Monday, 28 December 2015

Sugar overload

You know you are approaching maximum holiday sugar capacity when even 21-year-old DS is whimpering that he just wants real food and can't face any more sweets. DH reckons he's put on 7.5 pounds the past week and I no longer feel comfortable wearing anything except stretchy leggings or track bottoms. Sigh, time for a New Year's diet again.

I hope you all had a pleasant Christmas. We had a relaxing day just the three of us, starting out with stockings (full of sweets) and culminating in a Christmas turkey feast which we are still ploughing through some days later. On Boxing Day we had a 2.5 hour drive to spend the day with the in-laws and overnight in a hotel before rejoining them for breakfast.  The obligatory present swap of course included huge amounts of sweets as did the catering.  It's a very Christmas-sy thing to do, visiting with relatives, but at the same time it can be somewhat trying and we were all glad to head for home again.  We stopped at the Outlet Mall in Swindon to pick up a similar casserole pan to the one my sister-i-l had used for cooking dinner which I think will be really useful, and also found a Sheridan outlet where we picked up some 70% off duvet covers which are quite welcome. Unfortunately we got stuck in traffic jams around the M40 and coming home took half again as long.

Although I refrained from wearing my "I get to knit, you get to live" button, my sock knitting did protect my sanity during the visit. I've started the Basket Check Socks from The Little Box of Socks by Charlene Schurch and Beth Parrott, using the other colourway of Arne and Carlos sock yarn that I bought in Oxford. I really like how the texture of garter stitches and slipped stitches is popping the colours and breaking up the stripes.

In the car I was knitting on my third pair of Arne and Carlos felted slippers, having finished and felted the second pair on Christmas Day. They are equally snuggly and I'm wearing them right now.  Here are pics before and after felting in the washing machine.

On Christmas Eve, I finished the rejuvenation of my 1/12th scale laundry roombox and hung it on the wall of our real laundry room. I never had a good place to hang this in our old house so it used to be in the kitchen, hanging under the upper cabinets. It had a terrible yellow paint job, and over the years had become splashed with all sorts of stuff as well as getting knocked around.

I gave it a really good degrease and clean up with my new favourite cleaner: sugar soap wipes, and tackled the plexiglas front with both sugar soap wipes and glass cleaner until it was finally spot free.  I repainted the box in blue using a Dulux tester pot (mixed to my choice of colour for just £3). I tidied up the inside, removed several items that were out of scale, and added an ironing board from my stash.  The shelves are still somewhat bare but I will look out at dollshouse shows for more things to add to the basement-type clutter.  I've hung a vintage embroidered mat from the towel rail and I'm quite pleased with how much better it looks now.

Also on Christmas Eve (which was my day off) I cut out all the pieces for 12 star blocks finishing at 6" each, for my Let it Snow quilt. Today I've pieced some of them, they will go in two rows of six above and below the central panel.

I found it quite handy to cut the flying geese for the star points using my Fons & Porter flying geese ruler, since they are scrappy and each star is of different fabric. The ruler makes it quite easy because you don't need to measure apart from cutting the right size strip to start with.

We've been watching a lot of Christmas television the last few days, films like Brave and The Croods, and shorts like Stickman, the new Shaun the Sheep with Llamas, Agatha Christie's And then there were None, etc.  As well as doing a lot of knitting, I finally finished hand-quilting my hand quilted cushion cover and today I made it up into a zipped cushion with piping, using some synthetic burgundy suede/velvet type fabric from my stash. It looks quite effective on the windowseat, and I like how the fabrucs I chose work with my design and with the window seat colours. It was nice to hand quilt something again although I am chagrined at how unskillful I have become.

In terms of crafty christmas pressies, I received an Optivisor magnification lens to go with the Optivisor headset that I've ordered so I can see what I am doing for miniatures; a Noro knitting magazine full of colourful patterns; some pretty ceramic handmade buttons, some gorgeous miniatures from a fellow dollshouse collector (thanks Anita!) and two lace bobbins from two lace friends, It's so nice to get crafty gifts from people who understand or share your hobbies.  Non craft gifts included a vintage style clear cake stand/dome, socks, a bottle of champagne, The Hobbit trilogy DVDs and of course lots and lots of sweets.

