Saturday, 27 July 2013

Yield not to temptation

... and I didn't yield to temptation, even though I travelled up to Fibre East in Ampthill today for a yarny day release from my house arrest.  I wasn't sure what to expect as their website is pretty uninformative, but it turned out to be a really good natured fibre fair set in and around a school (Redborne Community College).  There were over 100 traders and exhibitors, including the Sheer Sheep experience where you could see real live sheep being sheared and even point to the one whose fleece you wanted to buy and they would shear it for you there and then.

So I think it is bigger even than Unravel but the focus is definitely on fleece, fibre, spinning and weaving equipment etc.  There is a generous sprinkling of knitting yarn and equipment as well, so lots to look at even though I don't spin or weave.  Although I have to say that ever since visiting the weaving loom kiosk at Wingham Woolworks with the SkipNorth tour, my 'gadget girl' lust for mechanical marvels has been flaring up.  I've never been that interested in weaving which looks a bit tedious, but having seen the beautiful intricacies of a four-harness table loom with levers you can push and lots of cranks to turn, I feel a definite tidal pull in that direction.  There was a 'have a go' marquee at Fibre East with various guilds offering the chance to try spinning or inkle looms or weaving, so I was able to touch and play with rigid heddle looms which seem to be the most recommended for beginners.  But what I really liked was the four harness table loom on the mid-Herts Spinning & Weaving Guild stall.  The very informative woman let me have a go on it, it seemed easy enough but a bit like machine knitting in terms of the potential for operator error.  It's too big to buy now while our accommodation is so up in the air, but perhaps there will be a corner in my knitting room in the new house for a sweet little table loom.

I bumped into Greensideknits and Quitecontrary while shopping, so was able to show off my Unexpected Journey shawl which I had taken with me but didn't need at all due to the absence of the predicted rain.

I was really hoping to get buttons for my Top Down Icelandic Cardigan but there were very few people selling buttons and I just didn't see anything I wanted.  This week I crocheted around the steek and cut it, having first run a line of machine stitching just along the colourwork yoke to secure the ends.  Then I sewed on some pretty spotty ribbon to hide the cut ends, as recommended in the Craftsy class.  The edge has turned out pretty well, even though I still don't think this is the best method for a steek in a smoother yarn than Lopi.  I crocheted really tightly to avoid the flaring and waving that I saw on so many other project pages on Ravelry.  Usually when I'm crocheting an edge, I would pick up in a ratio of two stitches out of three.  But as it was a steek and you are doing it to secure the cut edge, you have to crochet into every row.

The fit has turned out to be really great.  Washing it did relax the knitting as I had expected from the swatch, and it feels cosy without being baggy.  This is the first time I've put shaping into the back waist, after taking Amy Herzog's Knit to Flatter course.  I always thought I couldn't do waist shaping, due to the lack of an actual waist.  But in her class she points out that although you may have a belly (which I do), you may still curve in at the sides and in your back.  So on the back I decreased twice to take in some fabric for the waist, then increased three times to make room for my hips, and it has really made a difference in the fit.  On the way home I stopped at the LYS and picked up some blue plastic buttons that look like wood, which I will try on it to see if I like them.

On the train home I finished my first Lacy Sock, which is the Sherbet Shades pattern by Rhian Drinkwater.  It's been my portable project for a while, but slow going as the easy to memorise 4-row lace repeat was a bit tedious for the leg portion.  I had to reduce the stitch count quite a bit due to my loose knitting, but have ended up with a pretty snug fit for once.  This yarn is Dream in Colour Smooshie which I really don't like, it feels a bit harsh in the hands and it's a bit splitty.

Otherwise crafts this week have included a few more rows on the Latchhook rug and the petit point bell pull, and I started the Yukimi Hat with some yarn I bought in New England.  I've also been using up leftover Drops Alpaca from my Icelandic Cardigan by knitting some booties and a baby hat.  I also took my Featherduster Shawl along to knitting group and finished pulling out the cast off and putting it back on the needles for knitting another repeat.

