Saturday, 29 June 2013

We've had viewings!

Yes, people have actually come to look at the house.  It was a slow start, only one viewing during the first week, but then we had our Open Day which attracted four more viewings.  One of the viewers liked it so much that she brought her husband back to see it the same evening which is promising.

Without wanting to seem like I'm having my cake and eating it too, I have to confess that I am getting fairly bored at home.  Plus we are running out of money so I think it's time to go back to work. It's the usual Catch-22, if you're at home not earning, then you don't have any money to do anything or go anywhere.  It's good that I've been available for the first few weeks of viewings but I think I need to get a short contract to tide us over the selling process until the move, whenever that will be.

I spent most of the week knitting on an Icelandic top down cardigan, after signing up for the Craftsy course with Ragga Eiriksdottir when it was on sale.  The class is basically like a tutored KAL.  The original cardigan is in Lettlopi but as I read several comments about that being scratchy, and I'm quite sensitive to scratchy yarn, I am knitting mine in Drops Nepal which is a wool/alpaca mix.  I'm getting gauge by dropping down a few needle sizes. Ragga is lovely and good at explaining things, but the camera work is not great.  There's a long lesson early on where she talks about various examples of Icelandic knitting while she sort of pats them on the table in front of her, but very frustratingly she never holds them up and there are almost no overhead shots, so you can't see what she's talking about.  After reading some comments about her steek method not catching the coloured yarns, I skipped ahead and watched that lesson.  I can see why as she only crochets along both edges of a one-stitch steek so doesn't catch any coloured yarns in the crochet chain..  Perhaps in Lettlopi the contrast yarns just cling obligingly until you cover them with the facing ribbon on the reverse.  But a couple of people raised this issue in the comments section and Ragga hasn't answered them properly, so I think I might catch my coloured threads down with a short bit of machine stitching..

Anyway, I knit mine down as far as the armholes, after adding in an extra 12 rows because I had read several comments on Ravelry about the armholes being really tight so I kept checking the fit.  The front looked good, but the back has far too much fullness and the sleeves are huge.  There were a few comments on Ravelry about the final two increase rows being too close together, which explains why it won't lie flat, but basically I don't think I need the final two increase rows at all.  I've now pulled back the knitting right back to the colour section, and I am reknitting it and leaving out the final two increase rows to see if that fits better.

Early this week I also finished my Allotrope Hat, using up some New Lanark DK wool.  I knit the woman's size, which is two full chart repeats, and found it came out too big.  I had to severely truncate the crown decrease rows as the hat was already too deep.  The end result is still a fairly loose fit as the cable pattern is so stretchy, but it's wearable.

And I sewed the binding onto my Teacup Quilt, so it's done now.  I'm going to keep this one, it's cute.

I'm now sewing the binding onto my vintage string star quilt, which is the final quilt waiting for binding.  After that I can start appliquing my Hawaiian quilt.

Before the bank statement came, I treated myself to a visit to our local Kempton Park antiques fair.  This is a really big fair which attracts dealers from all over, and yet we've almost never been because it's always on a Tuesday when we are at work.  I had an enjoyable couple of hours wandering around the outdoor and indoor stalls.  I think you could buy almost anything there, from replacement doors to costume jewellery.  But I only saw a couple of poor quality quilt tops, and only a couple of not very interesting dollshouses.

But I did find this, and I got it for almost half price.

It was on the stand of a French dealer, and he didn't want to have to put it back on the truck because he said little bits kept breaking off.  I saw it early on, then waited until I was about to leave before heading back to negotiate which I think helped as people were already starting to pack up. It does need a good clean, some replacement chimneys and some more of the railway plastic people.  I assume it was perhaps railway scenery for some French rail buff, but I just loved how French it was and all the detail.  Some of the shops have interiors, you can see into the restaurant where there are more tables etc.  And no, I don't know what I am going to do with it but hopefully in the new house there will be a nice ledge or bookshelf for it to sit on.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

On the market at last

It's almost 1pm on our first day on the market, and it's all a bit anticlimactic as the phone has not rung once.  However, we do have a 'For Sale' board outside the house and our details are online, plus we were in the local newspaper property ads. I had a big tidy up and clean the last few days, so we are ready to spring into action for a viewing if need be.  Hopefully we will start getting viewings this week, so we can get some feedback.  And hopefully the feedback will be positive.  I feel it's an achievement to have reached this milestone - but I would still like someone to actually come and look!