 And that's about it. I'm back at work for the next two days then get another long weekend thanks to the bank holiday. Happy new year!!

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Festive wishes

If you are celebrating Christmas tomorrow, then I hope you have a lovely day (and hopefully with better weather than the British rain currently driving against my windows!). Let's look forward to a happy new year with lots of crafting time.

Thank you also for reading my blog, I do appreciate your comments and tips and I always try to respond when I can     (if your Blogger profile is set to 'no email' then I just see a 'no-reply@blogger' address and I can't reply to you).

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Happy one month anniversary to me

This week I celebrated my one month anniversary in my new job. I'm starting to feel like I actually work there, and I've had good feedback on my performance so far which is reassuring. We're still not actually doing any real work, we are practicing but everything we do has to be checked by experienced staff before it is signed off, so it still feels like college rather than a proper job.  There is a huge amount to learn, and they keep giving us more challenging things to try. Some people are feeling rather overwhelmed and the general mood was sinking towards desperation last week - to the point where they called the entire cohort into a room to talk us off the ledge and assure us that we wouldn't have any more lectures over the christmas period so we will have time to practice and consolidate what we've been learning.  I wasn't feeling too bad, but I appreciate the opportunity to do some practice over the next few weeks.

I decided it was time for a treat as a reward - so on my day off I used my season ticket to return to Leicester then walked over to the legendary Fabric Guild, a warehouse-style quilting and craft shop which is probably the closest thing I've seen in the UK to the big American quilt shops like Hancocks or Joanne's. They buy in a lot of end of lines and discounted fabrics, and prices start from as low as £2/m. As well as fabric, they stock a lot of random things they get when haberdasheries close down or a factory unloads unwanted stock: all sorts of haberdashery, buttons, zips, trims, ribbons, some yarn, some books, lots of wadding, rulers etc.  My visit was made even better when I presented 15 vouchers from their loyalty scheme, dating back as far as 15 years ago when I used to visit. I asked if they were still valid and they were worth £1.25 each! So I had a happy splurge on qualifying haberdashery before starting my slow cruise around the store to see what else there was on offer.  Here's a pic of my eventual choice of loot:

- several colours of Kunin wool blend felt
- four scenic fat quarters
- a fat quarter of blue plaid and some blue snowflake fabric for my snowman quilt
- 9m of good quality gingham for quilt backing at £2/m
- six half-meters in poison green and pinky-red for my Grandmother's Last Quilt applique project
- zips
- several packets of pretty decorated wooden buttons
- a blue wash out marker
- a needle threader
- a Clover thimble
- three weights of fusible interfacing
- a string of wooden beads which will make great 'bun feet' for dollshouse furniture
- a necklace of beads on a chain, to wear
- a sheet of heavyweight template plastic

It was really fun and a bit like the old days when we had more money and I used to do a lot more stash accumulation.  I rounded the day off with lunch in a sushi restaurant and ice cream from a gelato store, both being establishments which I have walked past on my way to/from work and wanted to try.  Then in the evening we took DS and his girlfriend to see the new Star Wars film which they both liked.  DH and I thought it seemed like a thin-blooded remake of A New Hope but judging from the interweb reaction we are in the minority. Still, I'm glad I saw it so I know what all the hype is about.


This week I've been working on my snowman quilt, stitching around the fusible applique and adding detail like beads for their mouths and three-dimensional scarves (those are going to be trimmed shorter than they are at the moment). I've also started the mitten blocks. It's quite fun choosing fabrics to use - I had some great 'knitted' fabric which I've used for one pair of mittens, and I've fussy cut snowman fabric for two more pairs. All very seasonal.

I finished the Arne and Carlos vanilla socks and blocked them.  They look good but I think the next pair I will do a heel flap heel to fit my foot better.

I needed something else for commuter knitting after finishing the socks, so I started an Arne and Carlos knitted bauble which was a free kit that came with Let's Knit magazine. They are fairly straightforward to knit, but I didn't like how they look a bit wonky or lopsided when they are stuffed according to the instructions. So I had the idea of putting a real Christmas bauble inside to give it a better shape.  I worked the chart until just before the decreases, then added the bauble. It was a bit awkward knitting the next few rows with the bauble inside, but as I got closer to the tip, it got easier.  I think it was worth it because now the bauble has a really nice shape. You could also use a styrofoam ball instead of raiding your Christmas tree.

