So this week I've done curtainmaking, started learning bobbin lace, sewed bobbin lace accessories, done handknitting and machine knitting. I've made loads of mistakes, learned lots of new things, and exercised parts of my brain that have been pretty dormant for a long time.
Just before Christmas I heard about a short course introducing Bobbin Lace, being offered at a centre about eight minutes walk from my house. Bobbin Lace is something I've always wanted to try, and over the last 20 years I've collected parts from two Dryad starter kits (found at boot sales), several books, and some bits and bobs like spangle beads and pins. I had my first two hour lesson (of five) last week, and I really enjoyed it. There are five of us on the course, three continuing on from last term and two of us absolute beginners. All the others had elaborate lacemaking kit which immediately awoke my gadget girl collector's envy. The teacher is really nice and showed us two beginners how to wind bobbins (she lent me hers to begin with) and how to do cloth stitch, and got us started on our first pattern which was to make a snake using cloth stitch. I did about an inch in class and then brought it home as homework. I was enjoying it so much that I finished it the next morning.
Meanwhile I dug through my stash to pull together the long-hoarded bobbin lace kit. Altogether I have 29 pairs of plastic or basic wooden bobbins, which all needed spangling - that's the circle of beads attached to one end which helps the bobbin lie flat in use. So I spent several hours threading wire through beads and attaching it to the bobbins - but I had to go out and raid the local charity shops to find some more bead necklaces to break up as I was running out of big beads.
After that painstaking task, I sewed a cover for one of the foam Dryad flat pillows, and hemmed a work cloth to use with it. To protect my newly-spangled bobbins, I sewed a bobbin-holding case which will hold 32 pairs. I used curtain tieback Pellon for the stiff covers, and wide waistband elastic to hold the bobbins. The binding is doubled French binding and I used the leftover binding strips to sew ties to hold it closed. I didn't have a pattern as such but I looked at a few online to see what others were using. It was good sewing practice as well.
I think Dorothy must be/have been American, so hopefully I'm not learning to do things differently than the teacher would have shown me. I'll find out at the next lesson! She seems pretty laid back so I don't think she'll mind that I've gone ahead on my own.
Having learned the three stitches (cloth stitch, whole throw, and half throw), I wanted to tackle my first piece of 'real' lace. Dorothy calls this the Crown and Triangle edging, and it was really fun to do once I worked out which threads were going where and in which order.
I doubt this is going to become a main hobby for me, at least not to the point where I am going to spend £3.50-£10 collecting individual bobbins like the teacher. But I would like to be able to tackle some miniature lace for the dollshouse - I've got a book somewhere on how to do that and make little mats, antimacassars etc. In the meantime it's been really fun to learn something new.
Curtainmaking is hard
At the opposite end of the 'fun' spectrum, I slogged through several more hours of seaming, pressing and hemming and finally finished the cellar stairs curtain.
Although the Laura Ashley book of furnishing describes this as a 'simple' curtain, it probably took me up to 10 hours to make and has wholly solidified my intention to pay someone else to make all the Roman Blinds we will need in this house. It's just really hard to wrestle a 2.2m square piece of heavy fabric, made heavier with a thermal lining and weights in the hem. It's hard to cut an accurate square that big in the first place - and my lining hem is wonky by about an inch because of that. It's hard to accurately press all the hems and seams, and it took about an hour just to handsew the bottom curtain hem. The task was not made easier by having to piece together three pieces of curtain fabric and four pieces of lining to get to the right size (the lining is my own fault, I didn't order enough). But it's done, and it's doing the job apart from it doesn't hang right up to the walls very well because of the fittings supporting the pole. It looks pretty good from this distance :)
This week I finished the left front of the Cabled Cardigan and I've blocked it in preparation for marking where I want the button holes. I was a bit stymied when I got to the shoulders and found the directions wanted me to keep knitting the neckband. I've not done a cardigan that way before, but I can see how it will work to flow the cable around the neckline. I've left the neckband stitches on a pin in case I need to make it longer or shorter.
Meanwhile I then needed a new portable project, so I started the Mixalot Sock by Rachel Coopey. This pattern has been featured in full page ads for a yarn company in UK knitting magazines, and is essentially stripes of different colours each featuring one of four lace patterns. It looked like a great way to use up my many balls of leftover sock yarn. I started it on my Wednesday commute but by Thursday I could see that the medium size was going to be far too loose on me. So I've pulled that out and re-started with fewer stitches. Haven't photographed as it doesn't look like anything yet.
I finally finally finished the endless stockinette of the Low Tide Cardigan body in sock yarn. A really tedious knit. I tried it on and I am not convinced this is going to be a success. The v-shaped lace yoke is bulging strangely on my back. Other Ravellers have reported fit problems so I am not optimistic. I've measured the armhole size and calculated how many stitches to pick up which is different from the pattern because the yoke is stretching on me. So I will have to increase as I pick up the live stitches.
I've knit a bit more on the Aran Sampler Pullover, but still on the section above the armholes. I will need to decide how I'm going to do the neckline soon, the pattern neck is too high for me.
I have persevered and completed the two fronts, and two sleeves for the little practice baby cardigan I am knitting in fuschia pink. Today I tackled knitting the front buttonhole bands, which took ages and was exhausting. There are some things which just aren't that easy or quick on a machine compared to handknitting. I also re-learned how to use my Hague Linker after a few false starts - that's a machine that chain stitches live stitches down onto the knitted fabric, to give a neat finish to the folded knitted bands. Now I just need to do the neckbands, darn in some loose ends and then I can block the pieces ready for seaming. I haven't photographed them yet as machine knitting tends to curl up a lot more than handknitting so at the moment they just look like fuschia pink sausages.
Hopefully I will end up with a cardigan that's reasonably adequate to give away to someone. Then I am going to knit something for an ex-colleague who is pregnant with a baby boy. I need to have it done before the 15th of March when she is having a baby shower. I'm not going but one of my current colleagues will take the gift along for me.
I made my first bubble tea at home today! We like it so much when we have it at Oxford that I looked up how to do it. I used this recipe here, and some boba pearls that I mail ordered from an online Asian shop. I used Jasmine Green Tea bags, and flavoured it with fresh squeezed lemon juice. It was pretty good! Will definitely make again, and would be so refreshing on a hot day. Today it is hovering at freezing but it is lovely and sunny.
Hope you've had a good week too!