both sides, due to the capacitor sticking up higher.  The board was still wedged in fairly tightly so I don't think it will be an issue, hopefully.

After soldering the new capacitors in place with the recommended 'volcano' shapes pictured on the 930 web page, I screwed it all back together and holding my breath, turned on the power.  And it worked!!  And no smoke!

Now I just have to relearn how to use the electronic machine after using the punchcard for so long.

Perhaps I can add 'knitting machine mechanic' to my CV?

Sunday, 2 September 2012

The new normal

It's surprising how quickly a new set of circumstances can become normal.  Even though it's only been a week.  My new normal is getting up about 8am, drinking 2 or 3 cups of tea while I either knit in front of morning property television shows or sit in front of the PC looking at my email and job ads, fielding calls from recruiting agencies, attending interviews, planning and making interesting meals for supper, sewing, and working with DS on university research and applications.  You will note that housework is absent from this list...

I had another interview on Wednesday up in London, for a six month contract position with a government body.  Which is scary as I have no experience in that area nor any knowledge about politics, but the interview seemed to go well and I have since heard that I am shortlisted with one other person.  I also visited a recruitment agency for a far more taxing grilling by one of the consultants for 45 minutes, and both she and the original agency have sent me through a few other contract jobs for consideration. The job market is definitely more buoyant than it was last time I was job searching at the end of 2009.

This week I machine knit the back, two fronts, and two sleeves for my Cityscape cardigan adaptation, a design by Laura Chau that was published in Twist Collective Fall 2010 and that has been in my queue for a while.  It took me quite a while to get ready to knit, but the actual machine knitting was quite straightforward. I am knitting this in Valley Yarns 'Northfield', a luxurious blend of 70% Merino, 20% Alpaca, 10% Silk that I bought at WEBS on our New England holiday.  I love this yarn!  It is so soft and pettable, and yet springy and full bodied.  After several tension samples, I have settled on Tension 0 on the Brother 260 Chunky machine which gave me the required 24st gauge.  The row gauge was out, but I was modifying the length of the body and sleeves anyway, plus blending together a large size at the bottom and a smaller size in the upper body, so I had to spend a couple of hours with a calculator to work out a new pattern.  I did the main stockinette sections flat on the machine, then hand knit an i-cord bindoff on the body and sleeves, then seamed the sleeves and picked up to knit the yoke by hand.  The original pattern steeks the cardigan, I am only steeking the yoke to avoid having to do fair isle flat.

Before I got as far as picking up for the yoke, TV knitting was the Eyelet Jumper, where I have begun the sleeve cap shaping on the first sleeve.  Commuter knitting on interview day was the Japanese Stitch Sock, and in fact they kept me waiting in the lobby for 20 minutes when I was having to fight the urge to get my sock out again - I felt it wouldn't look very professional to be caught knitting when they came to collect me.

On the quilting front, I have now pieced all eight strip sets for the Lone Star, and now face the incredibly tedious task of piecing the diamonds. Tedious because there are seven seam intersections to perfectly match on each seam, which can take me several trial and error attempts, and eight strips to join into each diamond. I don't even want to think about how many seam matches that is going to be.

I've also started stitching down the binding on the vintage Lone Star that I quilted on my frame last year.

Yesterday we travelled to the Olympic Park to see some of the Paralympics.I don't know how much of the Olympic ticketing fiasco hit the news in other countries, but it was a farcical and deeply flawed process that prevented most people from acquiring tickets.  We didn't even try, but when the Paralympic tickets were released, there were day passes to the park on sale for a very reasonable £10 and I was able to purchase three of those.

The first order of business, after planning the travel, was to work out what craft project to take.  They had promised airport-style security, which turned out to be literally true, so I didn't want to risk taking any knitting.  I thought cross-stitch might be too fiddly, and then I remembered what I used to take on planes before I learned to knit:  tatting.  And sure enough I still had an ancient WIP in a drawer:  a hankerchief edging.

It had been so long since I tatted that I don't think I could have demonstrated to anyone how to do it.  But when I picked it up and just let my hands do the thinking, they still remembered how to turn the stitch!  So on the train and during some of the sports, I tatted another few inches of this edging. Tatting is more nerve wracking than knitting because if you make a mistake, it can be more difficult (and sometimes impossible) to undo what are essentially knots in this fine thread.

So we had a straightforward but lengthy trip to Stratford, where we were greeted by armies of energetic pink-costumed volunteers who directed the human crocodile of spectators into the Olympic Park.  The Park was absolutely huge, 2.5 acres, a rather daunting ocean of asphalt and food kiosks interspersed with large buildings where the sports were taking place.  The day pass lets you just wander around, so we had a bit of a walk around for a while to soak up the atmosphere, but soon got tired of walking and walking because there wasn't much atmosphere to soak up.  I expect when the Olympics were on, it was probably more crowded and more of a party atmosphere amongst the crowd.  I thought there would be more to look at in terms of artwork and exhibitions and performances - there was some of that but not very much.  It was very well signposted, which was good because the maps they gave out were pretty rubbish, and there were ample food kiosks, water fountains, toilets, and shops selling souvenirs. Our pass let us into four venues on a first come / first served basis, and we managed to get into three of them.  We saw some 7-a-side football in the Riverbank Arena, some wheelchair tennis in Eton Manor, and watched Team GB beat Brazil at wheelchair basketball in the basketball arena. It was interesting to see in person the venues we had been seeing on television.  I'm not that into sport (well, not at all in fact) but it was amazing to see the lightning maneuvering and wheelchair bashing going on during the basketball game, more of a contact sport than it is normally I think.  I also took my Union Jack knitted handbag to wave when TeamGB scored, just to get into the spirit of things.

Coming home took twice as long as we were very unlucky with the trains, so DS (who hadn't wanted to go in the first place and doesn't care that it is a once in a lifetime event) was very cross about his 'whole day being wasted'.  Teenagers.

As I had 'wasted' three hours of my Friday compiling tips and advice on writing his Personal Statement for his university application, which he should have done himself months ago instead of wasting his entire summer playing online games with his friends, I was not sympathetic.  And today I get to roust him out of bed to drag him out to buy him new suits for his school year and new school supplies.  Oh yay!  can't wait...

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