Sunday, 29 December 2013

Getting back to normal

Today for the first time in a long time we felt like we were on holiday.  We had nowhere we had to go, nothing we had to do, no-one we had to oblige - it felt wonderful.  The two weeks after moving were all about sorting the house out and getting ready for Christmas, then we had a house guest for four days, then yesterday we had to drive down to the old neighbourhood to visit an elderly friend.

Today I slept in until almost 10am and after breakfast we took our previously-purchased Heritage Trail leaflet out into the sunshine for a stroll around some of the historic sights in our new town.  So cool to be living somewhere that has historic sights - our previous London fringe suburb had very few of those. We finished up with a leisurely hot drink and two mince pies at Costa Coffee, did a bit of shopping and came home for lunch.

After lunch I investigated one of my Christmas pressies which was the December issue of 'Let's Knit'.  It included an 'Essential Winter Knits' leaflet which for once has several things I wouldn't mind knitting - I find 90% of the time the patterns in these 'free' leaflets do not appeal but there are some cute things in this one.  The mag also came with three 'free' balls of yarn and two baby patterns to make.  I cast on immediately for the baby booties (although from the size they are coming out, I think they are toddler booties).  I've modded the pattern to knit straight down from the fair isle cuff instead of sewing it on afterwards as specified by the designer.


While the guest was here I started and finished another square for my GAAA afghan.  This is the Ginger Smith square, and it had an intriguing construction.  Instead of knitting four charts across each row, after knitting the border you then knit the first chart to the full height of the square, slipping the first stitch on each WS row.  Then you pick up stitches  down the side of the column (through the slipped stitches), move the next set of held stitches from the border into work, and knit up the next chart to full height - you join the second column to the first by P2tog on each WS row to join to one of the picked up stitches.  It made it really easy to whip off this square quite quickly as you are only working on one chart at a time.  I think I could use that construction method on some of the other similarly designed GAAA squares.

The day before the guest arrived, I worked on my Harvest Moon cardigan some more.  I steamed the edges and other troubled areas which made it look a lot better, then I unpicked the sleeves and pulled them back by about 2.5 inches, then re-knit the i-cord edging.  It looks pretty good now, I will have to get a piccie taken when I wear it although I am worried it will be too warm to wear to my generally-too-warm office.  I also stitched on my Hawaiian applique quilt one night, it's still a long way from being finished though.

We had a good Christmas even though everything felt a bit weird and different compared to how we would normally do things.  I received several craft mags as treats (Cross Stitcher, Let's Knit, Knit Today, Fabrications Quilting For You, Patchwork and Quilting), far too much candy and chocolate, and several other nice but non-craft-related items.  I also treated myself to a couple of knitted toy pattern collections - I fancy buying some cheap DK yarn locally and making something small and cute.

Much as I am enjoying DS's company while he is home from uni, it suddenly occurred to me that once he goes back, I can take his room over as a sewing room!  I feel quite excited - I haven't been able to have my sewing equipment out and ready to use since we put the house on the market in June.  I haven't told him because I don't want him to feel unwanted, but it will be great to put my little Featherweight up and spread out a few quilting projects on his bed.  I will need to buy a sturdy table though to put the machine on - we don't have anything suitable as my normal sewing table is in storage. I'm sure we can find something cheap secondhand.  DH is doing his modelmaking on a secondhand computer desk we bought from a charity shop.

With best wishes for a happy new year.


Sunday, 22 December 2013

We have broadband!

Happy Christmas and best wishes for much crafting in the new year!

I am publishing this on my brand new shiny broadband, which was finally connected yesterday morning.  Just in time as DS was threatening to decamp to Grandma's where they at least had the internet.  Although I wasn't too upset at not having TV for two weeks, not having WiFi was surprisingly troublesome and I shudder to think what my 3G bill is going to be like this month.  It was nice however to catch up on a few of our TV shows yesterday, especially guilty pleasures like Glee.

Things are starting to settle into a routine at the new Too-Many-Hobbies HQ.  I’ve done the commute to work several times now, and it’s going well apart from the night I got lost in St Pancras Underground station on the way home from my incredibly tedious office Christmas party.   (and no, I hadn’t been drinking that much)

I’m now finished work for the year and have a few days to relax before our Christmas house guest arrives for three nights.  I’m a bit worried as we rarely have house guests at all, and we generally spend Christmas lolling around in our pyjamas eating sweets and chocolate, watching TV, crafting, and reading/playing video games depending on our generation.  I don’t know whether to stick to tradition, which might bore the guest silly, or fake that we actually get dressed and leave the house to do things.

The saga of the gas hob continues.  We had to do without cooking apart from microwave meals from Thursday until Tuesday, due to a comedy of errors with the gas engineer chosen by the landlord. Eventually the letting agent sent their own workmen to install the hob on Tuesday.  It took three of them an hour (one was supervising the other two while taking calls about other jobs) and then they announced that the hob was faulty.  They can’t fix it, it needs to be serviced by the manufacturers.  So the landlord is supposedly setting up a service visit (no word so far) and meanwhile I only had two usable burners and the oven.  Since then another burner has proved reluctant to turn on  so I am terrified about having no means of cooking over Christmas.  The complicated chain of semaphore signals via the letting agent to the landlord has produced a promise that the service visit will happen tomorrow, and I'm really hoping they don't suck their teeth and announce that some part needs to be ordered with a two week delay.  And I thought all the stress would be over once we moved...

This week I finished the Baby Surprise Jacket.  I crocheted the sleeve seams for a neat finish and added the modification of a hood with i-cord ties.  I won’t put buttons on until I know if it is a boy or a girl – Elizabeth Zimmerman’s pattern has you put button holes on both sides, then you just sew buttons over the unwanted holes once you know. This is knit in Patons Fairytale Dreamtime DK Pure Wool, which I got on sale at Hobbycraft.  I think it was on sale because the colour is a bit bleah, obviously an attempt at a gender neutral baby yarn with its mixture of lemon, pink, blue and white. It was fine to knit with although it feels a bit like acrylic.


I don’t think I blogged that I finished another square for the Great American Aran Afghan (GAAA) before we moved. This is the Dagmara Berztiss square and was surprisingly easy as you are generally only moving one set of stitches at a time and it is pretty obvious which way to move them. This is my seventh square so I am still a long way off of the goal of 20 squares.  Also, all my squares are coming out at quite different sizes so fingers crossed that blocking will save me.


I blocked the Harvest Moon aran cardigan the week we moved.  It took forever to dry.  Generally I knit in pieces and block before seaming.  The double layers of the fully knit cardigan really held the water despite blotting with towels.  As I had read on Ravelry that this yarn really grows with washing, I was trying to be ultra careful not to put any strain on the stitches.  The body of the cardigan is still fine but the sleeves are now too long even though I was careful to knit them shorter.  I will have to unpick the  i-cord bind off and pull them back a little.  The edges are still curling so I will try steaming them.  It's darker than it looks in this photo, I think the camera was confused by the pink carpet.


