Saturday, 22 November 2014

Long live the pay cheque!

Yes, my Director took me to one side on Wednesday to deliver the welcome news that I am continuing in employment, and staying in the same job.  Whew! A big relief and we celebrated with some half-price champagne that night.  It removes the immediate worry of no pay cheque at all, leaving us with the ongoing worries of how to pay off our credit card balances while also paying for my outrageously expensive season train ticket renewal next month, DS's university living costs, Christmas, and the new shower we wanted to have installed in the spring. I think the shower might have to wait.

The trendy youngsters I work with asked the ritual question on Friday of 'what's everyone up to on the weekend?'  They of course were variously going out clubbing, drinking etc. and their faces were a picture when I delightedly rattled off all the craft fairs and vintage fairs that I had scheduled for Saturday.  Isn't it great being middle-aged, you can do what you like without worrying about being 'cool'.

Our first stop today was  the Post Office depot to pick up my final shipment from KnitCrate (sob). I've really enjoyed receiving them but it's a luxury which has to be cut while we are digging ourselves out of our credit hole.  The final shipment has two skeins of totally luscious Madeline Tosh Merino Light in exclusive colourway 'Cotton Candy', a Needle Keeper to hold circular needles safely, and some fruit sweets, along with a pattern by Amy Hendrix for 'Catherine's Shawl',

Then we were off to the DIY store to pick up a new fluorescent tube for the dollshouse workroom, as the existing light was flicking on and off every few seconds.  I've never had to buy a fluorescent light fixture before, what a palaver. This was our second attempt, the first bulb we bought was too short, this time we took the old bulb along. The old bulb is quite fat and now obsolete, but we found a skinnier tube that also fits the fixture. Sadly it too is flickering so now I need to try replacing the little spark plug thingie to see if that fixes the problem.

Then we headed off to Bedford, about a half hour drive, to the nearest place where I was able to source pegboard.  I ordered by telephone, and checked at least three times that he was ordering board with one-inch spaced holes because that's the size I need for the hooks I had already bought.  "yes, yes yes, it's one inch" etc.  Only it wasn't.  When we got it home, the hooks don't fit because the holes are 2cm apart rather than 2.54cm.  It's already been cut to size and I can't face driving all the way back there again, so I'm just going to drill a second hole where I need it for each hook.  A nuisance and removing the flexibility that pegboard is supposed to give you, but it will still work.  So I screwed a bunch of battens on the back and started painting it white.  This will go on the wall of the sewing room over my big ironing surface, and will hold lots of tools, quilting rulers etc. It's 90cm x 2m (about 3' x 6').

Heading back home, we stopped at a church craft fair which had about 20 tables (some of which were rather loosely interpreting the word 'craft'). In my previous post I talked briefly about people underpricing themselves at craft fairs.  Look what I picked up for £2.

These are handwoven, I think using wire, and are just so adorable.  They were also selling little christmas trees, little reindeer, and many exquisite necklaces.  Even if you are a total whiz at beadweaving, these earrings must still take, what, at least an hour each?

We also hit a Christmas street market (didn't buy anything but enjoyed looking at the continental food stalls) before ending up at a local shopping precinct where they were having a vintage fair that included a lot of crafty things.  I enjoyed looking but with the tight purse strings in mind, I managed to avoid temptation but we did have lunch from a gourmet burger and sausage stand (very nice) and tour around the newly expanded antique store there.

On the way home we hit one more church Christmas bazaar, which had a stall of sewn and patchwork crafts including this adorable little sewing kit that looks like a miniature handbag.  I've not seen one like this before.  It is stiffened with card, and held together by hair elastics secured onto buttons.  Inside is a little needle keeper, a little pin cushion, two elastics to hold scissors etc., and a little pocket.  I bought it for my m-i-l as a Christmas present for £7 (again, ridiculous price considering how long it must have taken to make this) and because I think she will enjoy showing it to her quilt group.