The new Lett Lopi yarn arrived from Deramores for my next two pairs of felted slippers.  I've cast on for the red and white pair from the Arne and Carlos book and am working a fair isle cuff before working the solid red foot. Hopefully these are going to fit and be as snuggly as the first pair which I am still wearing all the time.

Three more work days and it's Christmas - yay!!

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Christmas is in the house

Yes, we have spent the last few days Christmafying the house. We were both off Thursday so after putting up the garlands along the picture rail in the dining room, and hanging the light-up features in the front windows, we dragged DS out to look for a tree.  While I can afford it, and have the manpower to haul it home, I love having a real tree. And with our tall ceilings we wanted a big one again. We tried a garden centre where the tallest one was only about five feet, then headed to a nursery we found last year. Most of his were only five or six feet but when I explained what I was looking for, he headed to the edge of the lot and pulled up a gorgeous tree which is about nine feet high and very well shaped. I think he was beginning to worry it wouldn't sell, in this country of small houses, because he asked worriedly if we had room for it. I confidently answered in the affirmative and we proceeded to haggle our way to a price we were both happy with.

I was wondering if I had been a bit over-confident when we home and set it up on the stand so it could dry out (it had been raining on the lot, of course, being England in winter).  As it dried and relaxed, the bottom got wider, and wider, until eventually we had to pull it out of the corner into the room to accommodate the five foot plus width at the bottom. So we've had to turn the dining table sideways to make room. But it looks great and has a wonderful smell to it.

On Saturday when it was dry, we put on some carols and got DS to join us for some decorating.  About five minutes after DH and I had a conversation about how nice it was that our new cat wasn't trying to climb the Christmas tree, a little white head poked out of the branches about a meter and a half in the air. Good thing we have a sturdy tree stand.

We also did our new traditional gathering of green stuff from the garden and from a footpath, to heap up foliage on our two mantles and tuck ivy behind picture frames etc. This is me in the throes of putting together arrangements of ivy, gorse and pyracantha gathered from the footpath, holly from our own tree, and eucalyptus from the garden. Plus I cut some teasel heads and sprayed them gold.

I also hung up my new Christmas wallhangings on the doors in the hallway. The lights look really cool on the Stonehenge Starry Night panel. They are all on one string connecting to a battery pack which sits in a little pocket on the back of the quilt.  You just cut holes through the quilt and poke the bulbs through.

I mentioned that I was picking fabrics from my stash to start the 'Let it Snow' quilt pattern. I have been getting a bit frustrated with my sewing room because there is nowhere to put stuff that you need to hand but aren't immediately cutting/sewing/pressing. I did a bit of lateral thinking and went out and bought the cheapest ironing board I could find (£9.99 from Argos). A little work with a hacksaw to cut off the iron rest, and I have a portable shelf that just fits in the corner next to my cutting board. Most of the fabrics I've picked are now on that where I can grab them.

So I had an enjoyable time choosing fabrics for the various components for the central panel.  I pieced the two colour background from a great 'snow' fabric (which I originally bought as a sky fabric but it looks great as snow), and cut the snowmen from a piece of white wool felt which I preshrunk. The rest of the components were traced onto Steam a Seam Lite and fused on. My Steam a Seam is a bit stale so they aren't sticking as well as they could, but well enough that I will be able to stitch them down.  It was fun to see the snowmen coming to life.

I gave up on getting the second bobbin lace star done and just posted the original one to my m-i-l in their Christmas card. I will finish the second one for our tree.  I'm just about to start the toe on my second Arne and Carlos vanilla sock, and I've ordered some more Lett Lopi to make two more pairs of Felted Slippers after a knitting friend pointed out that Deramores sell it (and it was on sale!). I've done a bit more knitting on my Rowan Summer Tweed Cardigan sleeve. And I repainted a secondhand picture frame to frame a print to hang in our hallway. I've done a bit more handquilting on the pieced cushion cover - I have to say that I'm not doing the world's greatest job, I'm very out of practice, but it looks good from a distance :)

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Starting to feel a bit Christmas-sy

We spent a few hours today at the Dickens christmas fair in Olney, an attractive market town full of period buildings. We were a bit surprised at how many people were there, the whole town was full and parked cars lined the streets for a mile or so out of town. It was quite Christmas-sy with brass bands, choirs, lots of holly wreaths and mistletoe, mince pies, mulled wine, and loads of craft fairs, market stalls, a farmers market, and stalls lining the pavements. It was almost too crowded really, and although I enjoyed looking around, I  was quite tired by the time we left.