DH drove me up to another ‘local’ quilting shop: ‘The Bramble Patch’ near Daventry, to visit their annual Christmas exhibition of work by students and teachers.  The shop is quite large by UK standards, and reminded me of as American quilting shop.  They also have two Gammill Long Arm quilting machines for quilting shop samples and quilts for customers but I don’t think you can rent time on them like you can in American shops.  I didn’t buy anything for myself as I feel very disengaged from quilting at the moment with everything in storage, but I did pick up a birthday present for a quilting friend. I have to say that I feel very out of step with the modern fabric prints.  I think they have their place, but an entire shop of brightly coloured trendy retro and large-motif prints seemed a bit samey.  I don't dislike that type of print, but I also want to see all the other 'families' of fabric print that I am used to using - I suspect I am now hopelessly old fashioned as a quilter.  My stash would probably look like a museum to a young Modern Quilter!

On another day, we stopped into Kettering where the ‘Bee Inspired’ haberdashery shop was sadly closing down.  All their stock was 20% off so I seized the opportunity stock up on thread as they had Gutermann cotton thread.  I bought about 20 spools in different colours to augment my thread stash for future sewing projects.

My commuter knitting the last few weeks has been my Vanilla Socks two at a time.  I'm still not getting the flying saucer effect this yarn is supposed to produce, although the stripes are getting a bit wider.  The line of white yarn is for an Afterthought Heel.


 I had a rather amusing encounter on the train.  It's an unwritten rule, at least on trains in the London area, that you don't talk to the other commuters.  Everyone exists in their own little bubble of privacy no matter how squashed together we are.  But a portly man in his 50s facing me across the train table finally leaned over on the trip home and said he had to ask me what I was doing as it was so intricate and fascinating.  I hadn't really been paying attention to him but after explaining what I was doing, I then had to endure his unnerving stare for another 15 minutes until he got off in Bedford, punctuated by him chuckling at intervals "Socks! Amazing!".  He wasn't a knitter himself (I asked).  Perhaps a bit too much Christmas cheer?  He seemed quite nice.

I've also done more on my Winterland Mittens.  I'm having my usual problem with uneven tension and a bit of peek-through but wet blocking usually improves that.  They do seem a bit big even for my big hand but I'm going to push on.  I'm almost at the point where I will knit a line of waste yarn across the palm to pave the way for making it a Convertible Mitten. These are in Jamieson & Smith 2ply jumper weight.


Another useful store that is relatively local to me is the The Dolls House Store in Kettering which is a bit exciting as I haven't lived near to a dollshouse store for quite a while (all our local ones shut down at the old house).  They have a huge stock, mostly the usual imports and Dolls House Emporium stuff, but some unique stuff of their own.  I was able to buy a cute little 1/12 iPad (can't take a picture because it got packed in the move and I don't know where) and some more resin figures to be customers in my quilt shop.

We're pretty much settled into the rented house now.  It's got a lot of idiosyncracies, like no mirrors, no towel racks, no hooks for tea towels etc. when at the same time we aren't allowed to make any holes in the wall.  I've got round that with some sticky-backed hooks for the kitchen and some freestanding towel rails, but getting the ethernet cable up the stairs from the router in the living room was more of a challenge.  In the end I have draped it across doorframes (held behind a panel nail), across the hall ceiling, vertically upwards to a hoop nailed into the attic hatch, across the upstairs hall ceiling, over a few more door frames until it drops down to my computer in the upstairs study.  Looks like heck and we will have to hide it if the landlady wants to visit, but it's working.

The closet in the picture is also where all my remaining craft stuff is hiding.  I'm tempted to make a sign, something like "Sharon's closet of happy times" but the landlady might get the wrong impression  :)


With best wishes for a happy Christmas, and for lots of
crafty-related treats under your tree!

Friday, 13 December 2013

Hello from Northamptonshire

We did it, we are now living in a rented house in Northamptonshire.  Right up until the moment the solicitor's secretary confirmed that the funds had come through, we were fully expecting that the buyers would screw it up somehow and we would have to turn around and go home.  But miraculously they didn't and we sold our house to them.

The move all went fine, it was just a huge rush the last few days trying to get everything packed while I was trying to cancel services and get them set up for the new place.  This wasn't helped by the short notice nor by the fact that until the morning before we moved, I still didn't know where we were going.  The flat we initially tried to rent turned out to be unavailable, with extremely dodgy letting agents giving me conflicting stories on its status.  In desperation, after a few more days I fell back onto a property we had previously seen and rejected because it was too expensive and had dodgy decor.  Luckily it was still available (probably because of those reasons) and the letting agents were able to rush through the credit checks in just a couple of days.  So at least we knew where we were going and I could start ordering telephone and utility connections.  I've had to pay a lot more than I would have done if we had had the luxury of advance notice but at least we didn't have to go into a hotel.

The rented house has been a bit traumatic, even though we weren't expecting something as comfortable as the home we had left.  It's been difficult to find places to put even our limited possessions, the kitchen/bathrooms are pretty worn, and the first night we discovered we couldn't lock either of the doors from the inside.  Well, the front door would lock from the inside but wouldn't unlock from the inside.  The letting agents sent their workman the next day after I complained and he ended up replacing both the locks. There was no fridge or washing machine so we had to rush out the day after moving to buy a secondhand fridge, and then keep our food outside in the cool until it was delivered on Monday.  I bought a washing machine on Monday which was delivered on Tuesday. There are no mirrors in the bathrooms (and we're not allowed to drill holes in the wall to hang any), the heating seems eccentric with freezing floors downstairs while the upstairs gets too hot, not a single hook or towel rail in the kitchen for teatowels, aprons etc., and we were having to eat off a garden table until we could buy a secondhand dining table which was delivered on Monday.

But the real drama was when I got home last night from work and could smell gas as soon as I got into the house.  It was reeking of gas in the kitchen so I called the National Gas Emergency Line who told me to shut down the gas and open all the windows, and they sent out an engineer within 30 minutes.  He declared it 'actively dangerous' and capped off the gas at the meter and shut off the boiler.  So no cooked dinner and no heat all night.  I spent some time yelling at the letting agent while we waited for pizza to arrive but he said he couldn't make the landlord send anyone out until the next day.  Luckily the cold spell had warmed up and it wasn't as freezing last night. They came out today  to look at the gas cooker and isolated it so we can have heat and hot water again, and they are supposed to be replacing the insides.  The joke is that they claimed to have passed the property as safe in a gas safety check the day before we moved in, yet the emergency engineer said it was clearly leaking when you carried out the standard test at the meter.  I don't need all this stress - it was supposed to get better after we moved!!!

We don't have any television or broadband as the earliest installation date I could get was a few days before Christmas.  DS isn't very impressed at the lack of these vital services.  I'm typing this blog at work as I only have an iPad on 3G at home.  Which has also made it awkward to change my address with banks and providers as not every site is compatible with an iPad as well as the iPad not having a decent keyboard.  I'm slowly ploughing through the huge list of people and companies I need to give our new address to, plus our mail is being redirected.

Meanwhile I've been unpacking.  After some deliberation, I've managed to squeeze most of my remaining craft stuff into a hall closet.  I'm using some of the moving boxes stacked on their sides as 'shelves' for the yarn etc.  I look forward to the Christmas holidays when hopefully I will get some time to sit down and do some sewing - meanwhile I am knitting on my new longer train commute and at night. I started a Baby Surprise Jacket the week we moved, it's straightforward garter stitch although I'm having my usual problem that I can't remember how it goes together or what bit I'm knitting without comparing it to the diagram.

