Saturday, 29 August 2015

Burdened by my stuff

It's been a bit of a tough week, as you may know if you read my previous Extra Post 2. There were times when I was really wondering why on earth I had so much dollshouse stuff and if I even wanted it all. As I unpacked the stash I inherited from my sadly-missed friend, I was wondering if someone would eventually be doing the same with my stash(es).  I think once I have a desk set up I want to go through all my dollshouse projects to see what still needs doing to them and whether I still want to keep each one. Then once all the work is done, I need to go through the remaining stash and see if I can't considerably whittle it down.  I'm looking into joining the nearest dollshouse club, so I may be able to re-home things there once I'm ready.


Earlier in the week, in between bursts of unpacking, I finished off the dressmaking mannequin. The measurements are similar to mine, some may be a cm or two out but it's a reasonable representation of me.  The neckline and armholes are finished with bias binding and the bottom of the cover is cinched in with a drawstring.

sooooo flattering.....  :(

As a reward for finishing the mannequin, which I had been procrastinating about for some time, I have cut out a Friendship Braid tablerunner using instructions from the Craftsy video by Debbie Caffrey for easy rotary cutting using a HST ruler and 2.5 inch strips. It's going together fairly quickly and I think I am going to have pieces left over so I may make a smaller one for m-i-l.


The Knitmore Girls podcast has a segment called 'When Knitting Attacks' and I've certainly been attacked by mine this week.  I've been knitting on the Rowan Summer Tweed cardigan, and I got as far as casting off for the armholes.  It wasn't until I held it up to check for length that I realised I had completely forgotten to decrease for the front neckline slopes.  So I ripped out half of it and started over.  I soon got myself into a complete muddle trying to translate three sets of flat knitting instructions into one set of knitting-in-the-round instructions, and ended up having to make a spreadsheet showing row-by-row shaping from the waist upwards (not helped by an apparent error in the stitch count for the back).

So I laboriously knit it back up to the armholes and tried it on my mannequin to see how it was looking for length and fit.

Length looks good
But way too much fullness in the back

I know from having used this yarn before that the finished garment will grow even more, so with a certain amount of bitter resignation, I ripped it back to the waist AGAIN and now I'm reknitting and eliminating the back increases.  Grrrr.  Hope the blessed thing fits when it's done.

Other stuff

Otherwise this week I've started the first bobbin lace pricking in Bucks Point lace, and I'm getting on ok apart from the thread is much finer and I've had some trouble seeing what's going on when I've gone wrong.  I've knocked out a few more 10x10 squares of cross stitching and was able to scroll the frame on by an inch or so to progress the pattern - so I can see the halfway point but I'm not there yet.

And today I took a pack of plastic plant labels and a chinagraph pencil out to the garden, and stuck a label into all the perennial plants that came up and surprised me this summer, so that I know where they are once they disappear into the ground again.  We also entertained the neighbours by estimating how high a tree we could plant in the garden without blocking our satellite dish.  This involved DH manoeuvring an 18m construction of bamboo sticks duct-taped together into one long length while I stood on a ladder sighting along the satellite dish arm.  Then I went in the house and called out directions for where he should move the 'tree' to block out the view of the new flats being built at the bottom of the garden.  We will dig up some of our shrubs this autumn and plant the tree, which needs to have a maximum height of 5m so I need to look in my plant books to choose one.  It will only partially help with the privacy issue because the block of flats is so tall.

Extra Post 2: More unpacking of dollshouses

I've been on holiday this week from work, and I've spent several hours each day unpacking dollshouses, dollshouse stash, and trying to organise it all.  It's all been a bit chaotic because in our last real house, most of the stash had to stay in the attic which made it difficult to keep organised and it all turned into a bit of a gloryhole.  Then the last two and half years, I was accumulating stuff independent of the stash which was in storage while we moved house. And to top it off, I lost a dear friend last year and inherited her not inconsiderable stash as well.

