Sunday, 26 October 2014

Just because you're paranoid...

... doesn't mean they're not out to get you.  I remember reading that saying a few decades ago, and it has come back to my mind this week.

I am quite a risk-averse person and it has been with some trepidation that we have run up a fairly significant credit card bill to finish off the house renovations after our savings ran out. I know people do it all the time, but I have always paid my bills off in full every month so it really went against the grain. But the advice online was that was the better option as opposed to taking out a very small mortgage or an unsecured loan, and as we are both working then we should have been able to gradually pay it off over the next six months.

Obviously someone up there decided my financial affrontery should be punished, because on Monday my boss called me at home on my non-working day to inform me that I am now at risk of redundancy.  It was quite a shock, and I'm glad I was at home so that I could have a cup of tea and come to terms with the news gradually.  Our company has been in financial trouble for the past year, with a few profits warnings, but suddenly without any warning they have decided to drastically cut down on central overheads which includes my team.  Nine of us are at risk. They've restructured the team organigram and are spinning out a lot of BS about how we are all in a 'pool' and will be considered equally for the remaining five jobs. But since I don't have the experience to do significant parts of those jobs, and I am part-time, I am not optimistic.  At least we don't have to go through the farce of re-applying and interviewing - they are going to score us using criteria blah blah blah [in other words, keep whom they want and let go the rest]. I should find out in the next few weeks what is happening to me specifically, and the unlucky ones will be leaving during December.  Merry Christmas.  Why is it that I always seem to end up jobhunting in the deadest months of the years in terms of the job market?

Anyway.  Life will go on, and at least DH still has a job (touch wood).

House stuff 

Today we cleared everything out of the upper and lower hallways, in preparation for the painter who is coming tomorrow for his last stint.  After I blog I will go and sand down the filler I applied over various blemishes on the walls.

We also collected a couple of pieces of furniture yesterday which had been with a restorer for the last three months.  Not because they needed huge amounts of work, but just because he has a big backlog and is a bit of a perfectionist.  So after three months of perching at a garden table in the corner of my room, I finally have back the dressing table that I bought in July when we hired the van to buy our haul of antiques.  Isn't it nice?  All freshly re-polished. Very Downton Abbey.

I've also taken delivery of the fabric I have chosen for the blinds in my room.  It is a reprint from the William Morris archives, by Sanderson, of a fabric called 'Tangley'.  So pretty, and I was able to find a roll end at half price on eBay.  But now I feel like I can't afford to have it made up into Roman blinds because of the job situation.  I did look into making them myself, but just to buy all the lining, interlining, chain drive etc. was about 3/4 of the price of having someone else make them.

Last Sunday when I still had a job, we went over to IKEA in Milton Keynes to pick up a cheap bookcase for my knitting room to house all my knitting books and some of my magazine collection.  We also picked up two desk-top units to sit on my desk and provide storage.  We put the units together in the evenings this week, then Friday night we screwed the two desk units on top of each other and on top of my desk.  I still need to figure out how to run the power cables for my PC and I've sent off for a longer monitor cable because my current one won't stretch far enough.  There are several shelves to fit into the units which aren't in yet until I drill the cable holes.  Normally you would only have one desk top unit, but our ceilings are so high that it made sense to have two units.

Craft stuff

I was on a training course on Thursday (booked several months ago) at the Business Design Centre in Islington, conveniently near to Loop, one of London's best knitting shops.  I was able to dash out at lunchtime and have a quick browse.  Nothing is very cheap in that shop, but they do stock lots of yarns that I've only heard of on American podcasts.  I decided to treat myself to a special skein of 'Socks that Rock' fingering yarn, a brand that I have frequently heard praised  on podcasts.  At home I spent some time looking for a contrast yarn to pair it with, and then on Ravelry to find a two-colour shawl.  I've decided to try 'Itineris', a modern striped shawl, although I'm a bit worried that my yarns don't contrast sufficiently.

While I was moving knitting books around and trying to tidy up a bit in the knitting room, I came across some novelty yarn I bought on holiday in Turkey.  It's a single bulky roving with a strand of glittery braid wrapped loosely around it, and it really called to my inner Barbie Princess.  I dug out my Ann Budd book of basic patterns and whipped out a pair of mittens this week, and I've also cast on for a beanie hat to go with them. The braid is a bit scratchy so I wouldn't be able to wear this around my neck, but hands and head are fine.