Today also is the two-year anniversary of selling our last house, so we spent some time reminiscing about how wonderful it felt to finally complete that stage of our lives after months of striving and frustration. We had a look at our old house on Google Satellite, it looks like they cut down the wonderful apple tree in the garden - vandals.

The afternoon was rounded off by taking our cat to the vet, because she's been getting heavier even though we are still feeding the diet recommended by the cat shelter. The vet confirmed that she is actually fat now, and put her on a diet. She also has to go to 'cat weight watchers' once a month to weigh in and be assessed. But at least there didn't seem to be any underlying health problems which is a relief. Plus she's not pregnant which was another thing I was worried about because she is supposed to be spayed.

Because I blogged late last week, on Tuesday, there is not a lot to report on the craft front.  The only new things are that I've started a sleeve for my Rowan Summer Tweed Cardigan after procrastinating about it for a few months; and I've dug out a quilt pattern that I bought in Sisters in 2007 called 'Let it Snow' which features snowball blocks and appliqued and pieced snowmen. I had also collected some fabrics to go with it, and today I picked out many more from my stash.  I think I will start it as a winter project. I'm basing my version on a scrappy version that I photographed in the exhibition at Sisters. The actual pattern is fairly plain, but the exhibitor had really jazzed it up with lots of scrappy fabric choices.

DS is back home now for the Christmas holidays, it feels a bit odd to have a third person in the house. I suppose if this had been his childhood home then we wouldn't feel that way, but we moved in here while he was at uni and he's only come here for school holidays. It is lovely to have him back of course. The house research that I was doing last week revealed that one of the families who lived here in Edwardian times had eight children, and another family had five children. They also had one or two servants who probably lived in up on the attic floor where my knitting/machine knitting rooms are now. So there would have been a lot more occupants in the past.

Are you starting to feel a bit Christmas-sy?  Our office christmas party is on Friday and the theme is 'wear something sparkly', so I spent some time today sewing sequins onto an evening jacket that I got cheap in the sales a few years ago because it had bald patches where some sequins had snagged off.  I filled in the bald patches with sequins and repaired several more places where the thread had broken and sequins had started to fall off.  It's incredibly fragile but it is very sparkly.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

So it's December

Bit late blogging this week because I just didn't feel like it on the weekend. We were relatively busy gallivanting around various Christmas fairs, plus a trip to the Northampton Library to look at census records from 1881-1901 to research the history of our house.

A couple of finishes since the last post.  I felted my Lett Lopi Felted Slippers and they came out just the right size. I am so pleased with them, they are incredibly comfy and cosy so I am wearing them every night. I would like to knit some more pairs but would have to find a British yarn to substitute. I embroidered the snowflake design on freehand before I felted the slippers.

I also finished my Bethlehem Stained Glass Wallhanging.  I added a thin pocket along the top of the back to take a rod to keep it straight, and sewed on two hemmed strips so that I can hang it from a door. I'm going to staple the strips onto the top of the door where it won't show, so the wallhanging is suspended on the face of the door.  The size is about 27 inches square.

As mentioned last week, I finished the first of the Arne and Carlos vanilla socks although it's not blocked yet.  In commuter knitting, I have gotten as far as just past the afterthought heel mark on the second sock.

On Thursday on my day off, I spent the morning cleaning and repairing a dollshouse that used to belong to a dear friend who has passed.  I then furnished the rooms with items from hers and my stashes, and on Saturday we dropped it into a grateful charity shop who said it is the perfect time of year to have a furnished dollshouse on sale. Hopefully some little girl (or boy) is going to be very happy to receive it this Christmas.

I also finished the first bobbin lace Christmas star. It's about five inches high and is worked in DMC 40 crochet cotton. I stiffened it with fabric stiffener but it doesn't want to stay flat.  I've started a second one for the in-laws but with much less enthusiasm, I don't generally enjoy repeating projects.