I have to confess there were a few days this week where I was very heavy of heart, and feeling very overwhelmed and burdened down by the sheer amount of stuff. My new dollshouse room became increasingly trashed with stuff piled everywhere waiting for homes or waiting to be grouped like with like. Plus there were some very sad moments as I unpacked my friend's stash and recognised many projects we had done side by side at our former dollshouse club, or gifts that I had given her or she had given to me.

But I persevered, and DH helped by taking moutains of bubblewrap, tissue paper and cardboard to the recycling station. Eventually the last box and house was unpacked and the pipeline of bits and pieces needing to be grouped came to an end.  Then I could start looking at how much I had of each type, and how that could be stored.  I went out to a bargain store called QD and picked up five big cereal containers which (with lids discarded) made great containers for the strip wood, mouldings, balsa, sheet wood, and round sticks. I also got some plastic shoe boxes and big tupperwares. And I've ordered some plastic underbed boxes online which will fit into the cupboards for storing excess furniture.

Just some of the many cardboard boxes

The typical gloryhole needing untangling

Horrible mess of wood stash being sorted on counter, yet another heartsinking box being opened.

Piles and rubbish all over the floor

But after a lot of hard work, it is largely under control now.  Today I spent a couple of hours sorting all the smaller accessories into labelled boxes, so the only big job left is to sort all the tiny metal hinges, door knobs, beads and findings.  When the bedboxes arrive, I will unpack all the furniture boxes and sort them out into the new boxes, and hopefully the wallpaper as well.

I'm not going to make any hasty decisions, but I think some of my older projects may need to be re-homed or dismantled. I think it may be time to streamline the collection to the things I really like.

More houses and room boxes

1:24 scale Thatched cottage

Oops, kitchen chair needs a bit of attention!

Straightened up - several pieces of furniture had fallen over but only the chair was broken

1:12 conservatory - very hard to get all the wrapping out of the front french doors, and it was all a bit tumbled about inside.

1:12 attic room

No damage as everything was glued down. This is one of the projects that I may try to find a new home for.

1:12 Christmas scene in cling film to keep the dust off.

1:24 Fisherman's Rest Tea Rooms

Oh dear, earthquake in the tea room, but the English ladies are keeping a stiff upper lip about it.

Straightened out and on display

Hobbit hole spilling out of a copy of the Hobbit, Gandalf however has taken a tumble.

Another 1:12 Christmas scene inside a very battered gift bag.

1:24 Georgian house, unfinished.

I bought this Georgian house and I've never been able to decide if it is whimsically rustic or just crudely made. I was going to try to furnish it as if it were 1810 but got a bit discouraged at how rough everything is.

Cute 1:48 house, just needed a bit of straightening up.

Oh dear, 1:12 bookend scene has a broken table leg and the cat's tail has snapped off!  I've glued the table, and DH superglued the cat's tail (superglue hates me and never dries when I try to use it)

1:12 Georgian room box I made on the Mulvaney's workshop
With its Art Nouveau furniture unwrapped.

1:12 1930s hair salon which was my friend's unfinished project

1:48 New Orleans townhouse - this is in a right state and to be honest I just shut the front again, I will sort it out another time.

1:12 Room box fantasy of my dream room

1:48 Halloween house - I've since bought some more halloweeney accessory kits for this that I need to put together.

The growing pile of accessories needing sorting.

Furniture kits above, wallpaper below.

There was more, but I stopped taking pictures because I was so overwhelmed. Mostly smaller projects and 1:48 scenes.

There's one more house, my biggest house, to unwrap - the one I call the Vic-war-gency house because the time periods are so muddled in it. But I think it is safer in its box until the kitchen fitter has come back to re-do the plinth, which hopefully will be in the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Blah blah knitting blah blah cross stitch yada yada

Yes, here we are again, another week, another blog post filled with dubious achievements and time fillers, lol.

If you are interested in the dollshouse room saga, then see the previous post entitled Extra Post: unwrapping dollshouses.  I didn't want to inflict it on the general readership so gave it a separate post.

