Sunday, 25 November 2012

Another week

Another week gone by, and only 18 working days for me until Christmas - yippee!  I am still trying to think where we are going to put the Christmas tree if I keep the quilting frame in the living room.  My latest plan is to close off the downstairs bathroom and put the tree in front of the door, but our hallway isn't very big so we would have to get a smaller tree than usual.

Yesterday was my Saturday sewing club that I run, and I wore my new waistcoat made from a printed panel.  It's a bit annoying because it doesn't fit very closely (due to no darts) and is a bit stiff, so it's a bit like wearing lightweight body armour.  But my friends admired it.  I wonder if it would get softer with wear. I found a cute button that looks like scissors to close it.












At the club I started to piece together the Stack 'n Whack quilt, Sarah's stars, that I cut out last month.  I'm having my usual trouble with accurate piecing of triangles and diamonds but I'm really pleased with the colourways.


I gave the Baby Quilt  a wash and the quilting has puffed up nicely, just need to bind it now and then I can give it to my colleague at work for his little girl.

Remember the Cityscape Cardigan that I wasn't too sure about?  I gave the yoke a steam press with a pressing cloth which has flattened it out better, and I wore it to work on Friday.  I have a history of wearing knits to work and attracting no comments whatsoever, but this cardigan was admired by three colleagues who were amazed that I had knit it.  So I felt good about the garment (because that's how shallow I am, apparently) and it was lovely and cosy to wear.





I re-knit the Susie Rogers' Reading Mitts  in angora with smaller needles, and they've turned out to be quite a good fit and so lovely and soft.  I feel like I should be holding delicate vintage teacups and reading Jane Austen when I wear them..


I've loaded the next quilt on  the frame, this time it's the McCall's mystery quilt that I did in the village fabric.  I'm going to try my first panto pattern of this framequilting session, I got fairly good at them last time so hopefully it will all come back to me.

I will finish with a picture of this adorable hand embroidered deckchair which a friend gave to me as an early Christmas present - isn't it sweet? It's in 1/12th scale so only a few inches long.


I've started to place my Madrid mini purchases into my dollhouses but haven't had time to put them all away yet.

Hope you've had a nice week.



Monday, 19 November 2012

A short break in Madrid


Slightly late with this post as we were away for the weekend on a short break to Madrid to visit the Tom Bishop Miniatures show.  I’d really enjoyed a visit to his great Chicago show several years ago, and have been to his smaller London show a few times, so I was curious to see what the Madrid show would be like.



I enjoyed it but I wouldn’t say it was worth a special trip.  We turned it into a short city break, so while I was in the show, DH walked through Retiro Park and visited the Prado which he really enjoyed.  We had a fabulous tapas meal Saturday night, and on Sunday we took the Metro into town to walk around the city centre.  We visited a coin and stamp market in Plaza Mayor, walked past the Royal Palace, visited a genuine Egyptian temple relocated from Egypt, walked around the Tapas quarter and enjoyed delicious paella for lunch.  It felt like a proper holiday.



The show is in two basement convention rooms at the Hotel Convencion, a large and typically bland international hotel with a large breakfast buffet included in the special show rate.  It was easy to reach the hotel as it is near the Airport Express bus stop.  It took me about two hours to go around the show once, although I was skipping some stalls that weren’t of interest.  The show is mostly accessories, with very few houses, but there were some top quality furniture makers and a couple of top quality doll makers also.  Most stands were very stylishly presented, with much more flair than a typical British show, lots of colour co-ordination and attractive layouts.



Downsides are that the door-to-door trip was over six hours and there was a screaming baby on both flights, so another time I think it would be better to have a two night break.  Travel is definitely not romantic any more, and the idea that we are so close to the continent that we can just pop over is shot down in endless queuing and waiting to be shuffled in and out of cramped confines.  The show itself has narrow aisles (only about six feet) which were frequently clogged, leading to a lot of shoving as people pushed their way through, and it was far too warm.  However, the vendors were all very friendly, and I enjoyed seeing different items from several European countries, as well as a few American dealers, one Canadian and one Australian.  The language barrier wasn’t an issue, I got by fine with gesturing and being shown amounts on calculators etc.