As for the house, it's been dead all week, not a single call or viewing.  The people who made the sort-of offer on our house were supposed to be having two second viewings this week but as we haven't heard from them, I'm presuming they haven't had an offer yet.  I'm getting so fed up with constantly hoovering and picking up cheerios and being afraid to get my sewing machine out in case the phone rings. I had a chat with the estate agent at the beginning of the week, he has no insights to offer.  He thinks it's a great house in a good location, and certainly the feedback from those who've come to view it has been very positive.  So he doesn't really understand why so few people are showing an interest apart from the sunshine may mean people aren't househunting as much.  He said we could consider lowering the price, even though noone has complained about the price, but we shouldn't do that until we find out whether the people who've sort-of offered are actually going to buy it.

 I did have a go at fixing my toilet, I disconnected the float arm and took it to the plumbing store where they gave me some new washers for it.  But I think it's actually the main valve that is failing and I really don't want to have to take the cistern off to replace that the way I had to for the downstairs toilet.  Not fun.  We did get some turf for the patch of dirt but I'm struggling to keep it alive in this hot weather.  It doesn't seem to be rooting at all even thought it's been down for almost a week now.

Meanwhile I've got a job interview on Tuesday which I'm absolutely terrified about.  I think I am equally afraid of doing badly AND of doing so well that they actually offer me the job and I have to prove myself back in the workplace.  I've been out of work now for over four months and it feels more like 10 months.  I've been reading over case studies of what I've done in the past to remind myself, but I have an awful feeling that my mind will just go blank when they ask me a question.  I've also been practicing for some of the stupid questions  like "tell me about your biggest failure" and "tell me about a time when you had to deal with a conflict" but who knows what will happen on the day.  I just hope it's not 35 degrees or I am going to die in my interview suit.  Wish me luck.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Cloudy skies, I love you

After a week of unpleasant heat (air con is not common in the UK apart from bigger stores) it finally cooled down to the high 20s for the weekend, and has actually been overcast.  After being more or less trapped in my house for the week, since I can't tolerate heat and burn very easily, I felt like a prisoner out on day release this weekend.

 DH and I headed over to Richmond yesterday and walked along the Thames on the towpath as far as Teddington.  It was lovely, relatively cool and even shady under the trees.  And we saw boats, and swimmers (insane people who either don't know or don't care about the diseases and sharp things in the river) and people having parties in their gardens, and I had an icecream.  All much better than sitting cooped up in the house.

Due to said cooping, there is a veritable tidemark of crafts around my place on the sofa where I have been passing my days.

I'm halfway through stitching my 1/12th scale petit point bell pull from Janet Granger.  This will probably end up in my Georgian room box.  It will have ten acanthus leaves and be about 4.5" long when it's done.

I'm not doing the back very neatly because there are so many colours in each row.  I decided that rather than starting and stopping threads all the time, I would just leave the threads out of work until the next time I need them.  It makes for a certain amount of travelling thread on the back, but is much quicker and better for me as I've always had trouble getting a needle through the back of stitches to finish off/start.

I'm almost halfway through my Bucilla Baltimore Album Latchhook Rug kit.  I'm still finding it a bit tedious, but I've become more accomplished at making the stitch so I can complete a row relatively quickly now.  It's satisfying to see the pattern take shape.

 I finished my Noble Cowl which is a free Ravelry download.  It's supposed to have enough slack to be able to pin it to one side with an attractive pin.  I have a really big head so on me it almost doesn't need pinning.  It was a satisfying knit in shield lace using my Mean Girls Yarn Club Ep IV DK yarn.

And I've been plugging on with the Top Down Icelandic Sweater.  This has been un-knit almost as much as it has been knit, due to my 'suck it and see' design process.  The first sleeve went up and down like a stop-motion animation until I perfected the design.  I've now left it as a straight tube until the elbow, which felt best over my bicep.  Then I have fit in several decreases from the elbow to the cuff (although I realised later that I could have done these more tidily if I had reversed the K2tog/SSK sequence), and added the mod where you repeat some of the Yoke chart to put colourwork on the wrists.  I tried a white cuff and decided I didn't like it, changed it to blue, had to rip back and lengthen a bit etc. etc.  The second sleeve went a lot quicker because I could just knit it.  On the body, I have inserted a few decreases on the back to my waist curve, then a few increases on the front and back for my 'mature' lower half.

