Saturday, 25 January 2014

A promise of Spring

Not much happening this week, apart from the Victoria line (Underground in London) being closed on Thursday night because unbelievably a construction crew managed to flood a signalling room with fast-setting concrete.  When I saw that on Twitter (as I made my tedious roundabout alternate trip to my train station) I thought it must be a wind up, but there were actual pictures in the papers the next day.  Apparently they rushed out to buy sugar to spread onto the concrete as that slows down the setting time.  Who knew?  I have this vision of burly men in high-res vests bursting into nearby newsagents shouting "Where's the sugar?!"

I'm experimenting with shrinking my photos before I upload them - does it make it easier/quicker to read my blog?  Can you still see sufficient detail in the images?

I did some sewing this week.  I'm making a sewing machine cover for my Featherweight which is currently protected by a tea towel.  I'm using a charm pack of Moda 'Pompom de Paris' which I got in the Christmas sales.  I followed a method I saw Jenny Doan of the Missouri Quilt Company use to make quick pinwheels.  You place two charm squares RST, sew around all four sides with a 1/4" seam allowance, then cut it twice across the diagonals to make four HSTs.  I first arranged them in pinwheels but that looked too out of scale compared to my machine, so then I laid them out in random rows of single HSTs.  Once I'd done that, I could see that about a third of my fabrics were berry red, and some of those were forming diagonal lines. So I rearranged the squares again to form diagonal lines of red.



I've sewn two panels so far to be the end pieces, but still need to sew the big panel for the main piece of the cover.  I will bind it in a toning red fabric.

I knit another toy, this is 'Alice' from the Sandra Polley Knitted Toys book.  She was a fairly quick knit.  I added a bib to her skirt, in the book she only has a skirt.




I also knit myself a pair of slippers this week, 'Serene' from the Essential Winter Knits insert that came with Let's Knit magazine in December 2013.  The pattern uses two strands of Aran yarn held together and I had enough Debbie Bliss Rialto Aran left over from my Harvest Moon cardigan to make these up.  They feel quite snuggly and cosy, but fairly flimsy - more like bed socks than slippers.  I don't think the moss stitch sole would stand up to a lot of walking around. I worked on these at the knit night at a local yarn shop, it's only for 90 minutes but the members are friendly and there are great biscuits so I'll probably keep going.




At long last I am doing the Afterthought Heel on my vanilla socks in flying saucer yarn.  I am quite fussy about how my socks fit so I decided not to risk finishing the toe off before I'd done the heel.  So I knitted the toe unshaped until it was longer than my foot then cast off, to ensure the stripe sequence will remain correct when I do the toes.  Now I'm going back and knitting the afterthought heel before I do the toes.  You can see how the flying saucer effect of this yarn really kicked in on the sole part of the sock before devolving into a continuous spiral stripe.



Remember the teapots I discovered a few weeks ago?  I won the auction for the Lilliput Lane market stall, and it arrived promptly in the post.  I really like it and am now stalking other models online.  There is a Royal Doulton figurine stall I would like to have, and even a stall selling miniature teapots.
The weather is absolutely foul recently: the wind is whipping the rain against the window as I write this and we had freezing fog earlier in the week for several hours. Gosh, there was even a big roll of thunder just now, sounds like we are in for a storm.  And yet we have a few daffodils poking their green tips up in the flower bed of our rented house so there is a promise of spring.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

I have a sewing room!

I have a sewing room!  Compared to what I've had in the past, it's not incredibly ergonomic, but I haven't had anything for about eight months so it feels like a palace.  I told DS what I'd done and he was rather indignant, so I've had to assure him that I will clear out again in eight weeks when he is back from uni after his second term.  But until then it's all MINE (rubs hands together cackling dementedly...)

This is the cutting and pressing station.  The mattress gives rather unfortunately when I try to rotary cut, even if I put the mat up onto the pressing board.  If I have to do any serious cutting then I will have to move to the kitchen table.