Not been as much Netflix going on this week but I did do some more handquilting on my cushion cover, I'm about halfway now.  I've also done a bit more on my Now in a Minute shawl, but unfortunately in between putting it down and picking it up again, I apparently forgot how to do the patterning so now I need to drop down one stitch in the lace edging about 100 rows to pick it up again as garter stitch. Fun fun fun. And it's next to a yarnover. I also forgot to put yarnovers in some of the purl rows at the top edge but that can't be fixed without pulling out several hours of short rowing.  That's not as obvious, it just means the top edge isn't as stretchy in that place.

Work is going fine, I'm in my third week of training and I think I'm managing to keep up. We have our first formal assessment this week so hopefully I will do ok.  I do really miss being able to surf the web in between work batches (absolutely forbidden and monitored by IT) because that used to be my reward and my relaxation. We're not allowed to look at our phones while we're at our desks either. On the other hand, flexitime is fantastic and I'm getting home 45 minutes earlier than I used to.

Are you making anything crafty for Christmas?

Saturday, 21 November 2015

A visit to the Lace Guild museum

Remember I joined the Lace Guild some months back? That's when I found out that they operate a small museum in Stourbridge at their headquarters, about a two hour drive away from me. I suggested to my small lace group that we might want to do a road trip one day.  Diaries were compared and a date set some months in advance but we have now finally accomplished it.

The museum is in a small three-bedroom house owned by the Guild, conveniently near a pub where we stopped for lunch. We were shown around by a friendly and knowledgeable volunteer and felt very welcome.  The first stop was the exhibition of 18th century lace, in gossamer thread so fine that it is literally impossible to replicate now as the fine threads are no longer manufactured.  How they turned out such intricate designs without artificial light or magnification is a marvel.  There were several examples of lappets (a decorative band that hung down from the headdress) from the 1700s with very complex designs.  Then we were shown the library where they must have virtually every lace book ever published. Members can borrow books for free (you pay postage to return them) so I borrowed a book on Tonder Lace that I had had my eye upon on Amazon. We were all pleased to find a large selection of secondhand books on sale, as well as secondhand bobbins, thread, examples of lace and other goodies all at very reasonable prices.  Much shopping was done and I came away with some loot.

Crocheted tray cloth, tambour work mat, 'Point Ground Lacemaking' by CC Channer, 
'Threads for Lace Edition 5' by Brenda Paternoster, two unopened spools of Bocken linen thread, a pretty bobbin, and a Newnham lace bobbin winder.

But the best part was being given a private view of the reserve collection. The museum has hundreds of pieces of lace that they have no room to display, and it's all stored in archive boxes in this room. Boxes intriguingly labelled 'Honiton', 'Large items', 'Binche' etc. After laying out a protective cloth and all washing our hands, we chose a box labelled 'Hankerchiefs' and opened it to discover well over fifty lace trimmed hankerchiefs in protective film, some dating back to the early 18th century.  It was a good box to choose as there was lace in all styles, and our guide named them for us and discussed the techniques.  Early hankerchiefs were often much bigger and designed for display of the lace rather than for much use, so there were some extremely elaborate examples in Honiton lace, needlelace, Maltese lace, Bucks Point - right up to some relatively recent examples in Torchon.  We spent a good hour oohing and aahing before we reluctantly said that we had to leave to make the trip back before it got too late.  It was a long way to go but well worth it and we all felt very inspired by what we had seen.


Due to the new job, I have a new day off which is Thursday.  It's been a strange week, I think I am going to like the new job but it was a very hectic week as they are trying to train us as quickly as they can so that we can start contributing.  I've been quite tired in the evenings and having a new day off made me feel a bit mixed up about what day of the week it was!

But on Thursday I did a couple more hours of free motion quilting on the Starry Night Christmas wallhanging.  It's not the world's greatest job as I am so rusty at it but I've enjoyed it.  I've been all around the tree now and have stippled half the background.

Then I pulled out a seasonal UFO to work on which is a Christmas wallhanging in the stained glass technique using a pattern by Gail Lawther.  All the pieces of fabric will eventually be outlined in fusible black bias tape, stitched down with a twin needle.  I'm enjoying working on it but progress is slow as each bit of tape has to be applied individually then stitched down, because my bias tape is about 15 years old and isn't very sticky any more.  If I try to do more than one at a time, they start falling off! I like the colours though and I've added a bit of bling with metallic braid trim on some of the towers.