I'm cautiously pleased with the result so far.  I'm worried that the torso is too fitted, but I know the yarn will relax a little once washed, and that I will be inserting some ease when I cut apart the steek.  I'm not going to do the fancy deep rib from the pattern, as I know from my Amy Herzog 'Knit to Flatter' class that I am bottom heavy and should avoid details calling attention to that area.  So I'm just going to knit a bit more length and do 10 rows of K1, P1 rib, and see how that looks.

I feel that repeated trying on of a heavy cardigan in 30+ degree heat shows my true dedication as a knitter.

The final bit of craftwork littering the living room is my Hawaiian applique quilt.  I've done what feels like a lot of stitching, moving along relatively quickly on the long straight stems and bigger leaves.  Yet when I laid it out on the carpet to see my progress, I almost couldn't tell what I had done as it was so miniscule compared to the overall design.  It's going to be a long haul.

On the house front, we had a brief flurry of activity at the beginning of the week with two more viewings.  There was supposed to be a third viewing but they cancelled 10 minutes ahead when I had spent the hot afternoon cleaning and getting ready for them.  Grrrr.  One of the others has made an extremely nebulous offer, along the lines of "We would be interested in offering you 'x' for your house in the event that we get a buyer for our own house".  I made the recommended stock answer of "oh, I think we were hoping for more than that", and haven't heard anything back from the estate agent since.  The agent is supposed to be calling me tomorrow to discuss our contract because we could give notice to terminate it now and we're wondering if we should.  Trouble is, I'm not sure any of the other local agents would be any better.

Meanwhile, we've responded to the feedback from some buyers that they love the house but think the garden is too small by ripping up our lavender hedge that used to separate the house from the lawn.  It had become very leggy and sprawled about four feet wide, so pulling it up has immediately opened up the lawn more.  But it's left us with an unsightly patch of dirt, so we're going to go to the garden centre today and see if you can still buy turf this time of year.  I'm also going to have to turn plumber again as one of our toilets won't stop running so I think I need to replace the float arm. Hopefully I won't get it all apart and then get a phone call from someone wanting a viewing!

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Welcome to Cairo

I can remember being in Egypt some decades ago, and trying to sightsee in 35 degree Celsius temperatures. It felt like the sun was beating down on my head almost with physical blows.

Well, according to the thermometer in DH's car, it's gone up to 35 degrees here now, west of London, which is ridiculous.  It's only a few weeks since I finally took the woolly hat out of my backpack, the one I was still wearing occasionally in June because it was so grey and cool.

Luckily today I was tucked up in a relatively cool church hall through the worst of the day, with my quilting guild.  I finally started the applique on my Hawaiian quilt.  I've done a fair bit of needleturn applique in the past but it's always been on separate blocks that I will be assembling later.  Trying to do needleturn applique on a double size wholecloth quilt is a different animal altogether, and it wasn't going very well for the first little while.  I started on some of the straighter stems and bigger leaves, and there are some odd lumps and bumps that I may have to back and unpick and amend in future.  In five hours of stitching I only completed part of one quadrant, so it's going to be a long haul.  But by the end of the day, it was going more smoothly.  To keep my left hand finger underneath the stitching, I'm having to grasp the applique by pushing my left thumb up through the quilt top, instead of being able to use my left thumb freely the way I am used to. It's awkward but so far I've avoided stitching the top to itself. It's also a change to be sweeping under a 3/16th inch seam allowance instead of just 1/8th of an inch.