And this is the 1950s sewing table I found for £7.95 at a charity shop.  DH couldn't believe that when I randomly went looking for a table sturdy enough to put a sewing machine on, I actually found a real sewing table.  It's in pretty good shape apart from the finish is ruined on the top.  But it's got two nice drawers and a cubby, and the machine lift still works.  Since taking this picture (and annoyingly after an hour of channel quilting  and grumbling about the machine not being flush with the table) I've discovered the lift has a third position so that you can drop the machine down a few inches.  At some point the former owner must have bought a bigger machine, because the hole was cut out bigger and a bigger platform screwed on to the lift.  It's too big a hole for my little Featherweght but if I sit the FW on a couple of books it is much closer to being flush with the table surface when the lift is in the partly-down position.  It is nice to think that the sewing table is probably contemporaneous with my 1950s FW.


So after setting all this up on Monday, on Tuesday I actually did some sewing!  I made a little coupon wallet in the shape of an envelope secured by Velcro, with dividers made from recipe cards, using the 'Wash Day' FQs I had previously purchased.  Of course, partway through I realised that all my useful bits and bobs like Velcro, interfacing, snaps, ribbon etc. had all gone into storage.  I think I was only planning to work on my PIGS (projects in grocery sacks) while we are renting so I stupidly packed all the good stuff away.  So I had to make an emergency trip to the fabric store.  But the advantage of moving away from London is that a) there IS a local fabric store within walking distance and b) the staff are really friendly and one young girl immediately came out from the counter to basically act as my personal shopper as I read out items from my list.  A pretty nice change compared to the typically much-less-satisfying customer experience at the fabric shops where we used to live.



I had Wednesday off to use up a leftover 2013 day of leave, so I decided to have a go at something bigger.  I really enjoy watching the Youtube videos by Jenny Doan of the Missouri Quilt Company, she's such a nice presenter and demonstrates very efficiently.  She has a video for making a Big Bag from 12 jelly roll strips which looked pretty straight forward.  I had the jelly rolls I bought in the Christmas sale and I thought it would be a good basic project to get warmed up with.  I had bought some yardage on my trip to the fabric store to use for the handles and lining, and I had luckily packed some quilt wadding I could use.

So I spent Wednesday morning on the sofa knitting on 'Hannah' (see below) and in the afternoon I made the Big Bag.  I found sewing the bag surprisingly tiring, I really do feel like I've lost my 'quilting chops' after doing so little sewing for several months.  My quilting lines are wobbly, I was having trouble with my tension on the FW, my chair doesn't swivel like I'm used to so every time I wanted to press a seam I had to physically move the chair back - it just all felt wrong.  But I got there in the end and I'm pleased with the useful result which will be good for taking to craft shows where I think I might buy a lot of yarn or fabric.  I told DH that and he said that if he sees me heading out the door with that bag then he's not taking me in case I buy too much!  I added an outside pocket on one side.



I finished another doll this week - this is 'Hannah' from the Sandra Polley book of knitted toys. Unlike Eliza, Hannah's clothes are separate so she can be dressed.  Another satisfying knit - it's like candy, fairly instant gratification and you never knit more than about 15 rows straight before you have some shaping interest.  I've since started knitting a mouse from the same book.


But I might have to stop knitting toys in a few weeks as I've signed up for another Mystery Shawl KAL by the same designer who did The Unexpected Journey Hobbit shawl last year.  I really enjoyed that one so when I saw on Ravelry that AlterLace was doing another one for The Desolation of Smaug, I signed up immediately.  That starts in February and uses fingering weight.  I have a very limited choice with me in this house but I have some 4-ply which I am hoping will work for it.