Last week is my final week of work for 2013 and then we are both on holiday for almost two weeks.  I can't wait.  We are going to go get our tree this weekend, and we both have office christmas parties to go to. Christmas has been the last thing on my mind these past weeks so we are playing catch up.  I've discovered that my carefully purchased stash of christmas cards from last year's sales must have gone into storage so I've had to go out and buy more, which I will have to get filled out soon as the 2nd class mailing deadline is next week I think.

I hope you are all having a much more relaxed pre-holiday countdown, and are looking forward to a restful holiday.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Fingers crossed, we're moving!

While it is not out of the realm of possibility that it could still go wrong, we finally exchanged contracts on Friday to move next Friday 6 December.  So I probably won't be blogging next weekend because I am unlikely to have broadband.  In fact, at the moment, there is still a possibility I may not even have an address.

We were kept waiting right up until almost the last minute, but finally just after 4pm on Friday my solicitor called with the welcome news that we had exchanged contracts. We were pretty exhausted from all the stress but had a quiet celebration that evening with a bottle of sparkling wine.  Saturday we shot off up to Northamptonshire again to inspect the extremely limited  number (4) of rental properties still available at this time of year where we want to live.  Property number one was a tiny but very well kept estate house, which would have been quite a squeeze for us.  Two and three were bigger Victorian terrace houses but in bad shape, threadbare rugs, repellant bathrooms, and number two even had fleas as I found one biting my leg immediately after we left.

Property four was in a different town from the one where we want to buy, but it was the best of the lot so we've gone for that one.  By which I mean, we filled out the preliminary paperwork to commence the checks on our credit history and employment.  We will find out hopefully on Monday if the landlord is willing to consider us, then we have to pay a non-refundable £200 charge for the checks to be carried out.  That takes five working days so we may not actually know by moving day if we've got the flat or not.  So I've re-booked the hotel again as a Plan B.

The flat doesn't have a garden and is partly furnished, so more of our stuff will have to go into storage as there won't be room for it.  So over the next few days I have to pack everything up into two groups:  storage and rented.  There may be a third group called 'hotel' if we don't get into the flat right away.  To add to the complication, DS is coming back from Uni on Saturday, so I've had to book him a hotel room as well.

Meanwhile this past week we spent a full day with a removal crew moving all the excess stuff into long-term storage (at that point, I still didn't know if we were moving or going back on the market).  They were really good.  I had been quite worried about my dollshouses in our self-store unit, but I was hugely impressed at the care they took in packaging them.  They basically built a custom box around the bigger houses, with plenty of reinforcement and tape.  Luckily they had apparently moved another woman earlier in the year with even more dollshouses, so the concept was familiar.  They similarly boxed up my Pfaff sewing machine because I bought it secondhand so it didn't have a box of its own. They were a bit boggled by the amount of yarn and fabric emerging - one of them asked if I was running a business.
Bye bye yarn stash

Bye bye knitting machines

So all that's gone away for six months.  I am left with my Singer Featherweight sewing machine and around four bagged up quilt projects, my thread stash and most of my quilting tools; my Hawaiian applique quilt; my 'Grandmother's Last quilt' hand applique quilt; my hooked rug kit; a couple of small cross-stitch kits; a petit-point bell pull for the dollshouse to work on; yarn stash for about six small projects; and my ongoing knitting WIPs including a hibernating Haapsalu lace shawl, my GAA Afghan, my Winterland mittens, and my Opium cardigan which just needs buttonholes.  I don't know if that is going to be enough for six months in a small rented flat or not.  I had a bit of last minute panic Tuesday night and went box-diving in the pile to pull out another ball of Aran wool/acrylic yarn for the GAAA in case I suddenly put on a burst of speed, and another sweater project.


My oldest knitting UFO

The sweater project I found was my oldest UFO which dates back to around 1992 or 1993. I bought this pattern from the Readicut mail-order company, and took it along to a big London store (I’m thinking Selfridges or Harrods) to buy yarn. I spent what seemed like a fortune to me on enough Jaeger Sport Yarn for my size. This Aran sampler was way beyond my skill level at the time so I had huge problems with it. This was before the internet (!) and long before Ravelry, so I had to feel my way with the help of library books. The instructions are all written out, no charts, so were very confusing. Progress was painfully slow, and I eventually gave up about a third of the way up the front. I could never bring myself to discard the UFO after paying so much money for the yarn and I’m not a quitter, so I hung on to the project bag for years.


My skill level is now such that I can tackle this, even though my self-awareness has matured to the point where I can see that this is not going to be a flattering jumper on my figure type! I was pleased to see that the part that I had painstakingly knitted didn’t look too bad and was actually the right size. However, it had yellowed over the years and was a darker colour than the un-used yarn (probably from the sweat and tears that went into it). So I’ve pulled it all out, skeined it and given it a wash. My tension will have completely changed since then anyway.

 The first step after washing the used yarn was to sit down with the pattern and chart out the instructions for each pattern panel. I used this free online chartmaker which worked really well: http://www.jacquie.typepad.com/charts/knitchart.htm 

As I completed each chart, I used the Snipping tool to capture it as an image on my PC and pasted it into a word document where I could add further explanation as to repeats etc. At the end, I saved the Word document as a PDF and emailed it to myself so that I could open it in GoodReader on my iPad to knit from. In GoodReader I can have a separate progress bar for each chart to keep track of where I am.  The charts are actually quite straightforward, not the baffling mystery that the instructions seemed twenty years ago.  Since then I've knitted a tension swatch to see what needles to use.

Sweater surgery

Another thing I tackled this week was the neckline of my Topdown Icelandic sweater which I knit from a Craftsy class.  The pattern yields a very small tight neckline which many have complained about.  I kept thinking it would be alright because  the cardigan was open at the front, but it wasn't. The tops of the bands, made even stiffer by the crochet steek method from the class, poked unpleasantly into my neck so I never wanted to wear it.  

So this week I sat down with some scissors and some circular needles and cut off/undid about one inch of the neckline.  I had hoped to unravel it and reknit it, but as it was knit top down, the knitting really didn't want to cooperate so in the end I had to cut it away.  I picked up the stitches and reknit the band, then re-blocked it.  The result is much more wearable although the ribbing doesn't transition into the fair isle as well as it used to.  I still need to stitch down the grosgrain ribbon inside to hide the remaining steek ends, but I think it is a big improvement in wearability.

BEFORE (although here the neck looks worse than it was as the cardigan is riding up too high)


AFTER - much better

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Still here

This has been one of the most stressful weeks of my post-education life.  I won't go on and on about it as I am sure everyone is sick to the teeth of this stupid move - I know I am.  Suffice it to say that we STILL haven't exchanged contracts and have now missed the deadline to book a remover for the end of the month.  As of Friday night it's unclear whether the chain is still intact, I'm getting confusing stories from different people.  The buyers' solicitors have kept us waiting the last two weeks, so I've spent every day fruitlessly watching my phone and email for news - usually they either haven't done anything or they've gone off on yet another timewasting tangent. The latest one is that they want us to sign a statutory declaration in front of a solicitor (so has to be a week day so we both have to take more time off work) which they haven't even provided to us yet, so more delays. DH's boss is getting rather shirty about the uncertainty and changes in dates, luckily mine is more flexible.