Apart from my big finish on the Mystery Shawl (see last post), this week I've been knitting on my top down Icelandic Cardigan, which I'm still not sure is fitting me correctly plus it looks like I am going to run out of yarn.  I've done several more rows on the latchhook rug kit, and also done several rows on another long time UFO which is a 1/12th scale dollshouse bellpull petit point.  I used to be able to do petit point by naked eye, now I am having to borrow DH's magnifying visor which he uses for modelling.  I've done a little bit on my Noble Cowl in shield lace worsted, and also turned the heel on my lacy socks.

I'm conscious that the living room is becoming littered with my pastimes and I can't let it get too untidy in case we get a viewing.  We didn't have anyone come all this week, but we've now got a booking for next week so fingers crossed.  Very frustrating to be all ready to move but no one is actually coming to look at our house.  I'm not that impressed with the performance of our estate agents, so I think we might switch to a different one when their contract expires, or add a second agent.

Our rose bush is dressed to impress, hopefully it will still be in bloom for the next viewing.  Since I took these photos, these flowers have opened up to the size of my hand, and are really stunning.  I hope I wrote down somewhere what type of roses these are, so we could buy one again for the next house.

Hope you are staying cool where you are!

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

A big finish!

I finished my mystery shawl KAL!  This was the Unexpected Journey KAL on Ravelry designed by AlterLace.  Nine clues were released over about 11 weeks, with each clue relating to a passage in The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien.

This sucker is huge - 71" wingspan.  I don't think I would have ever started it if I had known how big it was going to turn out to be.  And yet I really enjoyed knitting it.  Having it in manageable chunks really helped, and the stories were entertaining.  And it was good being able to consult the designer or the group if I ran into an issue or got confused.

This is in Madeleine Tosh Merino Light which I bought on our trip to Miami in February.  It's a pretty tone on tone yarn, single ply, colourway Volga.  I found it ok to knit with, a bit splitty and a bit too ready to cling to itself - but that made it easy to spit splice. I used three skeins, with 30g left over from the third skein. I bought the beads at Get Knitted in Brislington.

It took me about 90 minutes to block it, but at least in this weather it dried in a few hours.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Feeling grumpy

I'm feeling very grumpy tonight because a) summer has finally arrived and it was almost 30 degrees today and our house is still really hot at 8:45pm, and b) we had a third viewing today from a couple who I am now suspecting are just time-wasters, and no other interest this week at all.

This was the couple who viewed twice on the open day, so when the estate agent called on Monday to request a third viewing for the coming Saturday (today), I was very hopeful that they were seriously thinking about putting in a offer.  So I spent about three hours, again, getting the house spotless and turfed out the DH and DS for the morning.  They came, they spent 10 minutes looking around, and then left.  They had no questions at all.  I wasn't sure what that meant, but I was hopeful that the brief visit meant that they had now made their mind up.

A few hours later we were in town so I dropped into the estate agents to ask if they had heard anything.  Turns out these viewers also did a second or third viewing on another house right after ours, then went to look at property in a completely different area.  And the agent says that she doesn't think they are settled on any particular house yet.  I think it is really cheeky to put us out three times to look at our house if they aren't even serious about making a decision.  I fully support thorough viewing before you make up your mind to spend the most money you'll likely ever spend in your life.  But personally I would not inconvenience vendors with second or third viewings unless I was genuinely serious about their property.  And I would use the second viewing to ask all the detailed questions about the boiler, the utility bills etc.  DH says that I can't assume that other people will behave [sensibly] in the same way that I would.

The market seems to be really dead, perhaps a result of sunshine finally arriving and schools breaking up shortly.  The estate agents say it isn't just our house, they've had less than half the amount of viewings booked that they had three or four weeks ago.  I was really hoping that we would get an offer in the first few weeks because after that it's just a long slog and I've been there/done that with the last house.  And August is traditionally a dead month for the housing market so I'm beginning to wonder if we will still be on the market in September.  Bleah.

On Thursday, before it got hot, I had the house to myself as DS was off on an overnight school trip.  I carried down all my sewing stuff and got set up on the kitchen table.  I also let down the ladder to my personal fabric storage mezzanine (the attic) so I could get at my raw materials.