I picked up a lovely glass dressing set from a stand specialising in lamp worked glass items. 












 From another stall I bought two waste bins, a basket and a kitchen pad all decorated with decoupage. 











 I bought a log-cabin style stitched cushion for my quilting shop, and from another stall a ‘sewing’ basket and a Pins tin. 


























From a stand full of charming Fimo dolls and bears, I bought a cute rabbit in two sizes (the smaller one for the Fairfield house). I thought the cardigan has been impressed with a knitted texture, but it turns out to be actually a tiny cardigan made of knit fabric.  So cute!












And from a stall full of lovely printed textiles, I purchased two pillows, a lovely jug decorated with roses, and a candlesnuffer.











I had to start a new knitting project for the plane, as none of my other projects were sufficiently portable with plane-safe wooden needles.  Still being in love with the luscious softness of the  Debbie Bliss Angel Print yarn, I looked up an easy lace shawl pattern and settled on the Featherduster pattern.  I cast on on my Friday lunch hour in case airport security needed to see knitting on the needles and was able to complete almost two repeats of Chart B on the plane journeys.  Knitting with this yarn is strange, the strands are like gossamer yet the fuzzy halo is so profuse that it can be hard to differentiate the stitches on the needle.  Luckily the lace pattern is easy to keep track of, and dropped stitches just hang in place attached by all the matted fuzziness.  The resulting knitting is a silken, lightweight, luscious, fuzzy, squishable web.  I’m not sure how much the lace pattern is going to show up, but the feather-and-fan variant is pulling the colour variegations into attractive waves.



Earlier in the week, I finished DH’s Christmas present socks, made from more luscious silky yarn from the Mean Girls Yarn Club Episode 4.  I haven’t blocked them yet but I think I don’t even need to, the stitching has come out so evenly in this lovely yarn.











I also finished the two snowmen that I started last weekend.  I knit these in DK weight yarn as opposed to the 4-ply in the pattern, so mine have come out about five inches high.  They are very cute, I will keep one and gift the other one to m-i-l for Christmas.










I didn’t get much quilting done this week, with only two sessions on the frame, but I am almost finished stippling on the baby Fan Quilt.  It’s looking less and less likely that I will get through my pile of tops in time to take the frame down for Christmas.  DH has bravely said that I can leave it up over Christmas, but that will mean nowhere to put the Christmas tree which DS isn’t happy about.  If our house sale goes through next summer, then this could be the last Christmas in this house, making me feel even more guilty about disrupting family rituals.  But if I take the frame down, it probably won’t go up again until we get moved into a new house which could be as long as a couple of years if we rent for a while during the search. I feel very conflicted.



I need to finish up my printed panel waistcoat so that I can wear it to sewing club next weekend.  I’ve attached the lining and turned it through, but I still need to close the lining side seams and then top stitch all the edges.    I also started knitting a pair of fingerless mitts with the Carezza Alpaca I bought, but I’m going to pull it out as I feel the needles I’m using are too big.  I want a closer-knit fabric for warmth and more stability.  The ball band specifies 5.5mm and I was using 4.5mm but I think I might go down to a 3.5mm and see what it’s like.  I want a fabric like the sample in the shop, which was almost like a soft lightweight felt.

I blocked my Eyelet Jumper pieces and was disappointed to find that they were too big, particularly the front and back.  In the end, I chucked the wet pieces into the dryer in the hopes that the mercerised cotton would shrink a bit.  It did, but the pieces are still generous in size.   Hopefully it isn't going to look too bad when it's made up.






Hope you had a great week too!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Mini-break and ideal town?

