Sunday, 27 April 2014

Another week

DH was yelling up the stairs a few moments ago: "YOU HAVEN'T BLOGGED YET!". He likes to read it to find out what's really going on, since I tend to sneak various projects and supplies into the house when he's not home.  :)

There's not much to report this week. Communication with the solicitor has finally resumed, albeit haltingly, and it is looking increasingly likely that we might exchange contracts for the new house in mid-May and get our hands on the keys in early June.  Obviously we are very pleased and looking forward to getting going on the next stage of the move, but on the other hand I find myself curiously reluctant to move on.  I think it's because we have settled into a nice comfortable little rut here where I'm really leading a fairly lazy life.  Once the chips hit the fan then it's all going to get very stressful again with tons of stuff to organise; huge numbers of decisions to be made on redecorating, new furniture, expenditure; having to find trademen and get work done, etc. etc.  I know there is going to be conflict between wanting to do a lot of redecorating and re-jigging of the interiors at the same time as we need to fill them up with all our stuff currently in storage.  I foresee a lot of furniture moving in my future.

Meanwhile, here in La-la Land, I finished another square for my GAA Afghan.  This one is the Georgia Vincent square which is knit from the outside in.  It seemed to go really quickly, I think because the chart is a diminishing pie wedge so you feel like you are really making progress, as opposed to just knitting the same charts over and over until a square is big enough.

I've now started the Jay Campbell square which is knit the same way, from the outside in.  Also this week I have started knitting the Sirdar t-shirt in a horrible-to-knit giant loop textured pattern, and a thin scarf in horrible-to-knit-with but gorgeous boucle mohair/silk.

On the Fimo front, I got a bit bored with vegetables and decided to have a go at making things that I've seen in Youtube tutorials.  This is my version of hotdogs from a video by Sugarcharmshop.

And I also tried her pancake tutorial.  They are on homemade plates which didn't come out as well.

Today we were at Dunelm Mills (a homewares shop) and I found these cute ceramic button jars which I thought you might enjoy.  They were a good price: £3.99 for the small and £4.99 for the large.

We visited a few other furniture stores and enjoyed windowshopping for potential buys for our new house.  We have a lot of furniture to buy - partly because it is a bigger house but mainly because we have very little furniture.  The furniture we do have is mostly cheap end stuff from Ikea.  For the  new house we are planning to buy furniture made out of Real Wood!  Just like grown-ups have!

We also stopped into an Oxfam charity bookshop where I found this cute card which made me laugh.  I'm going to send it to a friend who also knits.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Hooray, a long weekend!

It's been a lovely week because I only had to work two days and then we were into the long Easter weekend. Unlike the sorry thousands of people I saw queuing at London St Pancras station on Thursday night (five hour queues for Eurostar that filled up the entire lower concourse, unbelievable), we aren't planning to go away.

Instead we have a number of small indulgences planned.  Yesterday we drove over to the RSPB sanctuary in Sandy to enjoy the English spring tradition of a walk in a bluebell wood. The bluebells were in full swing, and there were still some daffodils in the mix although they were fading.  The temperature is about 15 C so it's warm in the sun but still fairly nippy when it's cloudy.

On the way back we stopped in the attractive market town of Kimbolton for lunch: I had homemade quiche which was very tasty.  We also picked up some fresh scallops from a fishmonger's van which we had wrapped in bacon for supper - yummy!  In the afternoon we went to look at a house just for the sake of comparison - it was really big and nicely done inside, but near a noisy road and had no character. Still interesting to look at though.

Today we are going to a tea room for a special Easter-themed afternoon tea, with sandwiches, Simnel cake, easter choc and of course plenty of tea.  Tomorrow we are going to the collectors' fair in Lamport followed by roast lamb for supper, and Monday we are packing DS up to take him back to Oxford where we will likely enjoy a visit to a museum and a few bookshops.

This week's activities

I did some more Fimo earlier in the week.  First I had a go at some Aubergines (eggplant) which came out fairly well.

Then I tried my hand at a more complex cane for Tomatoes, including the internal seeds.  This resulted in enough canes to make thousands of tomatoes, but I only cut up part of one into slices for now.  I can use them in sandwiches or salads.

I finished knitting my Slouchy Hat  from the Semi-Sweet Hat pattern by Erica Jackofsky in Elizabeth Lovold Silky Wool. I reduced the stitches to knit it fairly snugly because I thought the yarn might relax once washed, but it has surprised me by staying fairly taut. I showed this off at knitting group to lukewarm interest - I think because they don't realise the finer points like I did a provisional cast-on to pick up the hem, followed by a half-inch of linen stitch to hold it snugly to the head, and I knit it on 2.25mm needles for a really smooth fabric. I guess it just looks like a hat  :)

I also finished another square for my GAA Afghan.  This is the Dana Hurt square which is another big one.  These squares are never going to block to all the same size.  I think I will have to pick an average size and hope for the best.  Nine more to go.  The Dana Hurt square was fairly straightforward apart from you have to pattern the lace columns on the WS as well.  I had to draw out a couple of one row charts to remind me what I needed to do on that column on both WS and RS rows.