My crafty week

I'm getting on fairly well with the Itineris Shawl in my Socks that Rock yarn.  The stripes are pretty subtle - alternating six fat stripes with six thin stripes - but I think will show better once it is blocked and stretched out a bit.  I'm almost finished knitting the centre triangle, the next section is a vertical rectangle joined up along one side of the triangle.

I've finished the first Sirdar Ophelia Fingerless Mitt, I took them right out to the tips of the fingers because I usually find I am trying to tuck my fingers inside my fingerless mitts anyway for warmth. This way I can stay warm but still have my hands free for fishing out train tickets etc.

I started a really fun project from the Colourworks knitting book by Susan Anderson-Freed that I bought a while back at the discount book store.  It's a lovely fair-isle tam and I am once again using Jamieson & Smith 2ply jumperweight from my stash.  Love knitting fair isle with this tweedy yarn and seeing the colours blend and come together.

However, somewhat worryingly, I am getting a lot of soreness in my finger joints, particularly in my right hand.  I notice it most in the mornings when I wake up, when my hands are quite stiff and sore for a few minutes.  My mother suffered a lot with rheumatoid arthritis so I feel worried about my future when I use my hands for so many crafty things.  It may just be over-use with so many knitting projects on the go at the moment.  I need to do some research into remedies.  Any suggestions?

Monday, 17 November 2014

Apparently pictures make the home

Since the painting was completed on our inside rooms, we've basically been living in fear of the pristine empty walls with their perfect new coloured coatings.  Having worked so hard to fill in all the holes and imperfections, and to facilitate the painter in his work, it just seemed too irrevocable to make new holes in the walls to hang pictures, cabinets, shelves etc.

But after all the unpacking I did in the attic, the stack of pictures and other wall ornaments waiting to be allocated was growing. So Saturday I finally bought a bunch of picture hooks in different sizes, took a deep breath, and started hanging pictures around the house.  The first few nails I drove in did seem like sacrilege, but after the third or fourth picture it started to be fun.  Photos of DS in school, our engagement photo, my ancient uni diploma, some watercolours that used to be my grandmother's, artwork we've accumulated here and there, a few mirrors.

And suddenly the house feels like our home.  Much more than placing the furniture did, or the bookcases, or the new kitchen.  Putting up our own pictures seems to have put our own stamp on the place.

We also put up a crazy Victorian overmantle that I bought on eBay, which is enormous and takes full advantage of our tall ceilings.  Our dining room now looks like we should be selling tickets to National Trust punters.

I've done some more tidying in my sewing room and organising.  After ten years of slinging stuff randomly into piles, I'm trying to put like-with-like into labelled boxes like this.

Unfortunately the rest of the room still looks like this.

But I'm getting there.  In front of the telly these last few evenings, instead of knitting, I sorted through all my buttons and put the matching ones into little ziplock baggies.  As fun as it is to run one's fingers through the cool ripples of a full button box, I think it is going to be more practical to pick up a baggie with seven matched blue buttons when you need blue buttons.  Similarly, I have been winding two big boxes of tangled ribbons and trim neatly around split up pipe lagging cut into lengths to fit neatly into a storage box, trying to group the ribbons by colour or type.  Yes, this is my inner librarian coming to the fore.

Yesterday we tackled the last bastion of unopened boxes, and emptied out most of the future-dollshouse-room.  I opened each box in turn to check contents, and discovered the remainder of my yarn stash (yay!) lurking in several boxes where I had used it as padding.  Mostly sock yarn.  We still haven't found the big hammer which disappeared six weeks ago but we did come across the box of drills that we lost two months ago (and have since replaced). My plan now is to measure up the future-dollshouse-room and plot out how I can combine display shelves for my dollshouses with a working area and lots of storage.


I've almost finished my cross-stitch christmas cards, just need to finish backstitching on the robin then assemble them into cards.