When we still thought we were moving next week, I booked viewings on all the suitable rental properties on the market (not many at this time of year).  We kept those appointments and drove up to view a fairly lacklustre assortment but weren't able to complete any paperwork since we don't have a move date.  DH is so stressed by it all that he just wants to call off the whole thing.  I've been trying really hard to keep everyone communicating and keep the chain moving but even I have now lost hope.I'm pretty sure it's all going to collapse and the buyer at the bottom of the chain will rightfully give up in disgust and go somewhere else and I don't blame him.  I wish we could.  I've given our buyer a deadline of next Friday to exchange contracts for a move the following week, otherwise we are going back onto the market at the end of the month. We've been waiting three months for them and have lost all faith in both them and their solicitors.

Meanwhile I've been having to go back to our remover every couple of days to ask for different quotes depending on whether I thought we were going into rented, or into a hotel etc.  I decided to just go ahead and get them to take the stuff going into long-term storage this coming week.  We don't need most of it to dress the house for viewings, and it will get one big messy dirty job over and done with which will make it easier when we finally move out.  Plus we already had the time booked off work thinking we were going to move.

So this weekend we brought down everything from the attic and stacked it up in my bedroom - we had to dissassemble my bed and there's just room for my mattress on the floor in the corner.  The stack goes almost to the ceiling, including 17 boxes of fabric stash.  Today I went around the house and boxed up everything else that we won't take to rented accommodation, which includes the yarn stash I have managed to accumulate over the past six months.   It's going to be a busy week as the removers will come mid-week to collect all of that, and all the stuff in my knitting shed, and all the stuff in our self-store unit.  Then we've got a few nights to put the house to rights and clean it all back up to market standard so that hopefully we will be ready for viewers next weekend.  Meanwhile I will have to get the agent geared up to re-market us, plus I will bring in a second agent this time to help attract more viewings.  It's the wrong time of year to be marketing a house but maybe we will be lucky and attract someone who is hopefully chain free, and then move early in the new year.  Who knows.

It's not all bad, I suppose.  It will mean one more Christmas in this house, and DS will be happier because he will still have fast broadband and familiar surroundings when he comes home from university.  It will certainly make life easier when it comes to Christmas shopping and sending Christmas cards, which was all going to get lost in the shuffle otherwise.

I've been thankful this week to have some no-brainer knitting on my Harvest Moon Cardigan, although my never-very-consistent tension has been up and down like a yo-yo with all the stress.  I've now finished the knitting, which means the cardi is finished as it is top down.  I've left the sleeves slightly short and I'm not darning the ends in, just in case it all stretches when I wash it.  At the moment it still looks like a curling, wavy rag but hopefully once it's blocked then it will all flatten out.  I found a matching button at the haberdashery store when we were looking at rented houses (we were on a lunch break).  I can't block it yet because it will probably take a few days to dry and I don't want the removers walking on it.

I also made a start on the Winterland Mittens by Wendy Roald, which have a lovely snowy scene on the back of the hand, and a geometric pattern on the palm.  I'm knitting these in Jamieson & Smith 2 ply jumper weight in blue and white.  I'm going to try modifying the pattern to make these into convertible mittens.  This picture shows the corrugated ribbing and the start of the thumb gusset.


When I got a bit sick of knitting (!)  I did a bit more stitching on my Hawaiian applique quilt, and hooked a few rows on the Baltimore Album hooked rug kit which is now over halfway.

The only other crafty thing I did this week was to re-block my Holden Shawl. Of all my shawls, it's the one I wear most often as it is an attractive yet neutral colour, and in soft-to-the-skin Malabrigo sock yarn.  It's a couple of years old and I had washed it before, but the blocking had all vanished and the lace had contracted into a sort of raggy edge.  So I gave it a good soaking and re-pinned it out to shape - suddenly it's much bigger!

Saturday, 16 November 2013

I think I'm getting an ulcer

We STILL haven't exchanged contracts, didn't even hear from the solicitor on Thursday or Friday, and she often takes Mondays off so my stomach is just in knots and I'm not sleeping very well.  At this rate (assuming we move at all) we could end up homeless because the odds are low that we can both find somewhere satisfactory to rent and get through all the credit checks etc in time.

I've been knitting on my Harvest Moon cardigan.  I had trouble figuring out the pocket instructions but got there in the end.  I went ahead and seamed the pockets and then knitted the garter rib edgings and sewed them on.  My i-cord cast off on the body is curling terribly, hopefully this is all going to block out.  I was looking online and discovered a lot of comments saying Debbie Bliss Rialto Aran yarn grows terribly when it gets wet which doesn't bode well as this cardi is coming out a bit roomy on me as it stands.


I've knit a bit more on my Schoppenwolle socks but I'm still not getting the pattern I'm meant to.  I'll knit a few more inches and then I will have to think about pulling them out and starting again on different needles if the dyed design still isn't showing up.

Now that it is properly cold I've been wearing lots of hand knit hats, gloves, fingerless gloves, mittens, cowls, and even a few jumpers and cardigans to work.  Although our office gets too warm so I can't wear anything too heavy.  Since coming out as a knitter on the business trip to Nottingham, I am now knitting on my lunch hours after I've finished eating, sitting in the chairs provided near the kitchen.  It's attracted a few amused looks and polite conversational enquiries, but nobody seems that interested and no other knitters have popped out of the woodwork. I think my team views it as one of my quirks which is acceptable since I am as old as most of their parents.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

I've done all I can

[ for those readers sick to the teeth of hearing about our house move, skip to the third paragraph now ]   This week we scrubbed up the house almost back to show standards because the buyers were coming over today for one last look at it.  Or at least for what I hope is their last look.  We are now at the point where we either exchange contracts in the next week or so, for a move date at the end of the month, or it all falls apart again.  I've done all I can, I've obtained every bit of paper asked for, I've negotiated with removal firms, I've packed almost everything non-essential, we are running down our tinned goods and frozen food, I've got holiday saved up to take from work, and we're keeping our weekends free for rental-house-hunting.  It's now in the lap of the gods and I am trying hard not to be completely stressed out by it all.  Hollow laugh when I look back to June when I thought we would be all moved and settled in to our new place by September.

I've been boxing up my fabric stash (which is so big that I've run out of boxes) as I've decided it's all going into storage, along with my two main sewing machines.  I'll keep out my Singer Featherweight and a few bagged up projects, and my thread cabinet, iron, rotary cutter etc.  Everything else will go away for six months as I just don't think we are going to have room in a rental house.  My yarn stash is less of an issue, it's much easier to buy more yarn.  I will keep out my immediate projects, my needles and tools, and perhaps a few 'kits' I've got bagged up.  If I run out I will just have to buy more  :)

Having finished the Morticia shawl knit-along, I needed another commuting project.  So I've started a pair of vanilla socks using the Schoppel-Wolle Flying Saucer sock yarn I bought recently.  The yarn is dyed specifically to make a sort of Op-Art pattern when knitted up, and to make two identical socks.  Therefore it is wound as a double strand into a reel.  You are supposed to wind it off into two balls before you knit it.  I decided life is too short plus that wouldn't be as portable, so I decided to have a try at knitting two socks at once on one circular needle.  I had tried this once before from a book but found the instructions ridiculously complicated.  This time I just decided to wing it, and with a little fumbling managed to transfer my Twisted German cast-on from a dpn onto a circular and get knitting.  I was having problems with ladders between needles to begin with but it's going alright now.
The only thing is that I'm not sure yet if I'm going to get the flying saucer pattern at my gauge.  I have belatedly discovered teeny-tiny instructions on the inside of the label for knitting socks at an optimum gauge for the pattern to emerge, not sure if mine is going to work or not.  We'll see.