Also on Thursday on the course day, I found a small branch of The Book Warehouse, which is the discount chain that I always did well at for knitting books at their bigger branch in Waterloo.  I popped in and found a great fair isle pattern book quite cheaply called 'Colourworks Knitting' by Susan Anderson-Freed.  It is full of patterns for hats and gloves, many modified from Sanqhuar traditional patterns.  I particularly liked the patterns for fair isle tams, which I might have a go at as I still have a fair bit of Jamieson & Smith 2ply jumper weight in my stash.

Sophie, I couldn't respond to your comment directly because your Blogger profile is set to 'no reply' but my Folksy shop has lapsed because I didn't renew the listings while we were moving house.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Things you don't want to hear

Things you don't want to hear:

1) At 8am on a Sunday when you thought you were having a lie-in: the rumble of a huge lorry parking outside your house followed by several minutes of metal crashing together, men shouting, and the clomp of boots outside your walls as they scale the scaffolding.  Yes, the scaffolders apparently do work on a Sunday.

2) A sudden loud shout of alarm outside, followed by hoots of laughter and a lot of whooping - strongly suggesting that something or somebody has had a near miss as the scaffolding is dismantled. Also that burly scaffolders are in fact little boys playing with giant Meccano.

3) Multiple bangs coming from the ground and wall outside your sewing room as large heavy things apparently rain down from the rapidly disappearing scaffolding. Thankfully there are no windows on that side to break.

Yes, our scaffolding is suddenly almost gone. I phoned on Friday expecting to nag them, only to be told they were coming to get it on Saturday.  They took about a third of it down and we expected them back on Monday to continue the work.  They must have needed the kit badly, because instead they showed up this morning. I imagine we weren't the only ones to be woken on our street, the neighbours probably hate us now.

But suddenly you can see our house!  It had almost become normal to have the house obscured, every window covered in tubing, and every room shaded.  Now the scaffolding is gone except a bit at the back and every room seems brighter and lighter as the sun floods in again. You can see what the newly-spruced up house looks like from the street: gleaming white woodwork, our nice new black aluminium guttering, the areas of repointing which will blend in more once they get weathered.  Strangely enough the house looks bigger without the scaffolding.

Meanwhile inside, we now have a nice Georgian Blue lounge, with white wood trim.  The picture rail looks fine - you can see it is wonky if you study it, but at first glance you wouldn't notice.

On Monday, while the painter was working away in the lounge (he sings while he's working, it's quite cute), I undertook the mammoth task of unwrapping all my quilt 'sausages' which had safely stored my quilts for 18 months.  Long time readers may remember that I rolled the quilts around foam 'pool noodles' used for swimming aids, and wrapped them up in clean sheets tied at the ends like a christmas cracker.  The sausages stood on end in the storage crate for over a year, then in my closet for a few months.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but it seems to have worked brilliantly.  The older quilts, which are more drapey and more evenly quilted, look as fresh as when I packed them.  Newer quilts, and those that aren't fully quilted, did show some crease lines but not too badly.  It took me about three hours but I opened them all up and spread them out on DS's bed now that he is gone to Uni.  I photographed each one and ended up with over 60 photos!  I have too many quilts. And this isn't even all of them.

I actually felt increasingly depressed as I unwrapped the output of almost 20 years of quilting.  I used to love making them, but what do you do with them all?  We have multiple bed quilts for each bed, I've given quilts to everyone I know who wants one, I tried selling via Folksy (like etsy) without much success, most of the quilts have too much work in them to just randomly give to charity although I have donated some to disaster reliefs but they obviously don't want wall hangings. In our old house, I had a lot of them hanging on the walls but that won't work as well in our new, period-style house.  Also my tastes have changed and I no longer love some of them as much as I used to.

So I decided I have to do something, and I've booked a table at a local craft fair in December, to see if I can unload some of them to people who want them, and make a bit of money in the process.  I've researched a lot of 'tips for selling at craft fairs' to learn how to do it. I think pricing is going to be a problem.  Even if I put a realistic charge to cover materials, I don't think they would sell here because it's not a very wealthy area. At the end of the day, I just want them to go to good homes so I think I will have to price them pretty cheaply.  I was hoping DH could come and help but that's the day we have to pick DS up from university of course, so I will be on my own. I will need to do a lot of work to get ready:  pricing, removing wordy quilt labels, thinking about display stands etc.