Also DS has finished his A-levels, a major milestone for him and he is now done with secondary school.  So it's just a waiting game now until 15 August when the results are released nationwide and we find out if he has made it into Oxford.  We're taking him out to dinner tonight to celebrate.  He seems fairly confident about how it all went, so fingers crossed.

On a smaller level, I reached another small achievement by finally finishing the Twice Doomed Tee.  I called it that last year after looking up the Debbie Bliss pattern on Ravelry and finding lots of negative comments (some even saying 'don't knit this pattern'), and then looking up the yarn and finding a similar lack of enthusiasm.  I wrote out my own pattern based on the original and pressed on but stalled for several months when it came to modifying the oddly shaped sleeve.

I seamed the sleeves to the body then picked up for the neckline. If I had knit just six rows of stockinette like the pattern suggested, it would have just fallen off of my shoulders. After a bit of experimenting with decreases and ripping back, I ended up continuing the ‘train tracks’ of the raglan decrease into the neckline, by knitting two double decreases next to each other on alternate rows. I kept trying it on, and once the neckline was tight enough, I knit another 4 rows stockinette then cast off loosely.
I had trouble disguising the ends with this slippery yarn. Also the pleats don’t want to lie flat. But that all pales in comparison with the erratic tensioning in this biasing, slippery, live twisting yarn (Twinkle Cruise). Some rows are so energetic that all of the stitches are facing to one side almost as if I knit them twisted. It feels lovely on, really cool on the skin and smooth (70% silk, 30% cotton), but it’s certainly not going to be a garment to wear if I was worried about my skills being judged by other knitters. There’s also the odd single ply waving out wildly so I foresee a future of many snags when passing by anything snaggable.

It feels good on and I think I got the fit right.  But DH, when pressed, cautiously gave his opinion that the fullness at the front makes me look fatter than I am.  I think I am too mature to be mistaken for pregnant so I thought I could get away with it, but apparently it isn't as flattering as I'd hoped.
When I went to Windsor to take some documents to the solicitor handling the house sale, I stopped into the new C&H Fabrics which has opened inside Daniels department store.  It's smaller than the branches I've visited in Canterbury and Winchester but still had lots of good stuff.  And I found some really cute buttons for my baby cardigan.  They are a bit fiddly to get through the holes as the strands catch on the flower petals, so the future mother I give it to will probably not thank me, but don't they look cute?

Early in the week, I set up a small folding table in the living room to finish basting up the Hawaiian quilt while I watched Craftsy classes on my iPad.  It's all basted now and ready for me to start the years-long applique process. I haven't added the border yet, I'm going to applique the medallion first then see how much room I have left.

The great thing about having such a tidy room is that it's always ready for taking quilt photos now.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Waiting for the main event

Everything's ready now so we're in a bit of limbo waiting for the house to go on the market next weekend.  The particulars are prepared and approved, the house was cleaned and decluttered within an inch of its life for the internet photos, and I've instructed a solicitor AND spent over four hours filling out all the legal forms for the sale.  All's we need now is a buyer.

So I've got a bit more time for hobbies now because there's not much to do except keep the house and garden tidy.

I've worked on The Noble Cowl in luscious DK yarn from the Mean Girls Yarn Club, which has an attractive shield lace pattern.

I've worked on the Allotrope Hat which has a simple cable pattern. This is in New Lanark DK.

I'm working on the Morioka square for the GAAA.

I even dug out the long-hibernating Twice Doomed Tee to try to figure out a pattern for the sleeve.  My math skills weren't up to altering the modified raglan sleeve, so I did it the old-fashioned way by trying the unfinished garment on and making a toile out of cloth.  Then I could use the body of the tshirt as a giant swatch to calculate how many stitches to cast on and what kind of increases I needed to do to the underarm.  After that I went with the pattern shaping until the sleeve was finished, then basted it to the body and tried it on again.  It needed to be a bit taller so I added a few more rows and I think it will work now.  I'm partway through the second sleeve. The original pattern is the Yoke Pleat Top by Debbie Bliss and the yarn is Twinkle Cruise.

