Sunday, 22 February 2015

A rumour of Spring

Despite the damp chill which seeps into your bones, there is a sense that Spring is just around the corner in our garden.  A few inherited crocuses are peeping up, several clumps of snowdrops are glowing white against their dark surroundings, and bigger bulbs like tulips and daffodils are stretching green tips several inches upwards from the ground.  Our pear tree has buds on it, and what I think is a Mulberry tree has several fat buds as well.  I've indulged in some cut daffodils in support of the Macmillan cancer charity which are ripening to yellow buds in the dining room, and a little pot of narcissi from Morrisons for the study which have grown about three inches already in just a week.  I'm looking forwards to the earth warming up as I want to move around several shrubs in the front garden.

I had the builder back to give me quotes on all the repairs needed to our boundary walls, and I'm bracing myself for a big number. I knew the buttresses on the front garden wall were all broken away, but I didn't realise the wall itself was loose at the bottom - rather shockingly it rocked back and forth when the builder gave it a push.  It's all got to be done though, particularly the tall brick wall in the back garden which I'm afraid is going to drop bricks on someone's head - the top few courses are already collapsing.  The brick bays in front of our front cellar windows need digging up and rebuilding as well. So there won't be any point doing too much in the garden beds around those potential construction sites as plants will get smashed down. So instead I will likely be moving stuff out to safety in the side beds or even into the back garden temporarily.

From my sewing room I can look out at the garden, nice for good light but the view isn't that inspiring yet.  One day we will have a nice garden.  This week I cut out and put together a flannel raggy quilt for my son, which made an instant dent in my stash. Flannel quilting fabric is incredibly expensive in the UK but I had been picking up a few yards here and there in sales for several years. Therefore they probably weren't the fabrics I would have chosen if money had been no object, but I'm fairly pleased with the outcome.  I looked at a few tutorials to refresh my memory as I hadn't made one for several years, and I found this image of a four-patch quilt which suited my five-fabric stash.I used leftover flannel scraps for the middle layer plus I cut up an old brushed cotton sheet that I used in the past as a design wall.

(above) Piecing together the squares: large squares are cut 9", small squares are cut 5", 1/2" seam allowance used throughout. Eight rows with five blocks.

(above) The quilt top after I had cut into all the seam allowances, which took a couple of hours and gave me proto-blisters. At least this time I managed NOT to cut into the quilt itself, unlike previous experiences.

(above) The quilt edges all frayed after a trip to the commercial laundrette and a few spins through their tumbledryer. I didn't want to subject my own washer to such a heavy load and all the loose threads. I'm pleased with how it's turned out although it would have been nice if I'd had enough fabric to make it bigger, my son is tall enough that this won't cover him up completely.  I still think he'll like it.

While I was sitting in the laundrette waiting for the quilt to be finished, I was knitting on my capelet. I think I must be a bit more than halfway through, it's got to wrap loosely around my body and be seamed to itself.

I'm almost finished the last sleeve for my cabled cardigan, I'm just decreasing for the cap of the sleeve.  Then it will just need blocking and I can sew it together!  For my Aran Sampler Sweater, I realised that my plan to use the handknitting pattern as a machine knitting guide wasn't going to work. The handknitting pattern casts on a lot of extra stitches to compensate for the dense aran texture, and in stockinette it would mean a back that was half again too wide.  So I had to sit down and write out a machine knitting pattern to produce a back and sleeves that will be more or less the right size at the gauge I am getting on the machine.  Fingers crossed anyways.

Commuter knitting this week was the sleeve the first few days, then the Mixalot sock which is slowly progressing. I'm still not happy with the mess I made of the heel, but it's fitting pretty well. The top of the cuff is a little tight, I will have to be careful to cast on extra loosely for the second sock.

I finished Clue 2 & 3 of the Battle of Five Armies Mystery KAL shawl, which was leaves representing the elves of Mirkwood, followed by shields representing the Dwarfs. I added a couple of beads to each dwarven shield to bling them up a bit. I'm now working on Clue 4 which represents the goblins. This is TV knitting because I need my iPad to keep track of where I am on the charts.

And I astonished myself this week by picking up a hand applique project that I started many years ago, to sew some more leaves onto a block that I started at least two years ago. One day this will be a 25-block traditional applique quilt - I think this is something like block 17 but I've misplaced my master list of blocks. It felt really good to work on it, I enjoy hand applique once all the pieces are marked - it's the faffing about with templates and tracing onto the background for placement that I find really tedious.  Most of the blocks are from the book 'Grandmother's Last Quilt' but I'm also doing some out of the 'Rose Sampler Supreme' book.

I haven't done any bobbin lace this week as I've been waiting for my new threads to arrive.  They tried to deliver while I was out so I picked them up from the post office yesterday. Now I need to copy out some practice Torchon patterns from the Pamela Nottingham book.

I'm pretty much finished sorting through my vintage linens, although I have a pile that needs washing to try to remove stains.  I didn't find everything that I had previously catalogued, but then I found quite a few things that hadn't been catalogued or at least didn't have tags on, so there may be some overlap there.  I've scrawled all over my old catalogue so I need to type all that up and re-print it.  I've sorted everything into four boxes so I need to label those as well:  Small mats and doilies, Large mats and doilies; Tablecloths; Oddities and clothing.

Oh great, it's started raining again outside...  England in February, not fun.


Daisy said...

Good luck with the wall! We had to do that with ours as we were worried it was going to fall on our neighbour - was expensive but definitely worth it, it all looks so much better now (and shows up how bad our driveway is!).

Josie said...

I've haven't ever made a full size quilt, a rag version might just be 'do-able' for a first attempt. My first house was a little cottage in Durham and it was in a conservation area. The back wall of the yard was about 14 foot high, it was at least a couple of hundred years old and had been repaired numerous times. I dreaded anything happening to it on my watch and the expense that would have incurred. It was only a tiny first home, your house will be so beautiful when it's finised and you will hopefully be there years!

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