Cross stitch

Yes, cross stitch is a thing again and has taken over my desk area all week.  I did a massive re-organisation of my materials: inserting labels for all the threads into each plastic pocket (they are in two binder pages of plastic pockets), inserting a second taller card with a hole punched out for working threads and a bit of adhesive draft-proofing foam to park a needle in, threading a needle for every colour and parking it ready for use above each pocket, highlighting the grid lines on the charts for easy reference compared to the sewn grid on the canvas, crossing out the grid squares already completed etc.  At last I was ready to stitch (DH accused me of enjoying the organising part so much that I was putting off the stitching).

I'm pleased to find that it has all paid off.  The gridding took some time but it is SO much easier to stitch now for my counting-challenged brain. I can do it more visually which is what suits me, and it is quite satisfying to cross off a completed 10x10 grid square on the chart.  The needles are already threaded ready to grab the next colour, and I bought a 'fineliner' pencil-type highlighter which is much easier for colouring in the chart squares as I complete them. After a while, my back started to hurt and I was thinking "I need a stand". Then I was thinking: "Didn't I used to have a stand??" So I went down and had a dig around in my 'non-quilting materials' cupboard in the sewing room and sure enough found several bits of wood with screw holes and wing nuts attached to them.  After a bit of experimentation, I was able to put together a stand which holds my cross stitch frame hands-free so I can stitch with the two handed method, much faster and easier on my back. So I've put in a few hours of stitching this week - which is depressingly so little of the chart. This is going to be a long haul.

Bobbin lace

I have a finish!!!  I finally finished the Torchon Lace Mat and I'm really pleased with it. There are numerous issues that an expert could point out but none of them are structural. Mainly inconsistencies where I forgot to twist threads, or where my tension wasn't consistent. But considering I am mostly self-taught and only started earlier this year, I feel proud of it. It's about 6.5"/16cm square.

There was a bit of a heartstopping moment near the very end when I was doing the sewings that connect the fourth triangle to the beginning triangle.  I tugged on a knot to make sure it was firm, and the thread snapped in my hand. Only it didn't snap off AT the knot, it snapped BEFORE the knot. So now I had a 1/8th end waving free in the air and no way to splice it or do things over as I had already sewn in all the threads around it.

Luckily I had DH's magnification visor and some pointy tweezers, and I was able to pull the end out to about 1/4" long. I looked at it for a while, it was on the side of the fan at the outer corner of the mat. In the end what I did was to pull  some spare thread through the stitch at the side of the fan using the same fine crochet hook I was using to do the sewings, and then tie a reef knot on both sides of the lace stitch to hold the threads fast including the loose waving thread.  Then I took across those two ends, and the original third end, and did a replacement sewing with them on the other side.  It seems to have worked and I don't think that area is any more fragile than the other sewings.   I just hope I never need to wash the mat because I don't think I trust any of the sewings that far.

I'm now going to move on to learning Bucks Point lace, which is a finer and more complicated lace.  I've scanned some prickings out of the Pamela Nottingham book ready to make a start tomorrow at Bobbin Lace group.


As mentioned last week, I was reaching the end of the yarn on my Gradient Shawl so I stopped knitting edging rows and started casting off.  About halfway along this lengthy crescent shape I realised my yarn was getting low. After a lengthy game of yarn chicken, I lost with only a few inches of stitches left to cast off.

I searched out some navy sock yarn from stash which is a fair match and  cast off the remaining stitches in that.  Then I blocked it.  It was all looking very lopsided and I eventually realised that my top edging on the right side was much less stretchy than my top edging on the left side. I'm not really sure why, unless it is the cumulative effect of slipping the first stitch in the row and knitting the last stitch. I mean that the left side was stretching about another 15cm. So I had to scootch it up to try to balance the design while it was blocking. It's still not very even but I don't think it will be as obvious when I'm wearing it.