The first project I tackled was to make some polar fleece liners for my Quilt Sampler mittens.  I find mittens knit in smooth sock yarn aren't nearly as warm as those knit in a hairy yarn, so I thought some lovely fleece linings would be just the thing.  I had to experiment a bit to come up with a pattern as the mittens have a thumb gusset so the thumb isn't just sticking out the side.  At first I had planned to stitch the fleece liner into the mitten, but then I realised that if I left it free, I could use the liners in some of my other mittens as well.

This is what I ended up with - a bit like an oven glove.  It fits snugly into the mitten. They feel toasty warm now - just what you want in July  :)

I can pull my hand out without the liner coming free, but I could pull the liner out if I wanted to use it in a different pair of mittens.

The next project I tackled was my carpet bag project that I've been making blocks for at my guild.  This is going to be a knitting bag, so my blocks are all knitting related. I bought a 16" carpet bag frame a while ago from but I didn't have a pattern.  So the first step was to mock up a bag in scrap curtain fabric and try the frame on it.  I also dug out my collection of handles and found some pleather handles to use on it.  This is a picture of the first mockup, but after this I decided it needed to be two inches taller so I adjusted the pattern accordingly.

Then I needed to work out how my blocks would fit onto my bag.  I found some red webbing which I am going to use around the bag for reinforcement, so I worked out what space I would have left for blocks.  Then I had to start either trimming or adding to the blocks to get them to fit.

The silhouette pattern on paper was a self-portrait in progress.  The faux fair-isle fabric was purchased to use in this bag, but I had to work out how I wanted to use it.  I decided to separate my blocks with a fussy cut knitted stripe, and use the main fair-isle fabric for the frame and the sides.

Sewing continued Friday morning and this is what I ended up with.

Then I had to put all my sewing stuff back into its hidey holes to start getting ready for the viewing by the timewasters.

Another project I've been working on this week is a very old UFO which I excavated from the attic. This is a Bucilla latchhook rug kit that I bought in the sales at Liberty's about 15 years ago because I liked the Baltimore Album pattern.  At the time, I did about six rows and gave up in disgust because it was so boring and because the pattern stamped on the canvas bears no relation to the actual charted pattern.

This time round I am working directly from the chart and ignoring the stamped pattern.  I drew a grid onto the canvas with permanent marker to match the grid on the chart which is helping a lot.  It's still a fairly tedious project because there are so many colours in each row, but it's gradually taking shape.

Of course our cat Lucy, who has the entire house to sleep in, thinks that the best place to sleep is on top of my plastic bags of coloured rug yarn.

This week I also finished sewing the binding down on my Vintage String Star top, the final quilt that I quilted on the last session of my Next Generation quilting frame at Christmas.  This was a vintage top that I bought in America, and I added the borders then quilted it.

Earlier in the week I did a lot of knitting on my Icelandic Top Down Cardigan.  As discussed in the previous post, I pulled back to the colourwork and knit it again, omitting the final two increase rows.  Then I cast on for the underarms, knit a few inches, and tried it on again.  While the colourwork was sitting really nicely around my shoulders, the cardigan was too snug on my arms and body.  So I pulled it back again part way, and added one increase row about midway between the shoulders and the underarm (I'm getting my money's worth out of this yarn).

Then I knit it to the underarms again, and knit about four inches on the body.  Then I picked up for the sleeve and knit several inches.  Following my Knit to Flatter measurements, I decreased the sleeve down to my bicep measurement and started decreasing towards the wrist.  Then I tried it on again.  Turns out the sleeve was narrowing too quickly so I've had to pull that back to the bicep, but I'm fairly pleased with the shoulder/chest fit.  It's definitely a snugger fit than the voluminous original in the pattern, but I think it suits me better.  Now it is just a straightforward knit to knit the body down to the hem, and the sleeves down to the cuff.  Needless to say, I've now lost interest  :)  but I might knit some more tomorrow on the drive as we are going to see more houses.

Hope you are staying cool where you are.

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