We had a day out to explore Northampton, which is the nearest big town to us.  I was pleased to discover quite a nice Hobbycraft store to the west of town near Sixfields.  Unlike the one in Staines, this one is all on one level and felt more spacious and like it had more stock.  It was definitely tidier anyway and I had a good wander around and bought some black beads to be eyes for the mouse I am knitting.  The House of Fraser in the mall in Northampton is shutting down so they are having a sale and there was a fair bit of yarn on sale for 50% off which I had to inspect closely, but there wasn't anything I couldn't live without. And I spent a Christmas gift card at Waterstones on a quilting book:  'Jelly Roll Sampler Quilts' by Pam & Nicky Lintott which looked like a good reference book for cutting traditional quilt blocks from 2.5" strips. I've still got an entire jelly roll plus the leftovers from the roll that I used for the Big Bag.

Find of the week has been a Crayola Groovy Graphic Projector at a charity shop for £1.99.  It's a kid's toy which is supposed to be used for projecting simple designs printed on slides onto paper, where the child can trace the design then colour it.  But it's basically a light table with its own light source that slides under the raised plastic see-through table, so I snapped it up to use for tracing applique layouts onto fabric, or tracing templates off etc.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Presenting Eliza

Introducing Eliza, my version of the Jean Greenhowe pattern for a knitted replica of a Victorian wooden peg doll.


Yes, I am a grown woman who has spent tens of hours knitting and assembling this very fiddly and completely pointless unsuitable-to-be-a-toy dolly - but isn't she cute!  And it was very fun to make something just for the sake of it, and to use some creativity in selecting colours less clownish than the pattern original.



And is it more or less pointless than the 38 hours I have so far racked up playing the video game 'Oblivion' (predecessor to my previous addiction 'Skyrim')?  Discuss.

As you will gather, I have a lot of time on my hands at the moment.  It's the eye of the storm, safe from the whirlwind of selling our house, and taking an enforced breather before we head back there to buy another one. I don't know anyone here yet, and most of my stuff is in storage, so I don't really have a lot to do.  So I've been happily knitting (and playing Oblivion), I've done some baking, I planted some bulbs in our rented garden, and I'm ready to pounce on my son's room next week to start sewing again.

I've also been shopping - look what came in the post yesterday!


At long last my Latvian mitten knitting kit turned up.  To be fair, once I realised that my first attempt to order had apparently never reached them (to their website) and I placed a second order (via their Etsy shop), it turned up within a few weeks. I first saw these at the Ally Pally Knitting and Stitching show. The kit, which comes in a special black box, is full of lovely brightly coloured wool and a very intricate chart, and instructions translated into English. The kits cost 19 euros plus 5 euros for shipping, and can be purchased from HobbywoolRiga via their Etsy shop, and are shipped from Latvia.  Here are some of the other patterns available.

I found ordering a bit tricky because the Etsy shop is very basic with just a drop down list of pattern numbers without showing you what they look like.  I had to go to their main website to work out what pattern I wanted then go back to the Etsy shop to order it.  This kit is the Kurzeme K-4 pattern. 24 euros is about £20 for the kit + shipping, and with the high presentation quality that feels like a reasonable price.  I'll let you know what the instructions are like when I get around to knitting it up.

After finishing Eliza, I've immediately started knitting a more conventional knitted doll from the Sandra Polley toy book.  She is cute but also smaller so hopefully won't take as much knitting as Eliza did.

Today we had a break from the lashing rain and wind and the sun was actually out, so we drove out to a lovely Northamptonshire village called Geddington where they have one of only three remaining Eleanor Crosses.  There were loads of cute thatched cottages and lovely gothic windowed brick dwellings, and a fabulous medieval bridge with the added entertainment value of an actual ford across the river right next to the bridge - we saw several cars approach the fast running high river and decide not to chance it, but then one car did drive through apparently without harm when we were walking back.

On the way back we stopped in another small village where one ancient thatched cottage was open as a tea room.  DH is probably regretting it because it turned out the tea room had a large collection of novelty teapots including teapots that looked like market stalls selling, wait for it, miniature teapots, Lilliput Lane cottages, and Royal Doulton figurines!  Too many of my forbidden collectibles in the form of one teapot was just too overwhelming for me and when we got home I went online to discover they were all designed by Paul Cardew in the 90s - I've got a bid in on Ebay already for the Lilliput Lane model.  I did read somewhere that collectors have similarities to addicts...