This week I had another finish which was at long last my Featherduster Shawl in Debbie Bliss Angel Print.  This was actually my second go at it - the first try achieved five repeats then I fell for a sad story from a work colleague about her friend with cancer so that one went off to the friend.  I started again and achieved six repeats which was supposed to be the finished size.  I even blocked it but when I tried it on it just seemed too short and didn't cover my arms.  I still had some yarn left from an extra skein I had bought so I unpicked the cast-off and put it back on the needles.  I managed to knit another repeat and a half so it's a better size now.  The new yarn, although the same colourway, had more white 'fuzz' in it so looks lighter.  This time when I cast off, I added some of the blue beads I had left over from the Hobbit shawl I knit a while ago.  They look nice and give some welcome weight to this very wispy shawl.  The end result is very glossy and soft and surprisingly warm.  I wore it to work on Friday over a dark purple knit top and it looked nice.



I looked for a simple beaded cast off but couldn't find one so just made one up.  This shawl is cast off by knitting so you have two stitches on the right needle, then knitting those two stitches together through the back (like an SSK).  Every second time that I had a single stitch on the right needle, I added a bead to it using the crochet hook method.  When I came to the point of the triangle, I did three beads in a row without skipping a stitch.

I had a moment of panic this week but Ravelry solved the problem.  I've been working on the body of my Harvest Moon cardigan. I reached into my bag for another ball of yarn to join on, and discovered that was ball 9 of the 10 balls in the packet, and this without even having knit the sleeves.  I knew the yarn came from the John Lewis sale so was likely discontinued, so I was kicking myself for starting a project that I didn't have enough yarn for.  I was even about to go online to see if I could hunt down more of it, when it occurred to me to check Ravelry to see what my Stash records said.  They said I actually had 20 balls of it, which meant there was another packet of 10 (yay!) but where was it? (boo).  A bit of digging around in the knitting shed turned up the second packet which had been packed into a box.  Panic over and knitting resumes.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Forced to add to my stash... Oh the horror

Today we spent the day in Northamptonshire conducting a recce on potential places to live.  I can report that I nobly rose to the occasion and purchased stash additions in three different places primarily as an excuse to chat up the vendors for their opinions on the area.  However, DH does not seem nearly as impressed with my sacrifice and ingenuity as he should be  :)


The three yellow fabrics came from Poppy Patch, a really nice quilt shop in Great Doddington, a small village outside Wellingborough. The shop is in a barn conversion in a converted farm yard, and has a really nice vibe inside which reminded me strongly of quilt shops in America.  She had a good range of fabrics with lots of basics as well as focus fabrics.  There was an unusually large selection of yellows, always a hard colour to find, so I snapped up these three butter yellows, so much more attractive than the more common acid or harvest gold yellows. The owner was also telling me about quilting groups in the area - she herself does occasional workshops in her attractive upstairs classroom, and apparently there are groups in Highham Ferrers, Kettering, Northampton and Earls Barton.

The tape measure print fabric was a steal at £4.50 a metre on a market stall selling fabric in Wellingborough.  Although he didn't have a huge selection, there were some remarkably good quality quilting cottons on his stand at very reasonable prices.  Also in the market was an absolutely huge haberdashery stall spread over many tables of buttons, ribbons, zips, acrylic yarn, bows, buckles etc. - so unusual to see these days.  Wellingborough also has a fabric store (didn't go in), a model railway store selling useful tools and terrain for dollshousing, and a new knitting shop, JanKnits, which had a good selection of workhorse yarns in acrylic and wool, including Regia Silk, Jamieson & Smith 2ply jumper weight (I bought the four balls pictured), some nice merino wool and a small range of needles and accessories.

So it seems like there are a lot of crafts going on in Northamptonshire which is very promising.  We also managed to talk to four policepersons (two sets of two) as to what they thought of the area, several random shopkeepers and a passerby on the street.  So I feel like we've done some good research.  Their verdicts were a bit lukewarm, there was a general theme of 'buy in the villages, stay away from the towns / town problems' but we didn't hear anything that really put us off.

In the car I was knitting on the Harvest Moon cardigan - it's top down and I've made it as far as the pockets.  They are knit integrally in a way that I don't really understand yet, but I am faithfully following the instructions for knitting linings.

The big finish this week was my Morticia mystery KAL shawl in Scrumptious Lace with beading.  The objective was to have it finished and posted on the MKAL thread by Halloween which I achieved.




Although I am proud of my achievement in knitting it in a month, I don't think I'm actually going to wear it.  It's far too delicate - I prefer a shawl knit on a tighter gauge to be more robust for normal living like commuting to work.  Not really sure what I'm going to do with it, to be honest.  It drapes well because of the heavy beading along the edge.  I thought about giving it to m-i-l but DH doesn't think she would wear it either.

I'll finish with a picture of my new mice which I ordered as a birthday present for myself from DH.  They are so cute, so detailed and really giving off a Brambly Hedge vibe.  On the right is Miss Bobbin, centre is Miss Purl, and left is Dandelion.  They are handmade by Gail of 'The Mice of Rosebud Lane'  in South Africa.  I saw Miss Purl in a UK knitting magazine and really thought she was cute, then when I looked at the website I realised I could make a craft-themed vignette. Dandelion is supposedly a gardening mouse but her 'tomato' looks just like a tomato pincushion.  You can order them in different colours of felt  but I wanted my three mice to match.



Thank you for the sympathetic comments and emails I've received on our loss of Lucy earlier this week, it is much appreciated.

Monday, 28 October 2013

R.I.P. Lucy cat

Our cat Lucy has gone. Blood tests revealed that she had chronic kidney failure, a damaged liver and some kind of infection on top of all of that.  She spent the day on a drip but didn't improve so this evening we went back to the vet's to say good bye to her.

She was a good cat, and held up her cat honour by doing her utmost to always sit on my knitting, or my quilting, or my pattern, or to start licking me just as I was about to paint something for the dollshouse, not to mention working hard to ensure that I never left the house without at least one cat hair sticking to my clothes (usually to be discovered midway through the morning at the office in a prominent place on a dark suit). She kept us company through many years, and had a special personality. The house feels empty without her. We will miss her.


Saturday, 26 October 2013

Not much to report

So little has happened this week that DH actually had to remind me that it was blogging day.  When I look back at some of my older posts, full of photos of all the crafts I had managed to get up to each week, I feel sad.  Now all I am doing really is knitting and living out the tedium of the British house marketing process.