A while before we moved, I started knitting a pair of fingerless mitts using recycled parcel string I was saving from our vegetable box deliveries from Abel & Cole.  The string is already recycled fibre and thus full of all different colours, like a luxury handspun or a Noro yarn.  I used the Russian Join to keep adding on more string.  The project got packed for a year but I kept saving string, so when I found it a month or so ago, I had lots of string to keep going with it.  As the resulting fabric is not elastic, the mitts came out a bit big for me but DH tried one on and pronounced that he liked them.  So I finished the other one this week and they are his now. Not bad for 'free' yarn that would have otherwise been thrown out.

I finished my Sirdar Ophelia Tam and am quite pleased with it, so soft. I've started knitting a pair of fingerless mitts for me to match the tam.  I'm making the pattern up, using the tam to judge how many stitches to cast on, and trying them on frequently to get the row count right.  The challenge is going to be to knit a second mitt that matches.  This yarn isn't going to be warm enough for deep winter, but will be lovely for autumn/spring.

Yesterday we went along to the November event of the craft fair that I will be doing in December.  It's the first time I'd been, and didn't know what to expect, but it was a reasonable size and looked fairly professional.  The prices were really low though, a woman selling knitted baby garments had priced most things at £3.95, and a woman selling fabric covered boxes (and I know how long those take to make) was selling them for around £5.  I was looking at how people had their tables laid out and how they were displaying their wares, trying to get ideas for how to display my quilts and wallhangings.  My quilts are quite big obviously which is going to be awkward.

And that's about it this week. Still no concrete news on the job, although they have said there won't be any enforced redundancies from the pool of people I am in so that sounds like good news.  We now move on to individual consultation meetings where we will be told what is specifically happening to us.  I am hoping to continue in my same job but they've told us that we could be placed in any of the available jobs in the pool.  Hopefully nobody else wants to do my job!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Fun with flat packs

Forget your Sudoku, throw out your Wordsearch booklets - if you really want to use up your time and puzzle your brain, then take apart ten different IKEA bookcases and wardrobes but don't label any of the pieces. The instructions of course are long gone. Then to make sure it's a puzzler, put all the pieces into storage for 18 months and have it all moved to a different house.  To make it slightly easier, the hardware for each piece is stored in an individual labelled container, but it's not guaranteed that all the hardware bits and bobs made it into the right container.  Then stand back and have fun, fun, fun!!!!


Eventually, after we'd emptied the boxes out of the cellar, we were left with flat pack pieces.  Long ones, short ones, white ones, birch veneered ones, ones that are too heavy for me to even lift... Some with dowels sticking out, some with the little metal turn-y thingies that stick fast when you are trying to get them out then fall out when you aren't looking. It is all beyond the ken of DH who doesn't even remember owning half of the original structures, much less what they looked like.

On Monday and Tuesday this week, I sifted through the stacks of pieces and made a start. My first choice was the shelves on wheels which used to hold my quilt projects in my old bedroom - because I had painted it white myself so it was relatively easy to identify the pieces and pull them out of the piles of wood. I put that together, and we carried it up to the attic where it is now holding board games and photo albums.  Next I put together two of the narrow brown shelves that used to be in my quilt closet holding my fabric storage plastic crates - those also went up to the attic where they are now holding wellies, sleeping bags and other things we might conceivably need to get our hands on.  This facilitated me unpacking a lot of boxes that were in the attic and redistributing their contents. [I will confess this included some old baby clothes and a lot of cooing and reminiscing about how small DS used to be, and how I used to make a lot of his baby clothes - not very well I may add].

This reduced the stack of wood in the cellar, so today we moved a lot of big pieces around and found all the pieces for the shelved wardrobe which used to stand next to my bed and hold most of my quilt collection.  We hauled all the pieces up three flights of stairs to the attic (who needs the gymn?) and put that together this afternoon.  My plan is put the quilts I am keeping back into that wardrobe, leaving the ones that I might sell at the craft fair next month to get measured, labelled etc.  I've got four weeks to get ready for the sale and think about how I am going to display things and so forth.