Gatwick Doll House Have a Go day

Yesterday I made a long trek (2.5 hours) by train down from Northamptonshire to Horley near Gatwick Airport, to attend the Gatwick Doll House Club 'Have a Go' day. I found out about it in the dollshouse magazines, and it sounded like fun. I haven't dollshoused in a long time and I missed it.  It was a well organised day, held in a medium-sized church hall.  There was a tombola (I won a wardrobe), an exhibition, several second-hand sales tables, and almost a dozen 'have a go' tables where for a small fee you could buy and assemble a simple kit.  The kits weren't anything innovative but then they had to be simple to keep the costs and time required to a minimum.

I made some clothespegs, an aspidistra plant (which got a bit squashed on the way home), and a lavender plant. I started to make a boxed Monopoly set but the only tool provided was some children's scissors so I decided to bring that kit home to do properly with a scalpel and straight edge. It felt really nice to be making things again and the ladies were all very friendly.

Most of the secondhand products were lower-end quality, but I did pick up some useful things including some nice floral arrangements.

There was also a refreshments window with lovely cake to eat, then I had a look around the exhibition.  I think a lot of the displays were from past club projects. There were some more unusual ideas for vignettes (a car boot sale laid out around a vehicle; a motorcycle repair shop; an 'opposites' book end theme (life/death, youth/old age); and various shops and shallow houses.  The best by far was a gorgeous 40s living room set inside a roombox fashioned from a working 40s-style reproduction radio, which was actually playing 40s songs!  With the lighting and the flickering fire, you really felt like you were in the era.

There was also a prolifically stocked miniature knitting stall.

And some sewing was done

I even did some sewing this week, putting together the piped cushions.  Despite having read several tutorials, I still managed to make a few boo-boos but they look alright from a distance.  The dark red cushions came out too small for the cushions, and the bolsters were a complete screw up because I accidentally sewed the ends together instead of the sides.  I didn't realise my mistake until I put the cushions in and found the covers were six inches too long, and too skinny for the cushions.  I've stuffed the empty ends for this photo, and then today I unpicked one end and shortened them by six inches to fit better. I didn't make the window seat cushion, I farmed that out to a local upholsterer.

And finally, I've just got a couple more rows and I will be casting off the Marian Tabler square of the Great American Aran Afghan.  I think this is square 15 of 20, but the only ones left are the more challenging squares now, so it will be a while before I can start sewing them together.  Then there will be the border to knit.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Aches and pains

As I sit here, I am continuing to stiffen up all over after a full day of shifting furniture out of the lounge to get it ready for painting, followed by several intensive hours of garden clearing. I've also got some long deep scratches on my thigh and both arms from a climbing rose that fought back when I took down the rusty eyesore arch it was trying to scramble up.  Hopefully all the exercise has cancelled out the pack of Percy Pig sweets I scoffed down yesterday when I was feeling sorry for myself due to a cold that won't go away and the complete tedium of my work day.

Earlier in the week, I pried off part of the picture rail in the lounge, wrecking the wall in the process.  The young kitchen fitters we had paid to put it up there had done a great job of making the new rail level all the way around the room.  Unfortunately the room itself is not at all level, and thus the picture rail was not parallel to the ceiling.  One corner was particularly bad, out by about 1.5" which was really bugging me and I was worried that once it gets painted white, and the walls get painted the blue I have chosen, that the crookedness would look even worse.  So I pried it off, then spent several hours making the wall good, then put the rail back a little bit higher to split the difference of the crookedness.  It looks better, still wonky but an acceptable wonkiness.  The lounge gets painted from Monday, so by Monday night I should be able to see if I can live with a wonky white picture rail, or if it gets painted blue as well to camouflage the differences.

Commuter knitting this week has been a second Shwook Hat using some different colours of Jamieson & Smith jumper weight wool from my stash.  It's come out with quite a 50s vintage vibe, although now that it's finished I kind of wish I had chosen a less vibrant yellow.  Plus for some reason this hat has come out longer than the first one, so fits more like a beret.  Still really enjoyed knitting it and am somewhat tempted to knit a third one in different colours again, except that I really don't need any more knitted hats!

Television knitting has been the Shwook but also I'm almost finished my latest GAAA Square.  I've done the patterned middle, just decreasing for the border and then it will be finished.