No photos this week.  The only things I've worked on are the Featherduster Shawl, which I actually worked on at the office during my lunch hour.  Nobody arrested me for non-professional activity, and a couple of colleagues (including my boss) actually came to sit with me to eat their lunch and I knitted while we chatted.

And the Morticia Mystery Shawl Knit Along - we now have Clue 4 so in theory we are all finishing the shawl ready to unveil on Halloween.  I don't know if I'll make it, I haven't worked on it much yet and I'm only about halfway through the final chart.  The bind off is going to be a bit of a pig, it's long crocheted loops in a sort of extended picot bindoff with beads.  Given the length of the shawl - I'm doing the small size and it's still about five feet long I think - it seems unlikely that I will get it done by Thursday AND blocked out ready to wear.  But I will soldier on and see how I do.

We mustered our dwindling optimism and did some more packing today:  packing up things like the tool shed so they will be ready for the hypothetical moving van.  I seemed to have managed to accumulate a fair amount of yarn again since packing most of my stash months ago, so I need to pack all that up as well.

Our cat isn't very well, I've made a vet appointment for her on Monday.  She's fairly elderly at c. 14 years old, and has had kidney disease for a few years although it is stable.  But she has lost a huge amount of weight recently, she's like a cat skeleton with a fur coating so stroking her is very odd as you can feel every bump in her spine.  I can actually gently pinch her sides behind her rib cage and my fingers almost meet in the middle - yuk. Her behaviour has changed as well and she doesn't seem very comfortable.  I hate this stage in cats, you know they aren't very happy but on the other hand they don't like going to the vet and the vet is just going to do things to them that are uncomfortable like blood tests.  With a couple of previous cats we've become stuck in a cycle of endless vet visits with the vet dangling the hope that yet one more expensive test or treatment will fix what's wrong and eventually you realise that really the cat is miserable and you should have pulled the plug a long time ago.  I don't want to get stuck in that cycle again with this cat but it's hard to play God and decide when her time has come.  I'll see what the vet says on Monday.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

The illusion of movement

This week we have had the illusion of movement on our housing saga. After weeks with nothing happening, some small changes have crept in which makes it feel like at last something may be happening at some point before we die of old age.

Some belated enquiries came through from the buyers' solicitors which require me to make a trip to the Council next week to try to find some documents from 10 years ago when our house was built - why they couldn't have sent through these several weeks ago I don't know. Also the buyers told us that their buyers, should they decide to proceed, want to move within four weeks.  So suddenly we might be moving in four weeks but who knows.

We spent today packing up my son's room now that he has gone off to uni.  We dismantled his bed and wardrobe after boxing up the remainder of his possessions.  I've listed the bed for sale on Preloved but I gave the wardrobe away on Freecycle.  To my horror, the big man who came to collect it came in the house with disgustingly muddy shoes (apparently he visited a farm before coming to us) and not only tracked it into the house across the hallway, but also ruined several stair treads of our new carpet before my shrieking penetrated to his brain and he stopped moving.  He was banished outside while DH brought down the wardrobe pieces, and after he left I went over the stairs with carpet shampoo.  That took out the black smelly gooey foot prints but has left its own lighter spots - gaaah.  To give him credit, the man was very embarrassed.

Yesterday was my guild meeting and I took along my Hawiian applique quilt and continued stitching down the design.  I enjoyed doing some sewing again.  It might be my last meeting if we do end up moving in four weeks, so it was sad to say good bye to all my friends there.  On the other hand, I might very well be at the next meeting - who knows.

Crappy past week at work, we've been landed with a lot of output from various employee forum events, including feedback forms and workbooks that needed typing up, and audio recordings of Q&A sessions to transcribe.  Anywhere I've worked before would get a temp into to do that, but my manager decided that my colleague and I should do it.  Three days of copy typing really wrecked my weak right wrist, so I've had to cut down on the knitting etc. this weekend while it calms down.

I have done some knitting on Clue 3 of the Morticia Mystery Knit Along.  After the glories of the Hobbit knit along, this one is a bit dull as there are no stories to go with the clues and the three clues so far have basically all been the same pattern of diamonds.  Clue 4, the final clue, comes out on Tuesday and will be the edging which apparently is heavily beaded.

I had a finish this week of my Halloween Pumpkin, based on a free pattern on Ravelry which had quite a few errors in it.  This is knit in Rowan Tweed, which I found a bit scratchy to knit with but the colour is great for a pumpkin.  It's about six inches wide. So far this is my only Halloween decoration, normally I would have a lot more up but everything is, of course, packed away.










Sunday, 13 October 2013

Doing the zombie shuffle

I went up to the Alexandra Palace Knitting and Stitching Show today.  Some years it isn't as crowded on a Sunday, but it was packed this year. There are three huge halls of exhibits and stalls, and many of the aisles were choked with shoppers, which resulted in me doing four hours of the zombie shuffle, slowly moving along with the flow.  It's surprising how much more tiring that is than if you just had to walk normally for four hours.

And for two and a half hours of that my bag was far too heavy because I succumbed to some weighty bargains - oh, how we suffer for our art...

First purchase was an end of product line from Shilasdair, the Skye yarn company, who were selling off their indigo dyed organic cotton for less than a pound a ball.  For £20, I got 18 balls and a promise of a pattern for a cardigan called Carnach (they'd run out so will email it to me). The cotton is lovely and soft.







Then I stumbled across the World of Sewing stand from Kent, which had a few bolts left on their bargain rack at £3 a metre.  A few prints weren't too bad so I bought six metres of each to use as backing fabric for future quilts.  Nice to find this, as backing fabric is so expensive these days.

But the fabric and the yarn together must have weighed about ten pounds so it made for a very heavy knapsack to lug around the rest of the show.  I apologise to anyone whom I inadvertently knocked, I was trying to be very careful.

On a glass artist's stand I found this lovely Christmas card with a reusable glass christmas ornament, for only £4 which I thought was very reasonable.











I spent some time admiring examples of the applique work of the Tentmakers of Old Cairo on one stand.  Very intricate wall hangings at quite reasonable prices, I was tempted by a smaller one but decided it wasn't the right time to buy.  They have a website at www.khayamiya.com

On another stall called Knit Like a Latvian, there was a display of the most amazing mittens, all covered in intricate flowers and geometric patterns.  Apparently they had been selling kits and patterns, but by Sunday were picked almost clean.  They have a website at www.hobbywool.com so I have already ordered my mitten kit from there which costs 19 euros for the yarn and pattern and it looks like it comes in a nice display box as well.

There were loads of other amazing things to see from quilts to beaded things to jewellery to tatting to embroidery, lace making and all sorts of things.  An exhausting show but one of my favourites.

Speaking of lace making, I forgot to blog that a few weeks ago we visited the secondhand bookshop in Osterley who were having a half price clear out sale.  I stumbled across what appeared to be some lacemaker's entire library of bobbin lace making books, as the same name was written on the flyleaf in most of them.  I bought several of the more basic manuals very cheaply as I've always thought that I will try bobbin lace one day.  Who knows, maybe in the new house wherever that is.