Still to put together are two tall cupboards with drawers and shelves which used to be in our living room, a tall mirrored door single wardrobe which we will probably sell or give away because we don't need it here, a 20-cubbyhole Expedit shelving unit which will likely stay in the cellar to hold tools, and two more ex-fabric storage units.  I'm thinking that the cupboards that used to be in the living room might be useful in my future dollshouse room.

It's beginning to feel a bit like Christmas

I am firmly in the camp with people who sniff in dismay at the Christmas decorations appearing on store shelves in mid-September. Yet somehow I seem to have had a very Christmassy week in terms of crafts.

I sewed up the other three mini-dolls for my LYS's window display.

They were fun but fiddly to make up and looked good in a group.

When I was working on sorting my sewing room, I came across my collection of small cross stitch kits including these £1 Hobbycraft christmas card inserts of berries and a robin. Instead of knitting on my commute this week, I've worked on these instead.  I haven't done the backstitching on the robin yet but the stitching is done on the berries. It was more challenging than you might think, to precision stab a needle through a tiny hole while sitting on a fast train vibrating and swaying.  I'm not that good at cross stitch anyway because of my inability to count, so the berries in particular are not a great match to the chart but they still look ok.

After I finished the mini-dolls, I felt like tackling another toy so I pulled out the Rodney the Reindeer free kit that came with Let's Knit magazine recently.  It is a design by Amanda Berry and the kit included the yarn, pompom nose and button eyes.  I'm quite pleased with how he came out and it was easy to knit..

Now I'm back to knitting on the Sirdar fur tam that I started last week.  I've increased enough that I think it will be floppy enough, so after 10 straight rows, I have now started to decrease.

And finally

Still no news at work.  We have another consultation meeting on Thursday when we will find out how many people have asked for voluntary redundancy.  I know one girl has, but there would need to be at least one more volunteer to avoid enforced redundancies.  Several of us who are impacted had lunch on Friday, and I was amused to find that every single person had a different understanding of how the process was going to work, and a different estimation of their own and others' chances of staying employed.  Some people told me that I shouldn't be worried at all but I don't think that's true.  I feel slightly more optimistic though. I felt sorry for the girl who thought that she would keep getting paid until she could find another job - if only.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

A lot of stuff

I had Friday off as I have to use up my leave before the end of the year, and I spent part of the morning in my future sewing room, labouring to rationalise the fabric storage and sort out endless bags of velcro, zippers, small tools, haberdashery etc.  The painter came down to find me to tell me he was almost finished, and surveying the chaos, he exclaimed in wonder: "You do have a lot of stuff!!"

Yes I do. In fact the more I unpack, the more I am wondering how we ever fit it all into our considerably smaller old house.  I think I must have had a Tardis instead of a sewing closet in my old bedroom, because the quantities of 'stuff' that I am attempting to find homes for just seem like they would never have fit in the old house.  I've got all the pretty storage boxes out that I bought a few weeks ago, with post-it notes temporarily identifying their contents.  Sometimes I've had to upsize the box as I find I just have too much fusible interfacing products to fit into the smaller box, or too many cross-stitch kits.  I've also got post-it notes on the fabric shelves:  upholstery fabric, canvas, pre-cuts, backing yardage, etc. etc.  The fabric was relatively easy to sort out as most of it was bagged in collections or projects already, what the Americans call PIGS (projects in grocery sacks).

"You're a hoarder", observed the painter, nodding his head in satisfaction that he had identified my problem.  Well, yes, I am a hoarder, but unfortunately I am also a completist, a sucker for a bargain, fond of free craft stuff other people are giving away, delight in buying craft souvenirs on holiday, and paranoid that if I don't buy everything I need for a project right away, I won't be able to later on.  I am also in competitive running for the She Who Dies With The Most Stash Wins competition in multiple hobbies.  Sigh.

Friday was also Halloween, our first in the new house.  Halloween is more of a thing here in the UK than it used to be, but I was still nervous about 'setting up shop' in case I got labelled a satanist by our new neighbours, or had a bunch of drunks roll up to the door on their way to the nearby pubs.  In the end I decided I owed it to my Canadian roots and the spirit of the holiday to try it at least once.  So I decorated the windows and our front porch and lit it all up by dusk in late afternoon, and started eating the Halloween candy to get into the spirit of things.