I even used my new sewing room this week, despite it being complete chaos.  I tried out my new  giant ironing station to iron some fabric yardage and it worked great, so much easier than trying to wrestle it onto a normal ironing board.  I've cut out fabric for six cushions (2 big, 2 small, and 2 bolsters) which will go on our window seat. I also cut bias and made piping cord for each cushion.  Then I pulled out my overlocker/serger to finish the edges but it doesn't want to play. At some point over the past year, the foot pedal decided to die or short out or something. So the serger will sew for a few inches and then stop and hum, then sew another inch, then stop.  I decided I too needed to stop at that point.  Might try again tomorrow.  Also, sewing on my Janome 6500 felt like driving a tank after only having the little Singer Featherweight machine over the past year.  My new sewing desk is working well, even without having a plexiglas insert to cover the hole. It felt good to be working with fabric again.

My pegboard fittings arrived.  Now I just need to get some pegboard one weekend.

In other house news, our guttering and roof have finally been done, so I was able to phone the scaffolding company on Friday to tell them we are finished with the scaffolding.  However, their response was that they don't know when they can come as they are incredibly busy right now.  So DH isn't getting his driveway back any time soon, but at least we don't have to pay any further hire charges for the scaffolding.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Unpacking at long last

We've spent a lot of time the past week unpacking boxes. A lot of the stuff we are unpacking went into storage 18 months ago, so there have been some nice surprises as old friends emerge.  There has also been a lot of "why on earth...", "remember this?",  and "how can we have so much stuff!" as we struggle to find new homes for things that fit in a different house.  Obviously we are going to have to do a lot of weeding out.  Friday night I went through all my clothes and ended up filling two big bin bags with things that don't fit me any longer now that I've lost weight, things I've never really worn, things I made that just didn't work out, things that are too dated etc.  It felt rather liberating but now I need to do some shopping, particularly for trousers.  I might go down to Oxford Street in London on one of my days off.

Most of the stuff that belongs in my craft rooms is now in them, but still completely disorganised.  Today we went to a shop in another town that had a lot of storage boxes, so I bought two sets of large, medium and small boxes for my sewing room in a pretty blue colourway.  I will use these for all my haberdashery, interfacing etc.

I want to have pegboard on the wall of the sewing room to hang all my tools, and it has been frustrating to discover that pegboard is really hard to find in the UK.  It is known as 'perforated hardboard' here, and none of the big DIY chains seem to stock it.  You can buy it online, but delivery costs more than the pegboard.  A number of local timber merchants stock it in the Southwest, and in the Manchester area, neither of which are anywhere near me.  After working my way through about 30 results in Google, I have eventually found a retailer in St Neots, about 40 minutes from me, which says they have it.  Then I tried to order the fittings.  On Pinterest there are all these American pictures of wonderful pegboard fittings to hold practically anything.  In the UK, only a handful of shopfitting sites sell a very limited range of two styles of hook, and some of them want to sell the hooks in packs of 100!  I ended up ordering some assorted hooks from an American eBayer who sends internationally.  I'll wait for those to come before trying to buy the pegboard because I need to get the right hole spacing.  The cute bins that fit on pegboard don't seem to be available here either, but I've pinched an idea from Pinterest which is to hang a little metal sand pail from a hook, to stash things like rotary cutters etc. in. I was able to order the little metal pails from a catering company who sell them to restaurants to serve chips in.

I keep finding more yarn tucked into the top of other boxes as extra padding.  I am trying to win a smaller IKEA bookcase on eBay to move my knitting books into, then I can use more of the existing shelving for yarn storage.  I so do not need to buy any more yarn for a very long time...

The painter is back tomorrow to work on another bedroom, so we had to empty that all out this weekend.  Luckily DS has now gone back to Oxford, so we have his room to stash things in.  The house seems a bit empty without him though.

I've been a knitting fiend this week as the Shwook Hat (a free download for Shetland Wool Week) has turned out to be complete potato chip knitting, keeping me enthralled all the way from home to London on my daily commute, tempting me in the evenings, and keeping me busy in the car.   I'm quite pleased with the end result - so much so that I have cast on again to knit a second one in different colours of Jamieson & Smith's jumperweight from my stash.

In other hobby news, I picked up my new-to-me Proxxon table saw today, on the way to Oxford.  Eventually I hope to set up a workshop in the cellar where this will have pride of place for my dollshouse crafting.

I've developed a bit of a bad eBay habit, ogling the antique auctions when I should be working.  I had been idly looking for something to put our small and seldom used collection of liquor into, when I stumbled across this cocktail cabinet which has now found a home in our dining room. When closed up, it looks like a generic vintage cabinet.  When open, it looks rather fun and I look forward to a time when I have the leisure to mix cocktails.

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