Sunday, 28 September 2014

A sewing room is born!

It's still a complete mess, but I have a sewing room!  DH kindly brought home the 40cm wide IKEA bookcase to complete the U-bend of my fabric storage nook, so after a few more hours of assembling eBay-purchased bookcases and screwing them together, I have this:

It's like a walk-in fabric closet, built in to one corner of the room.  As well as being efficient storage, it protects the fabric from the damaging light from the window.  The 'U' is created by two corner units sandwiching the new 40cm-wide bookcase.  The back faces into the room, and will be my design wall once I get it fitted up with insulation foam covered in flannel.

As you can see, I have started unpacking the 27 boxes marked 'Fabric'.  I'm bunging it on shelves almost at random to start with, just trying to keep colours and collections together.  I'm rediscovering all sorts of things I'd forgotten I had, plus a few surprises (why do I have an entire box of crumpled fabric scraps??).

The other thing I've built which I'm really pleased about is an ironing station made out of some of the kitchen cabinets that came out of our old kitchen.  I screwed them together, and then added a chipboard top bought cheaply at B&Q (it's supposed to be used for sub-floors and is 22mm thick). I padded the chipboard with two layers of the felted wool fabric I bought several weeks ago at the re-enactor's historical fair, and then topped that with an old duvet cover, stapled to the underneath of the chipboard.  The result is a giant ironing board, deep enough to iron a half-width of yardage and long enough (75") to press most of a single quilt top, half at a time.  Plus there is all the kitchen cabinet storage underneath.  Currently however it is covered in unpacked stuff waiting for a home.

There are still loads of boxes waiting to be opened, which is a bit daunting, but you can see that it is going to be a sewing room now.  It's even got an official label on the door:


It's getting a bit nippier at night now, I think we might have to start putting the heating on soon.  But meanwhile my feet are toasty warm with my new slippers which I finished this week, using the Bergere de France slipper soles and some Iceland pure wool.

These were an easy knit but baffling to put together as the instructions are quite vague on how you are meant to sew them up.  I'm not sure I did it the right way but they are staying on my feet and feel quite cosy.

And I've succumbed to startitis, casting on for a fair isle hat by Hazel Tindall which is free to download for Shetland Wool Week here.  It's a very attractive pattern and I am going for the gaudy version in yellow, red and green.  There's also a KAL for it on Ravelry  during Shetland Wool Week.  I had a small stash of different colours of Jamieson & Smith jumper weight yarn left over from the fair isle vests I knit on the machine, so I didn't have to buy any yarn. I've been knitting on that while I watch my new favourite show 'Outlander', a TV version of the Diana Gabaldon books.

I had a coupon for Zazzle, the online art and customised clothing provider, so I had a t-shirt made up featuring a fun motto that I found online last year.  So true as well.

Hope you've all had a nice week too!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Keep calm and Yarn Crawl on

The title of the post was the motto on the t-shirts worn by our volunteer tour leaders yesterday on The Great London Yarn Crawl 2014.  It was a very pleasant day but quite exhausting, having left home at 7am, I returned home at 8:30pm and was in bed by 9:15 without even unpacking my goodies!

And there were lots of goodies to be had.  I was on team Blue Faced Leicester (BFL) and we started in Muswell Hill, meeting up at the excellent Owen's Cafe for a tea and (in my case) a big pastry.  The goody bags were handed out and it was a rather splendid haul, and we got given more at the after-party.

I am very grateful to all the sponsors who made the goody bag and raffle prizes possible.  Our bags included:

  • customised tote bag
  • Ball of Rowan Kid Classic coloured yarn (no ball band so don't know the name)
  • Mini skein of 'King of the Jungle' 100% Merino from Lioness Arts in colourway Iris
  • Great London Yarn Crawl badge
  • sachet of scentless Soak
  • Mini skein of 'The Rt Honourable Ronaldsay' from Countess Ablaze in colourway 'Radioactive Raspberry Jam' and a 10% off code
  • A mini skein from and a 10% off code
  • coupon for a free copy of the Clayoquot cardigan pattern from Tin Can Knits
  • Two bags of lovely beads and instructions for beading from Inspiration Knits, plus a 15% code
  • A tag to identify a handknitted item if lost, from Kettle Yarn Co, and a 10% code
  • a 10% discount code from Sharp Works
  • a 10% off code for the day from Wild and Woolly, plus a special offer on yarn
  • a complete pattern for a lacy shawl, Maighdean Mhara by Ruth Gardia-Alcantud
  • a little badge from Pom Pom magazine, who also sponsored the after party
In addition, you will see a badge from True Brit Knits, like a prefect's badge that says 'Knitter', which was kindly gifted to me by Macca on team BFL when she won it, as she already had one.