I now have physical proof of the stressfulness of trying to move house.  No, it's not the wrinkles on my face, it's the second sock of my Lacy Socks.  I knit it to the same row and stitch count as the first sock.  After I finished the second toe, I tried it on and was baffled to find that it was far too small.  Much laborious counting (not my strong suite) ensued, but I eventually proved to my own satisfaction that the row and stitch count were spot on.  The only explanation is that I was knitting the second sock to a much tighter tension, no doubt because of all the aggro and waiting around I've been doing, not to mention the new job etc.  I had to pull out the toe and knit the sock about an inch longer to get it to fit on my foot, and it still feels tighter around than the first one.  They look nice though. These are knit in Smooshy Dream in Colour which I bought in Providence, New England, but I didn't enjoy knitting with it as it's splitty and feels a bit rough in the fingers.


For anyone who is interested in the housebuying saga, we decided to venture some funds on a survey of the big old period house we saw last Monday.  It has enough room for everything we were looking to have:  sewing room (not huge, but bedroom sized), dollshouse workshop, modelling workshop, knitting room, study etc. and the price seems quite reasonable but we'll see what the surveyor has to say.  The downsides are that it is in a town centre, so no country views, and the town is a bit rough although there are signs that it might be starting to improve with some investment being made.  It has some character, and has been recently renovated so to our inexpert eyes it looked in pretty good shape. And being in the town, it is close to the shops and I will be able to walk to the station, something I wouldn't have been able to do from the country house we lost out on.

I've been knitting away on a pumpkin with the yarn I bought in Oxford last week, and on Clue Two of the Morticia Mystery KAL shawl.  Clue Two was a bit boring, basically just more of the same pattern as Clue One, but I'm almost done and it looks like the lace is phasing into a new pattern now.



Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Gone shopping

We drove DS up to Oxford yesterday (just over an hour's drive) to drop him off at his college.  He has a nice room in a 70s concrete barnacle tucked into a courtyard between two wings of 'dreaming spires' of his ancient college.  We emptied out the multiple suitcases that we had brought his things in, then left him to it.   I don't think the whole 'empty nest' thing has hit home yet, I'm still expecting this morning to hear him moving around upstairs.

After dropping him off, I felt like I had earned a reward so I got DH to drive me to two of Oxford's yarn shops.  I think they are both fairly new, and they were both attractive little stores that I enjoyed visiting.  Here's my haul:



The Schoppel-Wolle Fliegende Untertasse is the cylinder of hand-painted yarn, two strands dyed at the same time so that you can knit two identical patterned socks.  I bought that and the pattern 'Mint' by Sue Hanmore for a lovely vest in Manos Serena at Fibreworks, on Cowley Street south of the town centre.  The shop is on a corner and filled with light, the better to see all of the colourful goodies spilling off the shelves.  It was nice to see several colourways of Jamieson's 2-ply jumper wool (instead of trying to choose from their website), and there was a nice mixture of familiar yarns (Debbie Bliss) and not so familiar yarns.  It's all good quality stuff, no brandname acrylic baby yarn here.

Also full of good stuff was The Oxford Yarn Store, on a little road called North Parade, off the Banbury Road north of Oxford. This felt like a smaller shop because it is only lit from the street windows, but it was probably about the same size and may actually have had more stock.  Again a really good mixture, and again a good spread of Jamieson's yarn, this time their Spindrift.  I bought two skeins of Auracania Ranco Multy for a potential shawl, and I couldn't resist a skein of Rowan Tweed which cries out to be knit into a Halloween pumpkin (so then I had to buy a second skein for stems).  The owner was very nice and gave us directions to walk over to the Jericho area of Oxford where we enjoyed a delicious lunch in a Greek cafe.

We had the whole day so we used the afternoon to drive up to Northamptonshire and look at a couple of houses and register with more estate agents.  One house we saw is almost a polar opposite from the one we were trying to buy.  Instead of all mod cons and a gorgeous country view, it is right in a town centre and over 100 years old.  It's a lot noisier and the garden isn't as private, but it's huge inside and very convenient for shops and the station.  This is such a hard decision to make, too bad you don't have a 100-day return policy when you buy a house, so you can try it out and see if you like it!


Saturday, 5 October 2013

Is this the world's stupidest system for buying houses?

Having spent weeks on our planned house purchase, around £1,500-£2,000 on survey and legal fees, many hours deciding how we will live there as well as talking to professionals and planners about it, and even purchasing a suite of secondhand conservatory furniture that would look nice in the new conservatory, our purchase has abruptly fallen through.

I got a phone call from their estate agent on Friday night, to tell me that the vendors had decided to cancel the sale.  The stupid system in this country allows everyone to change their mind right up to the moment of handing over the keys.  Purportedly they have pulled out because they were so shocked that we asked for a reduction in price after our surveyor found various defects to their property and valued it at a lower price than we had offered.  I think what's really happened is that their nose is out of joint to read all the faults he found in their beloved home, and also I suspect that they did actually get the builder's quote I requested to price the repairs needed.  They were saying the repairs would only be a few thousand, I bet the quote was nearer to the surveyor's estimate of £10-15,000 and the vendors didn't want to risk showing the quote to us in case we dropped our price even more.

So we are in a position now where we still have buyers for our house (touch wood) but nowhere to move to.  I suppose we will have to move into rented accommodation now, not the nicest thing to look forward to for Christmas.  It also means that it will be even longer before I finally get back all my stuff like my dollhouses, or until I have a sewing room again.

I've had a cold all week, which has now settled into my sinuses.  So I've been feeling a bit stupid and slow.  I did achieve my ultimate working goal on Wednesday of being paid to knit on the job, when I had to travel to Nottingham to help out with a business conference.  It was a three hour trip each way, so lots of knitting time on the train plus I had about an hour to kill at the venue before everyone else got there.  I managed most of an extra repeat on my Featherduster shawl in Debbie Bliss Angel Print.

The rest of my knitting time this week has mainly been on the first clue of the Boo Knits Morticia mystery shawl knitalong.  I am knitting my shawl in Fyberspates Scrumptious lace with crystal beads.  The first clue took about three evenings and was fairly straight forward.  There are four clues altogether, released each Monday throughout October.






I've also knit another inch or so onto my Harvest Moon cardigan, and I'm almost finished the Mcintyre square for the GAA Afghan.

Today was packing day for DS, who is off to university for the first time on Monday.  He started off fairly cocky, fondly tolerating my help but obviously feeling that I wasn't particularly necessary and that the whole job would only take 30 minutes or so.  About an hour later, as I moved on to the 101st thing that he hadn't even considered he would need, the gratitude was more evident.  We've managed to shoe horn all his stuff (including bedding, towels, black tie suit, wargaming equipment etc.) into three large suitcases and various smaller bags.  I'm already feeling 'empty nest' anxiety but I'm also excited for him.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Stupid cold

The season has definitely changed, and there is the usual spate of seasonal germs making the rounds.  I now have a head cold which is not helping at a time when we are losing the will to live on the house-selling front.  We found out that our buyers had lost their buyers, and although they found new buyers right away, it sets the whole process back by an unspecified number of weeks as the new buyers start from scratch with mortgages, surveys and valuations.  It's beginning to feel like we may never move. Meanwhile we are getting heartily sick of 'camping' in our house doing without so many things that are packed away.