I've knitted the second Lett Lopi felted slipper and I've embroidered a snowflake on one toe.  I just need to do the second snowflake then I can run them through the washing machine to felt them - and cross my fingers that they fit ok afterwards.  Commuter knitting has been the Arne and Carlos vanilla socks.  I've finished the first one with an afterthought heel, and I've cast on for the second one. I came out as a knitter at work, knitting in the break room on one of my lunch hours, but I haven't had time to do very much as it's been so busy there.  When we went to the Lace Guild, I was knitting on the Now in a Minute shawl but I kept knitting on the way home when it was getting dark and ended up dropping some stitches so I have some fixing to do on that one.

Other stuff

I've almost finished the Bobbin Lace Christmas Star, all the lacing is done and I'm just doing the sewings to join the finish to the start.  Then I will have a go at stiffening it with the stiffener I bought at the St Ives lace fair.  If it turns out ok then I will probably start another one so I can give one to my m-i-l. On Thursday afternoon I did some more cross-stitch and quilted some more on my cushion cover. In fact Thursday was a very crafty day which was a nice contrast to the busy first week on the job.

It's suddenly turned very cold here, down to freezing tonight, and with a lot of wind chill.  Not unusual for November but a bit of a shock after having been so warm for so long.  Time to dig out and wear the legwarmers I finished last week!

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Machine knitted legwarmers in 4-ply 2x2 rib

I wanted a more reputable pair of legwarmers to wear for the morning walk to the station for my new job, because these ones that I hand-knit in 2009 have become very pilly and sad.  I couldn't find a straightforward pattern on the internet for a machine knit legwarmer in 4-ply acrylic, so I slightly adapted this pattern by Slisen that I found on Google to produce these:

I've literally just sewn these up and they already have a cat hair on them.

Pattern for legwarmers (make two)
- to fit adult woman, knit on Brother 881 standard bed with ribber in acrylic coned 4-ply. Would probably achieve a similar result in sock yarn.

Set machine to knit 2x2 ribbing over 90 stitches and cast on according to your manual's instructions: my manual told me to hang the weighted cast-on comb plus two large weights, knit three circular rows on H pitch with an extra needle at left, then revert to P pitch and transfer the extra stitch to the main bed. Set RC to 000. Knit 175 rows in 2x2 ribbing, ending with carriage on left. Transfer all ribber bed stitches to the corresponding empty needles on main bed. Measure off ball yarn equalling three times the width of the 90 needles in work and break yarn. Remove weights and cast-on comb. Thread double-ended needle and do a sewn 'backstitch' stretchy cast-off through two stitches at a time (so each stitch gets sewn through twice). I found it easier to bring all the needles fully forward and as I finished with each stitch, to push its needle back to NWP and drop the stitch off. Allow the knitting to rest, or wet block and let dry.  Seam with as flat a seam as possible - I couldn't see the stitches well enough in black yarn to try a Bickford seam, so I just did a really tiny mattress stitch seam right into the edge of the knitting and it's fine.


I can show you the results of my previous machine knitting now because the gift has been posted and received.  This is a Baby Romper knit in 4-ply acrylic on my Brother 881 machine, using a pattern from an older issue of Machine Knitting News Baby magazine. It buttons at the shoulders and has picot trim around the cuffs, armholes and neckline. I made a few mistakes as I am still fairly rusty at machine knitting but I'm sure the baby will not be critical  and the mother is lovely :)

A painted lady

Several years ago we had a holiday to San Francisco and really loved it. One of the souvenirs I bought was a HO scale plastic model of the Steiner House, one of the famous Painted Ladies.  This was a kit called 'Homes of Yesterday and Today', No 100-3, by Your Town USA and is in 1:87 scale.  It was very detailed and although blank on the inside, I had a vague idea that I might try to furnish it as a dollshouse.  Well I never did, but the box turned up when we were unpacking my dollshouse collection and DH nobly volunteered to put it together for me as a model.  He has all the skills and tools because his own hobby is military modelling.

He did a fantastic job and I'm really pleased with all the detail on this model. He also painted it apart from I added a bit more colour to the gingerbread decoration. It's a nice reminder of our fun holiday.