Our team started off at Fringe, a very stylish and welcoming shop where there was tea and pastries on offer except I was too full from pigging out at Owens.  Here I bought some more Knit Pro wooden tips in the 3-4mm range because those are the tips I use the most and never seem to have a free pair to use, plus I had snapped one by accidentally putting my weight on it getting up from the sofa.

Travel between shops was by public transport, so we strolled through to Alexandra Park to catch the bus on to Nest in Crouch End. Another stylish shop where I enjoyed fondling much yarn but didn't actually buy anything. We were ahead on time so we enjoyed 20 minutes or so of relaxed knitting in their comfy sofa area. Then we walked into Crouch End itself for lunch in a cafe. Half the team got served right away (luckily it was my half) and the other half waited for about 40 minutes for their food.  So after I had finished my lunch I strolled up and down the high street, never having been to Crouch End before.  It seems like an impressive bustling community and also I found an ice cream cafe for dessert.

Then we were on to Prick Your Finger in Bethnal Green, which I think was my favourite shop because they had the greatest percentage of unusual yarns and lovely things.  Unfortunately it was also all in the upper end of the price range so I didn't buy anything, but I quite enjoyed looking.  

Finally we ended up at Wild and Woolly, a very welcoming shop where there was again tea and cake on offer.  We were late and another group was early so it was quite crowded with both of us in there. During the lengthy wait for everyone to shop their fill, I succumbed to temptation and bought five balls of Louisa Harding 'Noema' in carnival colours (75% cotton, 20% acrylic, 5% polamide) with my 10% off coupon. I was thinking a shawl or scarf.

And while I was paying for those, I fell for the classic 'candy by the till' marketing ploy and started browsing through the basket of badges placed temptingly on the counter.  After I had laughed at several I realised I had to buy some of the ones that rang truest.

DH thinks the 'I get to knit, you get to live' is rather aggressive - I countered by suggesting I wear it to the in-laws on the next visit.

From the last shop, we made our way by train and tube back to King's Cross station for the after party in the parcel yard pub.  We had a whole large function room to ourselves, to house around 90 or 100 knitters.

As you can see, everyone was knitting, and also drinking and eating.  Then it was time for more goodies as door prizes were handed out to many people, a prize to the team who won the quiz (not ours), and the grand raffle prize.  I didn't win this year, but there was a certain amount of prize swapping going on at my table so I didn't feel left out.

All in all, a very good day.  Quite nice knitting all day on my Low Tide Cardigan, which while rather dull is perfect for bus knitting and knitting while waiting.  The only down side to the day was that there was a lot of waiting around, either for people to finish shopping, or go to the loo, or because they lost their ticket and had to go back to the shop, or because my season ticket got stuck in the turnstile, plus lots of waiting for buses and trains, etc.  Not the most efficient way to visit London's yarn shops but pleasant company while doing it - it's far nicer to fondle yarn in the company of fellow enthusiasts and talk knitting all day. I hadn't been to any of the four shops before as they are all out of central London.

Another knitty treat this week was my September Knitcrate shipment showing up.  As well as two skeins of indy dyer "A hundred ravens' 100% merino fingering weight in colours Raven's Wing and Mermaid's Tail, both squeezably scrumptious, and in a lovely gauze bag, it included two bubble gums (not in picture because we ate them immediately), a pattern code for Fleckle hat, cowl and mitts by Estella Haines, and a sturdy see-through knitting bag by Chicken Boots.

A final crafty treat this week was my order arriving from Sewing Online of 'Button It' products.  When I bought my sewing desk from them, they gave me a 10% off code so I went back to see what else they had and fell in love with the clever and well made 'Button It 'line of sewing baskets and accessories.  I ordered a present for m-i-l, a birthday present for me (not until next month) and this clever swiveling tripartite notions basket which I am using for knitting stuff.

House update

This week the study was painted, and then Thursday the kitchen fitter came and put together our 'poor man's fitted bookcase' from the secondhand IKEA units.  It doesn't bear close scrutiny, but I spent Friday night and all day today filling in nail holes, caulking gaps, sanding and varnishing, and it doesn't look too bad. If we ever win the lottery then we could get it done properly.  DH is busy unpacking boxes of books and is very happy at finally getting the library that he's always wanted.  There are two more bookcases to the right of the camera, on either side of the fireplace.  The wood stove that will go in this room was also delivered after being back ordered for a good month, but I need to get the installer in to hook it up.

We also went out today and ran ethernet cables from the window in the picture above, around the house to DS's room, up to the machine knitting room in the attic, and started off another one that will eventually go to my dollshouse room once the scaffolding is down.  It's much easier to nail cable to the house while the scaffolding is up, so even though I don't know if I will need wired-in internet in the loft, at least the cable is there if we need it.  Drilling through the window frame was a bit nervewracking but I managed to do it without cracking the glass panes in either room.  So tomorrow orTuesday I get to to try wiring up the ethernet cable to a jack that will be screwed to the window sill.  Then DS can plug in to the jack on his sill rather than the current arrangement where a 30m ethernet cable is permanently on the stairs running down and across the hall into the study where the router is.  I will also be able to move my office out of the dining room and back into the study - hurrah!