I found a ball of James C Brett Merino at my LYS which was a good match for my Crochet Slippers so I was able to finish them.  These are the 29-210-36 Room Shoes from Pierrot yarns, a Japanese pattern that is available free on Ravelry in translation.  I am a very poor crocheter so it took me quite a while to get these right, and I never did figure out the flowers properly for the band.  I like how the increases and decreases shape the slipper to hug the foot. I had to add an extra row to the slipper because I think my feet are a lot bigger than Japanese feet. They're not incredibly warm due to the mesh structure of crochet but they're about right for this time of year, particularly paired with some hand-knit socks.

I've knit a couple of tension squares getting ready for some new projects.  The darker blue is Regia Silk fingering weight for the Low Tide vest from Tin Can Knits, and the lighter blue is some Sirdar Breeze for a summer drop-stitch t-shirt.


Although I have successfully (and temporarily) whittled down my number of knitting UFOs, I was finding it annoying having to peek into every tote bag to work out what project was in which bag.  Totebags are good for travelling with knitting but for home use I wanted something I could see into.  After some trawling around on the internet, I found these shoe bags on Amazon UK, shipping from China.  They were very reasonable at £2.59 each and the quality is better than I expected.  They will hold small and medium size projects easily and I can see what's in them without having to open them.  I got three pink ones and three brown ones.

Happy Easter everyone!  I'm going to ignore my diet and tuck into a nice chocolate egg tomorrow -woo hoo!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Best shipping note ever, and some finishes

Being weak of will when it comes to shiny new things demonstrated by talented crafts people, I succumbed to ordering some fabric and a template from the Missouri Star Quilt Company after watching the lovely Jenny Doan in a free three-part interview filmed as part of the 'Quilt with the Stars' series. I love Jenny's Youtube video tutorials so enjoyed watching the interview and learning more about Jenny and her family.

My order generated the best shipping despatch confirmation ever:

Thanks for your order at the Missouri Star Quilt Company!
We just want to let you know that your quilting supplies have been meticulously gathered, placed on a red velvet pillow, and delicately escorted by 25 of our finest employees to our shipping department. Our master shipper has dutifully performed his craft, lovingly packing your order in the finest materials known to man.
Our team gathered to give your package the proper send-off it deserved. Tears of joy were shed, speeches were given, and there was even a farewell cake. Following the festivities, the whole group, led by our local high school marching band playing the song Leaving on a Jet Plane, ushered your order through downtown Hamilton, Missouri. No, we don't own a Jet Plane, but your package was placed in the care of a roguishly handsome man who is riding in a majestic horse-drawn carriage which is on its way to your home as you read this.
Although the products you've ordered will be sorely missed here at MSQC, we are overjoyed that they have found a good home. Take care of them, treasure them, and when you make something beautiful with them, make sure you share it with us on facebook, twitter, or just send us an email, we love to see what you make!.
*Note the above is a slight dramatization of what actually happened with your order, but seriously we did ship it, and here is the tracking info:

How wonderful is that? It deserves to go viral. I will probably get hammered by Customs for daring to order abroad but I almost don't care when the customer service is that lovely.
Finishing off stuff
Having somewhat alarmed myself last week when I bagged up knitting projects and discovered I had 10 of them, I have made a push the past week to finish stuff off.

At long last, I have finished the Haapsalu Shawl, which came close to getting frogged last year after a long hibernation since its start in 2010.  I was able to knit both borders to five eyelets in depth, and spent a morning carefully sewing them on.  Blocking was a bit complicated, because after blocking the shawl the normal way, the book then instructs you to pick up all the edge stitches onto needles, then wet them to coax them to stand out in nice loops.  Once that has dried, it's messed up your scallops a bit so you have to go along and pick up loops on each scallop and tug them to shape.  Hopefully I will never have to wash it again.

I'm not really sure when I am going to wear it as it is rather over the top for the office, but it feels lovely and soft and fuzzy.
I also finished my Desolation of Smaug Mystery Knitalong from the Lord of the Rings group on Ravelry.  This was a simpler shawl than last year's 'The Unexpected Journey' and personally I don't feel the design is nearly as successful, but I still really enjoyed knitting it and participating in the group to see what everyone else was doing.  I also liked the colourful Auracania Ranco Multy yarn.  This shawl is much easier to wear and has already been on a few days out.

I finally stopped procrastinating and finished the Opium Cardigan which was all done apart from the buttonhole band on one side.  I had a few fun and games trying to do buttonholes in this slubby yarn, which I eventually overcame by actually stitching around each buttonhole with some spare yarn to stop them gaping open.  However, when I took the pictures I noticed that I have 'bald' patches on each shoulder where the yarn pooled, so I am going to disguise those by darning in some thicker slubs. This is definitely one that I can wear to the office.

