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

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 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.

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