This week I finished piecing together my cushion cover. It is supposed to be a 'red' cover but at the moment is looking more 'green'. But it will have a red backing and red piping which will tip the balance more towards red. I designed this on EQ6 and I feel fairly proud of it. Maybe I am getting my quilting mojo back a little.

The pieced cover 19" square unfinished

Basting the quilt for hand quilting

I'm going to hand quilt the cover, and I haven't hand quilted anything for a very long time. I dug out my portable pipe frame, which I last used about twelve years ago, and puzzled out how to put it together so I could use it for basting the quilt.  Since then I've had a few hand quilting sessions in front of Netflix using a smaller portable snap frame, and am gradually remembering key points such as keeping the stitches evenly sized.  It's turning my left index finger and middle finger into a pincushion though, but I'm enjoying it.

I also dug out a kit I bought for last Christmas and didn't make, the Stonehenge Starry Night panel which comes with a battery pack attached to Christmas lights to decorate the tree.  I've pinned it up for machine quilting and since taking this picture I have started to free motion quilt the tree.  I'm not doing the world's greatest job but the busy print hides a lot of sins  :)  I've done the tone-on-tone part of the tree in red thread but I'm picking out the gold 'ornaments' in metallic gold machine embroidery thread. Then I will lightly stipple the background.

Other stuff

This week I finished my Katia Velvet Loop Cowl and have been wearing it round the house, it's very snuggly. It's not really cold enough to wear it outside but our old house can feel cool on damp days. To join the garter stitch rectangle into a tube, instead of casting off I used a crochet hook to draw loops of the knitting yarn through the cast on edge then through a stitch on the needle, to 'crochet off' the seam invisibly.

I've also knit the first of my Lett Lopi Arne and Carlos felted slippers and have started the second one.  Based on my test swatch, I'm knitting a smaller pattern size than my shoe size which hopefully is going to turn out alright. I would hate to have to own up to my s-i-l that the yarn she brought me from Iceland was wasted on slippers that don't fit me. Although perhaps they would fit her.  I've got enough grey yarn left that I can embroidery something on the toe, perhaps a snowflake?

I've progressed on my bobbin lace Christmas Star with a certain amount of 'reverse lacing' due to mistakes.  I'm wondering if I can bear to make another one and then I could give one to the in-laws for Christmas.

I start my new job tomorrow - eek!  I'm trying to remain calm and optimistic, and not worry fruitlessly about my age/health/stamina, mental ability etc. etc.  I don't know Leicester at all so Friday I went up on the train with my new season ticket and conducted a recce.  I was pleasantly surprised: all the shops I might use in London are also represented in Leicester, there was a huge covered market, several fabric and haberdashery stores, lots of period buildings and nice places to eat, and a big new mall.  There is a knitting shop but it's a long way from the station so I didn't get there, and of course there is the fabulous Fabric Guild for warehouse quilting fabrics.  Too far to go on my lunch hour but I could walk there from the station on a day off.  I spent several hours wandering around and it seems like quite a nice place, there is the impression that it is on the rise with lots of refurbished and new buildings.  And best of all, no London crowds or queues.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Employment gap

As of Monday I will be officially unemployed.  The new job starts the following Monday so I get a week off. I'm hoping to do lots of crafts plus cross some DIY jobs off my lists.  I felt quite grumpy on my final day, I'd handed over everything and had virtually nothing to do, and since I had mentally left the building it just seemed like a complete waste of time to put in eight more hours.  Well, seven, as they let me go early.  Plus I had another irritating journey to work - it feels good to know that I won't have to face the London Underground sardine squeeze any longer. The general feeling amongst colleagues seemed to be envy that I was escaping the sinking chaotic ship for somewhere new. I have followed several colleagues out the door, and I think more will be following me as at least three of them are actively job hunting.

But I had a treat to look forward to which was DH driving me over to St Ives in Cambridgeshire for the Makit Fenlands Lace Fair the next day. It was quite a nice mix of lace suppliers, quilting suppliers and even a few knitting shops.
The bigger of the two rooms of the Lace fair

I enjoyed looking around and also bumped into a few of my lace friends. I was particularly looking at patterns, hoping to find something that I really wanted to make as I am getting bored aimlessly making samples of lace, but I didn't really spot anything.  I did get some fabric stiffener for the Christmas Star I have started to make using this free pattern.  I also found a stall selling secondhand bobbins quite cheaply and picked up a couple of nice ones.