I haven't done anything more on my sewing room because I decided I need a 40cm wide IKEA bookcase for the bend of the U-shaped fabric storage area I am building, and DH needs to go pick that up after work this week.  The bookcase that I decided not to use is wider, and it's gone up to my machine knitting room so I will be able to finish unpacking my boxes this week of all my patterns and magazines.

It's starting to feel like a house!

Monday, 15 September 2014

Progress, and I have a sewing desk

We’re back in our kitchen, hurrah! It still feels exciting to open the big fridge after nine months of using the small temporary fridge, and to be able to cook in an oven. Our back-ordered doors should be installed today or tomorrow (at which time I will raise the issue of our cupboard knobs which are falling off their stems one by one). So far I am very happy with the appliances I chose, and the layout is working really well.

For a brief couple of days we also had a very elegant dining room, when our refurbished furniture arrived. Sadly the dining room and lounge are now full of the contents of the study, which is being painted this week. 

  So I am typing this on my PC set up temporarily on a garden table squeezed into the corner of the dining room, and I won’t be able to post it online until the painter is done for the day and I can connect the router up again in that room he is working in. Meanwhile the lounge has a little path leading through the boxes to the TV and to the sofa, and otherwise looks like a charity shop.  Once the study is painted, the kitchen fitter is coming back to do a job on the side for us and fit the secondhand IKEA bookcases I have been collecting for some time.  I have planned out a way to fit the motley collection in around the study windows and chimney breast to give the appearance of fitted bookcases, and we bought some pine moulding on the weekend to enhance the effect.  I’ve seen similar IKEA bookcase hacks online, although in America apparently you can buy something called ‘crown moulding’ fairly cheaply to give an elegant protruding effect at the top of the bookcase and that doesn’t seem to exist here in the UK.  I’ve had to settled for architrave, which is normally used to go around doorways.

And once the bookcases are fitted, we can move back into the study and also unpack lots of boxes of books which are currently in the cellar.  I don’t think they are all going to fit into the study, so priority will go to DH’s books as in theory it is his study even though my office is in the corner.  And in any case, my craft books are being dispersed to the various craft rooms around the house so that only leaves my shabby collection of Georgette Heyer novels, some childhood favourites like Swallows and Amazons, and various lurid urban fantasy series that I read nowadays, to go on the study shelves (probably hidden behind the door so they don’t lower the tone from DH’s serious books).

The electrician has been to fit various lights around the house, replacing the bare bulbs on a flex left behind by the previous owners.  This is one of the lights in my bedroom which gives an ‘edwardian’ effect.

And we picked up my ‘chaise longue’ although it is really more of a ‘chaise short’ because it is a mini size.  I’ve always wanted a chaise longue but it would make the bedroom feel really crowded, so when I spotted this mini version in a shop window that we drove past, I made DH turn the car around.  The original I spotted was in an awful modern purple fabric but they made me my own version using a more subtle chenille pattern.

We also have a new boiler, fitted by a very nice young man who left the utility room very tidy.  He was barely out the door on the second afternoon when I had DS helping me cart dozens of boxes out of the sewing room and into the utility room.  That freed up enough space in the sewing room to put together my flat pack sewing table with help from DH and DS.

Yes, I know it’s green, and very twee with the gingerbread trim.  But it was on sale (probably due to the colour) and way cheaper than a Horn cabinet.  I just need to get a Plexiglas insert cut to fit round my machine.  As well as being cheaper, I chose this desk because my sewing machine will be out all the time, so I don’t need a cabinet that folds away.  Also I can store my serger/overlocker inside one of the open pedestals, ready for use.  You can see my two charity shop bargain folding tables set up in front of the machine table (they need a clean). I can fold them down when I don’t need them, or put them up when I am machine quilting or working on a bigger piece, for extra support.

I had a delivery last week all the way from Hancock’s in America, after I was once again suckered by their amazing sale bargains.  The thing is, by the time I pay shipping and VAT (sales tax) and the handling charge the Post Office imposes, it works out to about a similar cost per yard as I would pay here.  I got three RJR jelly rolls, two different batiks for backgrounds in scrappy quilts, and some home dec fabric for cushions.

Commuter knitting this week continues to be the Low Tide Cardigan which is now back up to around four inches in the body for the third time.  I need to try it on again properly by threading half the stitches onto a spare needle, but I think it is a lot better with the extra stitches cast on under the arm.  TV knitting has been the Aran Sampler Sweater, which also suffered a few inches of un-knitting when I realised I hadn’t done enough chart repeats on the first set of patterns. 