The next milestone is getting DS packed up and off to university.  I think once he's gone we will sell his bed and wardrobe because we don't want to move them to the next house.  If we are still here by the time his term is finished, he can sleep on his mattress on the floor which I don't think he will mind.

I finished knitting the yoke on my Harvest Moon cardigan.  It's easier to knit now that I am using the Knit Pro acrylic tips I bought on the yarn crawl last weekend.  They are a bit blunter and don't split the Debbie Bliss Rialto Aran yarn as much as the metal tips I was using.  I've now divided for the sleeves and have started knitting the body.


And I ordered four skeins of Spindrift from Jamieson & Smith yarns which I will use to knit the Winterland mittens by Wenche Roald. They are a cute fair isle pattern of a winter scene against a deep blue sky.

I can do a product review on The Gleener, which is a de-pilling gadget that I heard about on various podcasts last year when it launched.  When I got out my London yoke cardigan to start wearing it again, I found the soft yarn had pilled a lot especially under the arms, making it look a bit grubby.  I used to have one of those battery operator 'shaver' type de pillers, which never worked that well and had eventually died.  I decided that I have so many hand knits now that it was worth investing in something better for maintaining them.  I remembered The Gleener and looked it up online.  It turned out to be cheaper to order it here in the UK for £19.99 from QVC than direct from the American supplier.

For the money, you get a well made double-ended handle which comes in a drawstring pouch with simple instructions.  One end of the handle has a lint brush, and the other end can clip on to one of three heads.  The heads are for fine, medium, and coarse fabrics/pills.  I think the medium will do almost all of my knits.  I tried it out on my London cardigan and found it effective and easy to use.  You just drag the head along the knit, it's sort of bumpy like sandpaper and it hooks immediately onto all of the pills and pulls them off.  Then you can use the lint brush end to tidy up any loose fuzz.  It worked really well, it didn't feel like there was any risk of damaging the knit because there are no blades, and the cardigan looks much better now.


I had a finish this week - I finally finished my rectangular version of the Shaelyn Shawl.  I knit mine in Chickadee, which I wasn't that impressed with but it has softened with washing a few times.  I knit it from the middle out in both directions until I ran out of yarn.  Then I just repeated the lace pattern to make an edging at both ends, using two strands of Cherry Tree Hill sock yarn held together.  It's about 29 inches wide but not sure how long it is, but it's a useful size.


Other than that, not much to report except that I am now Level 50 in Skyrim (the video game I have become hooked on).  I am now Thane of Winterrun, Winterhold and Dawnstar; Arch Mage; head of the Thieves Guild; a Companion; a Bard; a Werewolf; a Legionnaire and I've finally managed to exceed the armour cap (my armour rating is 867 I think).  I'm still really enjoying it, and it's a nice pastime during a period where I don't have a sewing room or a knitting machine shed anymore. Once DS is off at uni then I won't have to compete with him for time on the game, which may be a bad thing...

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Keep calm and carry on yarn crawling

Yesterday I took part in the inaugural Great London Yarn Crawl, organised by two Canadian expats based on annual yarn crawls in Toronto, Canada.  It is quite a neat idea: you pay £15 and choose one of five routes around various yarn stores in the capital, joining a group of up to 16 people led by two volunteers.  Your ticket includes a travelcard to cover your public transport, a goodie bag,a 10% discount at many of the shops, and entry to the after party at the pub where there were generous door prizes.



It was a fun idea and everyone in the Green Route party was in high spirits when I joined them at our first stop, I-knit near Waterloo station. From there we moved on to Sharp Works in Herne Hill, Knit with Attitude in Stoke Newington, and Village Haberdashery in West Hampstead, before retracing our steps to the after party at the Mulberry Bush on Upper Ground near Waterloo Station. I think it would be fair to say that energy levels decreased as we racked up the public transport miles (including almost an hour stuck on the 76 bus) and also that sixteen people was too many for all of the shops apart from I-knit which is a bit bigger.  It led to a lot of queuing to get to the yarn, plus a lot of hanging about while people finished shopping. But overall I did enjoy it and would go again if I could go to different shops on another route.

I went with a shopping list of which I was able to get some things:  buttons for my blue Opium cardigan, white Fyberspates Scrumptious Lace yarn for my October MKAL shawl, an advance birthday present of Knit Pro acrylic interchangeable needles, and some more stitch markers (where do the pesky beggars get to?), benefiting from the 10% discount on most of these.  I was hoping to get some shetland-type yarn for mittens, and some beads for the MKAL shawl, but these weren't stocked at any of the shops we visited.

The goodie bag was a custom little tote bag printed with the logo, and stocked with the following:


  • mini skein of merino fingering from The Uncommon Thread
  • two mini skeins of King of the Jungle fingering weight from Lioness Arts
  • A download code for the Gemelli sock pattern by Ruth Gardia-Alcantud at www.rockandpurl.com
  • A download code for a choice of free pattern (Antler or Lush) from Tin Can Knits
  • A 10% off voucher for Knit with Attitude
  • A single-use sachet of Soak
  • Information pamphlet on the charity Refuge being supported by the yarn crawl proceeds
  • A pattern for 'Circlet', a child's knitted crown, from Dani Sunshine through Lioness Arts
  • A free pattern for knitted bracelets 'Les Petits Bracelets' by Rachel Brown of Porpoise Designs
  • A coupon for 10% off our first order from Kettle Yarn Co plus a generous yarn sample of their Falkland superwash wool
  • A 10% off code for Inked Yarn who do hand-dyed yarn and stitch markers
  • our yarn crawl badge identifying us as members
  • a 10% off code for ILoveYarn, handmade jewellery for knitters
  • a flyer for the UK Hand Knitting Association
  • A project bag ID marker from knitty.com
I was very lucky at the afterparty to win a door prize:  a lovely skein of Merino Silk Sport by Skein, donated by I-knit (the bluey-green yarn in the photo); plus a set of cute Alice in Wonderland themed stitch markers donated by Inked Yarn as above.

We were all very grateful to the shops, volunteers and sponsors for making the day such a success.

As we went around I was knitting on my second lacy sock (when I could do it without getting bus-sick) and managed to finish the leg, turn the heel and pick up for the gusset on the day.  I wore my blue cardigan knit from Rowan Scottish Tweed DK and everyone else was sporting some kind of knitwear.  The volunteers got cool t-shirts featuring the banner "Keep calm and carry on yarn crawling" which we were all coveting.

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Things on the house moving front have taken a bit of a turn for the worse.  Our survey came back with an alarming list of exterior maintenance issues, featuring red flag words like 'wet rot'.  Even more alarmingly, the surveyor says it's overpriced and has valued it at £20,000 less than we offered.  Needless to say the buyers are not keen to reduce by £20,000 and have offered us a token £5,000 reduction to cover some repainting.  Negotiations continue.  There are so many issues of concern now with this house that we are very close to walking away, in which case we will move into rented accommodation when the sale completes on our house.  I spent a few depressing hours this week scouring the internet for other possibilities, every house seems to have something wrong with it so that instead of choosing a dream house, it's more a case of choosing the house with an amount of faults that we are willing to settle for.  Bleah.

Right, I'm going to go and make yet another apple pie with our endless supply of apples off our tree.  Luckily they are so good that we never get sick of pie.

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