We didn't get any drunks, but we only had about four sets of small trick or treaters, plus one group of older boys trying their luck without any costume or anything.  I don't think many children live near us.  So we both made ourselves sick eating leftover candy and DH is going to take the rest to work to get it away from us.


My sis-i-l had a holiday to Iceland a while back and I asked her to look out for the famous Lettlopi yarn and get me some if she could.  She kindly sent me through two balls of purple and a contrast yarn of grey this week.  It is quite 'woolly' yarn, and as I am sensitive to scratchiness, I wouldn't be able to wear this near my neck.  But it will be fine for a hat or gloves/mitts.  My Icelandic cardigan that I knit last year from the Craftsy class was supposed to be knit in Lettlopi but I had read on Ravelry that it was pretty scratchy (although apparently it softens a bit with washing) so that's why I substituted the DROPS Nepal yarn.

I also fell to temptation in my LYS, when they got in Sirdar's new yarn 'Ophelia'.  It's a fur yarn with a touch of glitter, both being aspects which normally wouldn't tempt me at all.  But it is as soft as silk and has some lovely colourways, and it is quite cheap.  I succumbed to two balls and I am knitting myself a basic tam in the dark blue.  I got as far as the decreases but had to pull it back to the band when I found it wasn't going to be floppy enough.  So now I am increasing a lot, to make the tam part bigger.  It is suprisingly easy to knit with, considering how fluffy it looks.  It would be lovely for a short sleeve top, so soft and silky.

The LYS has asked the knitting group for contributions to the knitting display, and handed out some sample patterns.  I have knitted four mini dolls that I think are Jean Greenhowe designs.  I've sewn up the snowman, and have still to sew up a Santa, toy soldier and an elf.

I also finished a Barbie Princess beanie hat to go with the mitts I finished last week.

I've obviously hit some milestone in Craftsy because they emailed me a code for a free class, anything I wanted as long as it wasn't knitting.  In the end, I chose a class on converting a dress form to match my figure, because I've wanted a mannequin for a long time to fit my knitting and occasional sewn garments on.  I'd already asked for Christmas for a cheap mannequin on a stand that I saw on Amazon, which I had planned to pad up to fit my measurements, but now I will get some expert advice (hopefully) on how best to do that.

House stuff

The painter is completely finished now, his last job being to paint the wainscoting in the hallway in a nice soft green.  He has singlehandedly painted seven rooms and two hallways, plus re-painted all the Victorian doors which had been hideously stripped by the former owners.  He said he's really enjoyed it because he did his apprenticeship 40 years ago on period houses like ours.  He's done a fairly good job, certainly much better than we could have done and I would never have had the stamina.  There are a few things where we need to go back and make good the underlying fabric before repainting, but that will be much easier now that most of it's done.

Very annoying thing yesterday.  Lovely sunny day, work on house finally finished, we stood back outside the front to look up and revel in the improvements...  only to spot (far too late as scaffolding all gone now) that the roofer put the guttering brackets in different places, so now there are unpainted gaps along the fascia where he removed the old brackets that had been painted around.  If he had just mentioned that, we could have slapped some paint on before the scaffolding came down.  Now they are inaccessible unless we find a house painter prepared to go up a very long ladder.  A task for next year I think.

On the work front, there is still no news.  They are going through a Process, so we have to have regular documented consultation meetings but there is no real news yet on when we will find out our individual outcomes, when we will leave the business etc.  I'm trying not to think about it, but it is stressful.  I'm typing this in a room with no blinds and I don't know whether to go ahead and order the blinds and add to the credit card debt, or continue to be on show to the neighbours and save the money.  I will probably order them and hope for the best.

Bonfire Night on Wednesday - we were supposed to go to the local fireworks tonight but it's pouring rain so we are staying in.  There will be more displays in the week so we might still see some.

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