  I’ve made a start on the Bergere de France slippers that will fit on the fleecy soles I blogged last week, using some Icelandic yarn that I bought in Paducah, Kentucky of all places, when I was last at the AQS show back c. 2009.  I would love to go again one day, but holidays seem a rather distant prospect while we are pouring all our money into this house.

It’s drizzling rain as I type this, it definitely feels like Autumn now and our two little trees in front of the house are starting to lose their leaves.  Although the temperature in London has gone up to highs in the low 20s, it is decidedly chilly as I walk to the station early in the morning.  I like this time of year, and am enjoying wearing a  lightweight knitted beanie hat and my fingerless gloves on my walk. Of course, there are still people on the platform wearing white shoes, bare legs with summer skirts, and no jackets, but then I am a total wuss

Monday, 8 September 2014

What a difference a paint job makes

This past Monday our painter started work on our kitchen and adjoining dining room.  Right from the start, just getting a coat of primer onto the many scars and patches and onto the new walls made the kitchen look better.  Then on Tuesday, when he put the first coat of wall paint onto both rooms, it was a total transformation.

The horrible dark green kitchen, full of scars from the rip-out and construction process, has suddenly transformed into a light-filled comfortable country kitchen.

And the poor dining room, which has been used for everything from a carpenter's workshop complete with 18-inch pile of shavings, through to a chimney fitters storeroom, is now an elegant room with a feature fireplace.

He finished on Friday and I snapped these pictures Friday night, before we moved our stuff back in on Saturday.

We've now been using the rooms for a few days, and it still feels strange to be able to go into them because they've been 'no go' zones belonging to builders and tradesmen almost since we moved in.  It's like suddenly the house got bigger by an extra two rooms.  It's surprisingly hard to choose homes for all our kitchen stuff, as the configuration is quite different from the kitchen we moved from, and the kitchen in the rental house. But it's been nice to unpack some of the kitchen stuff from storage even if some of it is still mysteriously missing (where are my cookie baking sheets and my rolling pin?)

Today the electrician has come to hang some nice lights around the house which should really start amping up the 'Victorian' feel.  And the heating company is downstairs for the next couple of days taking out our condemned boiler and fitting a new one.  The pointing work on the outside is finished, and I've successfully spliced the ethernet cable to my PC that he cut through with his grinder. And yesterday we picked up three more IKEA bookcases for my sewing room, so once the boiler installation is finished, we will use the utility room to stack all the boxes in from my sewing room.  Then I can start constructing my fabric storage/design wall nook.  But first we need to go and buy an electric drill because we cannot for the life of us find the box that has our own electric drill in it - it has obviously been put somewhere it shouldn't have been and right at the back / underneath something else.

Crafty stuff

I blocked my Shetland lace stitches shawl and I'm pretty pleased with it.  It's a nice size for wrapping around my neck as a neck warmer, and the gradiations of blue colour really show up now that it's blocked. I like this Zitron Filigram yarn, it's the second shawl I've knit with it and it has excellent stitch definition.  I did take some pics of the scarf round my neck but they came out too fuzzy to use. You can see in the picture I was also blocking my Ruched and Ruffled scarf at the same time.

The shawl is knit as a standard triangular shawl, increasing with a yarn over on either side of the centre stitch and at each end on RS rows, and a three stitch garter tab and three stitch garter top edge.  I started out in stockinette divided by a row of yarn overs, then switched to 'Mrs Hunter's Pattern' for about three inches (p57 of 'The magic of Shetland Lace Knitting' by Elizabeth Lovick) then switched to 'Broken Acre' (p 78) with a stockinette ground for a while, then finished up with several repeats of the border pattern from the Holden Shawlette (previously a free pattern) until it seemed big enough.

The fleece lined slipper soles I ordered from Bergere de France showed up along with the free offer of their pattern book which has several slipper and slipper sock patterns in it.  I just need to find something in my stash that is the equivalent weight and these will be very cosy for the winter.

It's not long now until the Great London Yarn Crawl, a one day tour of London's yarn and haberdashery shops on 20th September 2014.  There are several routes, I've chosen one with some longer travel times to get to some shops I haven't visited before.  I went on the inaugural Crawl last year and quite enjoyed it, and the after-party this year is very convenient for me as it's in a pub in the station I use to get home.

My last crafty news this week is that I've found a secondhand Proxxom FET Table Saw to buy, we will pick it up when we take DS back to Oxford as the owner lives near there.  I have seen them used on dollshouse courses I've been on, and although normal-sized table saws scare the bejeesus out of me (childhood trauma from having to hold up one end of a giant sheet of plywood while my Dad was feeding it though his monster machine), I am hoping this small modeller's saw will be of great use for my dollshouse hobby and indeed for lightweight DIY tasks like picture framing.

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