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Toy Factory

I'm overcome with the urge to make knitted toys all of a sudden.  It started before Christmas when I was in one of the local craft shops and saw 'Knitted Toys' by Sandra Polley, which has some really cute things in it; plus a Jean Greenhowe leaflet called 'Christmas Treasures'. I'm not a big Greenhowe fan, her designs generally all have a slightly scary pneumatic look but this leaflet has an interesting pattern called 'Eliza the Peg Doll' which is a knitted version of an old wooden peg doll.  I didn't buy the book and leaflet at the time (mainly because DH was pooh-poohing them over my shoulder) but I couldn't stop thinking about them and ended up ordering them online a few days later (I got Sandra's book direct from her website, linked above).

Once the rush of Christmas was over, I went out and invested about £20 in a mountain of variously coloured acrylic DK yarns - most of them from a Woolworths-like store called 'QD' because my LYS was closed for the holidays.  Then before I could start toymaking, I had to finish the 'Alf' baby socks that I was knitting from the free kit in 'Let's Knit' magazine.  I spent most of New Year's Day knitting, finishing the socks in the morning.


The peg doll looked a bit complicated so I warmed up in the afternoon by knitting a pink version of 'Baby's First Teddy' from the Sandra Polley book.  That was so much fun to knit that it seemed a shame to stop so I the next day I started knitting the blue version also.  Despite these being the identical pattern, the blue bear has come out a lot fatter for some reason.

I've stitched the ribbons on securely for safety.

Now I've moved on to the peg doll pattern.  The first few steps are to knit the head, the neck, and the hairpiece - then assemble them and embroider the features.  This took quite a while but I'm pleased with how it's turned out.  Now I've started on the body, which will be followed by pantaloons and a dress with belt and collar. I'm really enjoying it despite the fiddliness, it feels really creative and with relatively instant gratification.  I've always liked how a few stitches can bring a face to life, and give it a completely different character depending on choice of thread/angle/stitch etc.


We found yet another craft shop today in our new town, again with a mixture of yarn, haberdashery and general craft supplies.  I am amazed at how many shops are selling craft supplies and yarn in this one medium sized not very affluent town, compared to the crowded south-east where we've just come from which saw one shop after another closing down in the last 10-15 years.  I guess rents are a lot lower up here but I still wonder if truly a greater proportion of the population are doing crafts. Admittedly the shops here are mainly stocking lower-priced goods (I went back to the fabric store for some brown yarn and was warned by the lady, twice, that it cost four pounds a ball because it has Alpaca in it - she was quite worried that I understand that, presumably because all the other yarns are around £1 a ball).  At this latest shop find, I was able to buy some flesh pink yarn to knit the next doll I want to do from the Sandra Polley book, and also a cute pack of five fat quarters called 'Wash Day' by Makower.


I'm planning on having a quilting day after DS has gone back to uni when I've nabbed his room.  I have been thinking of sewing a coupon/voucher wallet because we always forget to take our coupons with us when we go shopping.  There are plenty of patterns online and I thought this fabric would be great for a coupon wallet.

I promised some pictures of my Harvest Moon cardigan when I wore it.  I put it on for my first day back at work on 2 January because I thought our office would probably be cooler than usual (it was). Mysteriously, the sleeves that were down to my knuckles, and that were carefully measured and shortened, have now bounced upwards by about an inch and a half to be bracelet length.  Luckily I like sleeves that length but it's kind of annoying because I had planned for them to come to the bottom of my wrist.


It was comfortable to wear although I'm still not happy with what the lower edging is doing underneath the pockets.  As usual, nobody said anything, although to be fair there weren't many people back from holiday yet.

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