The biggest thing I tackled this week was to lay out my Hawaiian quilt over two tables at guild meeting, and pin out the applique and start the basting.  This all took about five hours and I've only completed one quarter of the basting properly.  I hurriedly basted down the main stems of the rest of the pattern before I put everything away for the day, so that I can work on the rest of it over a smaller table at home.  My guild members think I am mad to tackle something so big, they may be right.

Being weak of will, I succumbed to large glossy advertorials in two of my dollshouse magazines for the new 1/12th firescreen embroidery kits from Janet Granger.  I bought the lovely Flowers and Vine pattern which will go into my Georgian roombox a) when it is done one day, and b) when the roombox one day gets unpacked in our new house.

We had a final househunting exploration expedition today (Sunday), probably the last one until we have a buyer.  We looked at a lovely Edwardian villa near Rushden which I immediately nicknamed 'the dollshouse'.

It had wraparound gardens, plus some outbuildings, and felt very private.  Unfortunately it needs some updating inside:  a new kitchen, new ensuite, and cosmetic decoration in several rooms.  So probably not for us as we wouldn't have the budget for that.

After that we drove around the area near Wellingborough where the house I liked last weekend is located, and also went into Wellingborough itself.  All still looks fine to us, not perfect but no dealbreakers.  Then we drove up to Kettering to look at another Edwardian villa which I thought was a long shot judging by the internet pictures.  For both these houses we felt the internet photos were really misleading, and it turned out that we actually liked the Kettering house a lot. It felt really liveable and homely.  It's not perfect, it doesn't tick all the boxes on our wish list:  the garden isn't that big so the neighbours are close, the sewing room area is only 8'10" wide even though it is fairly long, there isn't really anywhere for my knitting machines to go.  But there's a great room for my dollshouses and it had loads of character and original features while still provided with modern bathrooms and an adequate kitchen.

So we have a shortlist of two, but whether they will still be available or not once we get a buyer is a big question mark.  Fingers crossed.

Monday, 10 June 2013

New horizons

We did a two-day house hunting trip over Friday/Saturday and saw 10 houses plus explored various areas. We were truly gobsmacked by some of the luxurious huge houses which our money will buy us up north, considering we are only selling a 3-bedroom new build down near London.  It really shows the price differential between London and other areas.

We started out in Bedford, which is the area we were most interested in as it's an easy drive to DH's work from there.  We saw four houses, one of which was a possibility (two others were very 'smile politely and go through the motions even though you know from the second you step in that it's not for you). We also drove all around the town looking at various areas, and stayed overnight there.  My gut feeling after all of that was that it was a bit too urban for my tastes, very built up, lots of traffic, some areas where you wouldn't want to be walking at night etc.  So I think Bedford is now off the list.

Then on Saturday we saw six houses, all as different from each other as they could be.  We started off with an ancient half timbered former pub in the small village of Potton, which was fascinating inside but not big enough.  It did have the original two storey brewhouse in the back garden which would have made a superb sewing room.

Then we saw a house outside St Neots that had been extended from 3 bedrooms to four by its owner who is a builder.  For the fourth bedroom he created a spectacular master suite with juliet balcony looking over the garden, a walk-in dressing room and huge ensuite.  Unfortunately  here there was no obvious place for a sewing room nor a study.  I liked it but it all felt a bit smaller than we wanted.

Then we saw three houses in and around Wellingborough.  One didn't look like much from the outside but inside had been hugely extended and beautifully done, all so luxurious that I can't believe it's on the market for less than ours.  I would have to convert the garage in that one for a sewing studio, but the view from the garden was over rolling fields which my Canadian upbringing just loved but DH thinks may be too isolated.  Another one was quite cheap and had an entire granny flat next door with a big rectangular living room which would work great for sewing, but we didn't like the neighbourhood.  The third was a huge house, almost a mansion, with plenty of room but in an isolated estate and unfortunately the outlook was away from the nice houses and out over the rubbishy affordable housing further down the estate.