Earlier this week I finished off my Christmas tablerunner with bias binding.  It looks quite nice on our coffee table although it won't be going out on show until December.

I've also started piecing my design for a cushion cover using the fabrics I bought at Malvern and my EQ6 design.  I've just got to sew up four more blocks. The colours look nicer than this, the photo has come out a bit weird under artificial light.

I am looking at what to tackle next and I pulled out a kit for McKenna Ryan's 'In Full Bloom' applique quilt that I bought before we moved house. The rationale was that it was fusible applique so I would be able to do it without a sewing machine while we were in the rental house. However, in the event I never touched it.  I unpacked Block One and read through the instructions, it looks insanely complicated to cut out and I have no idea what I was thinking when I thought I would make it. (fighting urge to go back in time and smack head of younger self before she presses the 'Buy' button).


I've done up to the thumb on the Latvian Mitten. It's quite complicated as you are knitting four colours in a row and there are some very long floats.  I'm using a finger stranding tool but it's still slow going.  I'm also knitting it inside out so that I can scoop up the longest floats occasionally rather than try to weave them in when there are four strands of yarn to deal with.

Commuter knitting has been the Now in a Minute Shawl. There's something about this pattern that I find very non-intuitive.  The actual shawl is not that complicated but I find the pattern hard to understand in the way it is written. So I made a bit of a dog's breakfast of the beginning of the shawl but have persevered. I think I understand the sequence now, and I'm on the third colour of the six colours of sock wool that I chose.

One of my friends, DaisyDaisyDaisy, is expecting so I did a bit of machine knitting for her over the last few weeks but that's a surprise so I can't put a picture in yet. I'm also giving her the Baby Surprise Jacket which she knows about and which is all done now with collar and buttons.

As I think I have previously demonstrated, I am very susceptible to advertising and this week fell victim to a Katia ad in Let's Knit magazine where a model was wearing a luscious-looking cowl knit in Katia Velvet Loop yarn. It just looked so warm and soft and you can knit the cowl from just one ball.  A few clicks of the mouse and the yarn was mine and I've almost finished the cowl which is just a strip of garter stitch.  The yarn is a chenille with regular loopy bits and is easy enough to knit with on 9mm needles.

In a similar vein, an article about Arne and Carlos, the Scandinavian knitters, included several pictures of cosy warm-looking felted slippers.  A quick trip to Amazon to find that it is a book and then it was mine, bwah ha ha.  The recommended Rauma yarn isn't available in the UK but I've got some Lett Lopi from Iceland that my s-i-l brought back for me, and I've felted a trial swatch which felted well. So I'm going to knit some slippers in Lett Lopi and hope I have enough.

Other stuff

Investigation of the mirror I bought last weekend revealed that it was cast plaster and probably modern. It seemed too fragile to try to remove the old paint so I repainted it in some Mylands emulsion in a stony-white colour. I also removed the mirror and gave it a very good clean as it was covered in old paint and dirt.  It looks nice now in the ensuite, adding a touch of period flavour but unfortunately showing up the hideous wall light that came with the house.

I've been getting the garden ready for the winter over the last few weeks: mulching around tenderish plants like the fuschias, clearing dead leaves, planting the last of the bulbs, and today I cleared away the rhubarb leaves and mulched around the crowns with manure.  We've still got some colour in the garden from plants that are hanging on to their flowers but then I don't think we've had a really heavy frost yet. In fact it's been rather ridiculously warm the last week, up to 18 degrees C in London, even though it is typically wet and blustery weather.  Today we got the stepladder out and attempted to string fairy lights in one of our trees at the front of the house.  I had a 50% chance to pick the correct string of lights from two identical strings. It wasn't until we were just finishing off an hour of reaching up into branches and tying lights on to them that I discovered I'd picked the string with the faulty repair so the end section wasn't lighting up.  Grrrrrr.  Fun and games trying to pick off the electrical tape and re-do the repair while standing on a ladder on the pavement/sidewalk.  I've got most of the bulbs lit again but I've had to wind duct tape around the repair and hope that's enough waterproofing to keep it dry for the next few months.  It feels a bit too early to put them on every night but we will go out and admire our handiwork tonight.

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