I also finished the textured beanie hat by Jane Burns from Simply Knitting April 2014 which I started as a portable project for SkipNorth using the same Rowan Wool Aran yarn as the Fetchings that I also knit that weekend.  Speaking of the Fetchings, after wearing them a few times I found I didn't like how they gaped open and let cold air in, and they didn't seem to come high enough on my hand.  I had some of the yarn left over, so I unpicked the binding, knit another cable repeat and four rows of k1,p1 ribbing to bring them higher on my hand.  They're much better now. I really like the Rowan aran, it is robust without being scratchy, really shows the texture, and softens slightly when washed.

I decided to knit the second pair of Fingerless Gloves for DS right away, while the pattern mods were fresh in my memory.  I've finished one and am just up the fingers on the second one.  I knit a little cable twist on the first one to differentiate them from DH's gloves.  But I forgot to do that on the second glove so I need to drop down some stitches and cable them back up before I start knitting fingers.
Also this week, though it won't be a 'finish' for a long time, I've made an effort to stitch down some more of the applique on my Hawaiian Applique Quilt.  I feel guilty that it's been sitting there almost untouched for months when really it should be a great project to do while we're renting.  However, I find it much easier to do when I've got some natural daylight which doesn't really happen on work days. 
I finished crocheting the first crochet slipper that I started on the SkipNorth weekend and have done half of the second slipper but annoyingly I've run out of yarn.  I need to mailorder another ball of the Drops Karisma before I can finish.
That's about it this week.  We are enjoying some lovely Spring weather. Today we went out for a drive to a couple more lovely Northamptonshire villages in the morning, then dragged DS out for a walk to a nearby country park after lunch. In the morning we stumbled across a gorgeous English country house called Lamport Hall and saw signs for a Collectors Fair they are having on the Easter weekend.  So we'll probably head back for that next weekend, to see if we can pick up anything nice.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Four months and counting

Suddenly it's April and we've been in our rented house for four months now.  Still no ETA on the new house but the owners have found somewhere and had a successful survey, and they tell me they are pushing to move by the end of May.  Frustratingly, our own solicitor who was an uber-efficient hero during our own protracted sale, has dropped off the radar and is not responding to email or phone messages for the last two months.  I did manage to speak to her two weeks ago and she said she's been crazy busy but would review our file, but since then no word.  I left two messages on Friday which she didn't return, I will try again next week.  I don't want to be the ones who hold up the chain because of a slow solicitor, it would just be too ironic after that happened to us before Christmas!

DH's blood test was negative which is a relief, but my elderly friend has been moved to a nursing home and isn't doing well at all which is very sad.  I took her a quilt when I visited, she doesn't really need it at this time of year but it brightens up the room and gives her something to look at. It's funny that we spend so long making these quilts - hours of choosing fabric and cutting it out, piecing it together, quilting it, binding it - storing up time like putting pennies in a piggy bank, not necessarily knowing how or when we are going to 'spend' the outcome.  When I was making the quilt a couple of years ago, I didn't know it would be coming with me to a completely new town, or end up being given to a friend who, at the time I was making it, was pretty healthy for her age.

On the train there and back, I finished DH's gloves.  He's quite pleased with them.  DS, who initially was not interested when I offered to make him a pair, has now realised they would keep his hands warm when he is playing video games in his cold college room, so he would like a pair too for next winter. I've still got plenty of this yarn (from the p/hop swap) so I will get started.

I did a bit more Fimo miniature food this week. I made up a bunch more parsnips and did a better job on the second batch than the ones I made at Miniatura.  I made some lemons, and some yellow and orange peppers.  I've also included in the picture some cheese boards I made a few weeks ago and forgot to blog.

The second day I made up some carrots using similar techniques to the parsnips, and some potatoes.  I'm getting a bit better at modelling in Fimo but it does make my fingers feel like huge clumsy sausages.  I spend as much time crushing detail accidentally as I do sculpting it in the first place.

I got fed up with my pile of knitting UFOs on the sofa because they were all getting tangled up with each other.  So I spent a couple of hours one morning going through the pile, bagging up all the projects (10 of them!), and also going through my backup pile hidden behind a door - putting away the dregs of old projects, putting needles back where they go etc.  It's a lot tidier than it all was but I have ordered some shoe bags with a clear vinyl lid from Amazon (they were cheap) because I want to be able to see what's in each bag.  Several projects are almost finished so it won't be 10 for long - the final clue is out for the Desolation of Smaug shawl, I've finished DH's gloves, I just need to do a button band for the Opium cardigan, and I've done all the knitting for the Haapsalu shawl and just need to sew on the borders.  Then I can start some of the projects waiting in the wings:  thrummed slippers, the Lush cardigan, and my next shawl!

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