We've just come back from a lovely one-night mini-break to the Wiltshire/Somerset area.  We drove down from London and stopped in Frome, which as well as being an attractive ancient market town seemed to contain the ideal street.  On one block of St Catherine's Hill, there is a fabric shop, a bead shop, a sewing machine / knitting machine shop, a fantastic model shop that even DH thought was really good, and a knitting shop called Marmalade Yarns.  Also several cool cafes and we had a lovely lunch in one of them after our shopping.

Marmalade Yarns isn't very big but had some great yarns and some that I hadn't seen before.  I bought four balls of Carezza by Adriafil, a very affordable (£4.50)  yarn which is 70 angora 10 wool 20  nylon.  They had a sample fingerless glove knitted in Carezza which just felt gossamer light and soft.  I may do fingerless mitts as well, or perhaps a cowl, using two colours.  I also treated myself to two balls of Debbie Bliss Angel Print just because I liked the colours so much.  It feels fairly soft so perhaps a shawl.  I was treating myself as I have a difficult meeting at work tomorrow with someone I don't like very much, so this was like an advance bribe to myself to get me through it without saying anything I have to regret.  Bribery works  (hopefully).

Frome Model Shop at the top of the hill is a full fat model shop which had everything from toys to dollhouse bits to ship models to a very healthy assortment of good quality military models that DH likes to construct.  They also had a fabulous assortment of paints, glues, tools, and scenic materials including lots of things I've seen in dollshouse magazines like concoctions that look like 'rust' or 'verdigris'.  Why don't we have a decent model shop like this near London?

Our reason for going was to visit the massive antiques fair at Shepton Mallet, where we spent three hours in the afternoon.  I didn't buy anything except some furnishing fabric to make bags with, but I had a wonderful time investigating all the stalls and discovering all sorts of oddities and treasures.  I also saw several bits of furniture which would work well in my fantasy quilting studio, assuming we ever get to move to somewhere that has one.  So we will have to go back if we ever do get a new house.  On Sunday we walked around the historic and lovely town of Bradford on Avon, and ended up attending their Remembrance ceremony at the cenotaph at 11am, in a park next to the Avon.  We also spent some time trying to think up how we could move to the area despite it being completely inaccessible to either of our jobs  :)

On the craft front, I have finished meandering on my friend's lap quilt.  It looks quite good from the front, but the back has caused me a lot of bother.  She used batik fabric on the top, and a heavyish cotton on the back which might be quilting fabric (she uses a lot of sheeting etc. for her backs) and I found the needle thread kept wanting to poke out the back in an occasional loop no matter how much I tinkered with the tension.  It would be fine for several inches (with me checking constantly) and then suddenly throw a loop.  I tried changing the needle to a 75 (from a 90) which helped a bit but not completely.  I was able to fix some of the loops by hand afterwards but others got caught in subsequent stitches so I couldn't do anything about them.  Also, when I told her it took me six hours (it actually took longer but I rounded down) there was a sort of gasp on the phone so apparently she thought I could just whip it off in a few hours.  It took me an hour just to get it all mounted on the frame and the tension set up and the bobbins wound.  Anyway, I'm charging her less than minimum wage including having to use my own bobbin thread.  I didn't really enjoy the experience as it is so stressful doing someone else's quilt and worrying all the time if it isn't perfect, so I don't think I will agree to do one again for anyone.  Now I am going to load on a cot quilt which I am giving to a colleague at work for his little girl.

I'm mostly through the second sock for DH, and have returned to knitting Day 11 on the Advent Calendar 2010 lace scarf.  Everyone else on the Ravelry KAL has finished ages ago, I am very behind.  I can't imagine knitting this entire scarf in 24 days - each step is taking me at least a few evenings.  I finished the second sleeve for my Eyelet Lace Jumper so I just need to block it all now and then seam it, very exciting. On the car drive on the weekend, I knitted two snowman heads and two snowman bodies with my sparkly white yarn from Hobbycraft.