But the piece de resistance was this absolutely mad Victorian mansion complete with adjoining ballroom with roof lantern on the outskirts of Kettering.
Yes, we can actually afford this palace as it is absurdly cheap, but it was a real diamond in the rough.  Huge amount of work needed, the current owners have apparently spent almost £100,000 on it and you can barely tell.  Walking around the house and the wreck of a garden behind it was like being on one of those television programmes where the mad people rashly buy a period home and then spend the programme pouring everything they have into restoring it.  DH loved this house with a passion but it would terrify me, even though the ballroom would make the world's most amazing sewing room.  We don't have a lot of money beyond the equity in our house and this is the kind of property where just drilling into the wall to fit a shelf could reveal all manner of lurking horrors.  Also once again the neighbourhood is not great and the view from the grand windows is of an ageing 60s housing estate, and apparently the house is freezing in the winter and there's only one bathroom for the entire house.

So Sunday we sat down at the kitchen table for over two hours and talked through each house's good and bad points and what we thought of the locations.  We're going to go up again soon and look more around Wellingborough and Kettering.  We also quite liked St Neots.  We're not in a position to buy any of these houses until we sell our own in any case, but I think the trip helped us to fix on our destination area which will be the triangle around St Neots / Wellingborough / Kettering.  My favourite of the lot was the luxury extended house with the view over the fields, I can see myself living there even though it's four miles from a station so I would probably have to get a car and start driving again (I almost never drive here as public transport is so accessible where we live).

Meanwhile, during the longer drives on the motorway and in the hotel room, I've been sewing down quilt binding.  I've finished these ones now and will look to sell them to someone who loves them.

I've also finished the Kaffe Fassett Star quilt but haven't photographed it yet.

On the knitting front, I've dabbled on a few UFOs but also started two new portable projects: the Allotrope hat and The Noble Cowl.  

Sunday, 2 June 2013

(singing) "We're in the money..."

Woo hoo! After doing a trial run with the in-laws on Monday, pretending they were buyers and dressing / cleaning the house up, I felt ready to interview five estate agents on Wednesday to Friday. To my astonishment, the house is worth £100,000 more than I feared it would be.  A combination of property shortage in our area, being in a desirable location, and all the work I've done to make it look pristine. We're absolutely thrilled as it will mean a much smaller mortgage to upgrade to somewhere bigger.

Most of the agents commented how well we have taken care of it - they sure wouldn't have said that if they had seen it three months ago before I did all the work.  Now I just need to choose an agent and kick off the selling process.  Also need to instruct a conveyancer. I've shortlisted two estate agents and will do some negotiating tomorrow.  All five valued it the same, and most predict it will sell quickly.  So we could be cast adrift before the end of the summer, which means we need to pick an area to rent in while we house hunt.  We are going to up to revisit Bedford and look at some property soon, and this weekend we drove into northern Essex and looked around in the Chelmsford area.  We liked it there but it's a long way from the part of the country that we know.

So my knitting and quilting have spent most of the week hidden away while we pretend to be very tidy people who have no hobbies.

I did finish my Quilt Sampler mittens. They fit well and I'm pleased with how they came out. These are in fingering weight yarn.  I think the white is Cherry Tree Hill sock and the red is Plymouth Happy Feet.
I was wondering about trying to sew a polar fleece lining for them, for extra warmth.  But they fit fairly closely so I don't know if it would work or not.

I was working on cutting out the applique for my Hawaiian Quilt.  I'm about two thirds through the cutting and the new Karen Buckley scissors are working really well.  However, I've just realised that I didn't fold the fabric right sides together like I should have done, so my applique isn't ready to fold out gracefully into position.  I will have to open it all out and then try to coax it into position on my white background.

I have used up some of the oldest fabric in my stash.  This was some yardage featuring scenes from the Bayeux Tapestry that I bought in 1982 on my first visit to the UK, before I was even a quilter.  I've kept it all these years.  But I needed some 'artwork' for the blank wall in the living room and we couldn't find anything to buy that we liked.  So I bought an artist's stretched canvas and had a root around in my fabric collection.  It was really really difficult to cut into this ancient stash, but I'm pleased with the picture and it looks good in the living room.

While we were driving on the motorway to Essex, I was stitching down the binding on one of the quilts I quilted on the frame earlier this year.  I have about five quilts that need the binding hand stitched, a lot of stitching!

Do you want to see my 'show' bedroom?

It never used to look like this.  I can't believe I'm in the right house some days.  It's a lot easier to hoover now that there's hardly any furniture.

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