The craft show at work took place last week.  There were about a dozen knitted items including an Aran cardigan and two other lace shawls (one beaded), around 20 items in the miscellaneous category which included my teacup quilt shop, and likely about 100 or more entries overall (lots of photographs etc.).  They awarded prizes for first, second and third, and some Best of Show awards. My Bird in the Hand fair isle mitts and my Fan Stitch shawl both received a Highly Commended (like fourth place) in the knitting category, as did my teacup in the Miscellaneous category.  My teacup quilt shop also received a Highly Commended overall in the Best of Show awards.  Which is quite nice, although green rosettes aren't as useful as third place gift vouchers :)  This is Lucy our cat come to inspect the rosettes.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Autumn holidays

A belated Happy Hallowe'en to those who celebrated, and if you are in the UK I hope you enjoy Guy Fawkes Day tomorrow.  We were supposed to go to the fireworks display at the local primary school tonight, but as we have woken up to pouring rain, it might be cancelled which will be disappointing.  We had a bumper crop of trick-or-treaters this year, probably around 60 kids, 98% of whom had made some kind of costume effort.  Not bad considering we were one of the few houses in the neighbourhood 'open for business' but then I think people remember from previous years that we go in for it.  Hallowe'en has gained in popularity since I've been living in the UK, but there are still plenty of people who don't like it or who are very suspicious of it. We had five pumpkins this year, and I wrapped one of them in quilt wadding to be a 'mummy' after seeing an American tutorial online.

This week I finished knitting the final modular unit for the Gingko Counterpane Shawl so I now have a bag full of 28 crumpled units waiting to be blocked and sewn together.  I've knit a bit more on the second sock for DH, and I am just about to the armhole on the second sleeve for the Bergere de France Eyelet jumper.

On the quilting frame, I now have my first ever commission, from a very trusting lady at my quilting group who has asked me to meander all over a lapsize child's quilt.  She had already started quilting it so the sandwich was pinned together which made me nervous about how it would go onto the frame.  But so far so good apart from a few tension problems which hopefully I can fix.  I'm getting on much better with the hover foot and my meandering is much neater now.

After I finished the frame quilting on the waistcoat printed panel, I added a bit more off-frame quilting then put it through a wash and dry cycle in the machine which shrunk the cotton wadding to give it a lovely texture.  In this photo I haven't pressed it yet.








My new job is in the public sector and the government department we are associated with is having a craft show of all things.  So I have entered my Fan Stitch lace shawl, my Bird in the Hand fair isle mitts, and my 1:48 scale quilt shop in a teacup.  I took the exhibits in last week, and the show is on this coming Thursday and Friday.  There are actually prizes of gift vouchers, so I am hopeful.

Yesterday I went to Hobbycraft with my m-i-l and bought some yarn.  Prices at Hobbycraft are pretty high - m-i-l bought a pack of two tassels for £1.69 and then afterwards we saw the same tassel at the local haberdashery shop, Tatters, for .45p!  But the yarn has come down in price and most of it is on offer at 3 for 2.  They also had some 25% off, so I ended up buying three balls of Sirdar Crofter for a baby surprise jacket, and some Regia sock wool.  I also bought a ball of sparkly Sirdar DK to make the snowman from 'Mini Christmas Knits' by Sue Stratford.


I found out afterwards that my f-i-l told DH that I had bought 'a lot of stuff' at Hobbycraft - he would probably keel over in a dead faint if he ever saw my stash...

Hope you are staying warm and dry, and if you were affected by Hurricane Sandy then our thoughts are with you.  One of the Hallowe'en chaperone mums even stayed back to ask me soulfully "how my people were".  I said I grew up on the west coast of Canada but agreed that the news about the east coast was terrible.

Thank you for the nice comments about my Cityscape cardigan.  I think I was just in a depressed mental state when I was blogging about it, and it is growing on me now.  I'm tempted to order more of that yarn from WEBS and hang the customs charge, it is just so lovely and now that I have discovered it they will probably discontinue it.

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