The other thing we did this week was to drive up to Spalding on Saturday to collect a £50 eBay bargain: this garden arbour which normally sells for £146. It was in good condition too, DH gave it a coat of the same brown wood preservative we used on the other two arches, and we put it back together today. It looks good and fits in with the circular theme I've got going on in the garden.

No sewing this week, but I did get DH to drive me to Poppy Patch quilting shop in Great Doddington for their Christmas in August evening.  If you signed up for a course in November or December on the night, you got £10 off. So I've signed up for a one-day class to sew a Christmas wallhanging. I can't even remember the last time I went on a quilting class - it may very well have been as far back as 2007, the last time I went over to a US quilting show.

And speaking of quilting shows, I'm starting to look into travelling to Japan in 2016 for the Yokohama Quilt Week. It's not until November so I'm hoping we will have more money by then, although it will depend what happens with my job relocation. Japan has been on my bucket list for a long time, and I'm not getting any younger, so I'm gathering information and researching what I want to see.  DH however isn't sure he wants to come, so this may be a solo trip.  There are several organised quilting holidays to Japan but most of them go to the bigger Tokyo festival in January. Also they are very expensive. I think I can duplicate a lot of their itineraries for much less, apart from a few that arrange bespoke classes for participants.  If you've been to Japan, I'd love to hear your tips!

Extra post: Unwrapping dollshouses

If you aren't interested in dollshouses, you may want to skip this post and read the next one which is a normal crafts report.

This week I have been working on the dollshouse room.  Using my rough and ready carpentry skills, I boxed in the ugly pipes in the corner.  This was quite challenging as neither wall is flat or vertical, plus I can't drill into the wall because it's been drylined to keep the damp out (waterproof membrane that can't be punctured).  I got there in the end and as long as nobody ever (ever) touches it, it will be fine.

By the time I finished painting the box, and applying narrow strips of wood along the backs of the worktops to block the varying gap with the not-flat wall, I had realised that the rest of the room was looking really grotty.  Cobwebs, dirt marks, random holes, stained concrete steps, peeling paint - it looked like a basement.

So I spent more time filling holes and sanding flat, painting the walls, and painting the concrete steps with floor paint.  It looks a lot better.

The kitchen fitter still needs to come back and re-do the plinth, but I decided it was time to start unpacking some houses.

The first one I did was the Fairfield 1/24th house, which has its own blog.

Then I moved on to the next box, which turned out to be my Rik Pierce Gamekeeper's cottage.  I'm unpacking on a little table, surrounded by a sheet, and I am carefully inspecting all wrapping to make sure nothing tiny is sticking to it.

Contents revealed - the house is buffered by two TV quilts and a sheep skin.

Out of the box - you can see all the bubble wrap padding the chimney.

Bubble wrap removed, but chimney still padded.  Cling film is holding in the tissue paper padding the rooms.

Oops, we have some breakage: the decorative twirl on the roof cap has snapped off.

The inside was a bit tumbled around but nothing broken.  This house is still a work in progress 

Safe in the new display area with its dust cover over it.

Next up was the Canadian house.  This is the first house I ever built, back in 1980. It's a bit basic in construction, and looking a bit battered now.
Padded with bubblewrap inside its box.

Bubblewrap cut away. This house used to have a nice porch, but I had to cut it off because it made the back-opening house very hard to turn around for viewing.

Lots of tissue paper stuffed gently in the rooms to hold contents in place.

Bit of an earthquake in the attic, and some of this stuff doesn't belong in here so I've taken it out now.

This house is very much my teenage dream house. In contrast to my parents' house, which was very functional and decorated in 1970s orange and brown, my dollshouse was full of pastels and florals and quilts and antiques.  Since then, I've continued to add to it over the years, choosing things I like.

My idea of a luxury bathroom in 1980 - still looks pretty good to me!

The crowded living room, with dolls representing me and my husband, and lots of evidence of my hobbies - plus my teapot collection.

Nice Canadian style kitchen, this is an old Reallife Miniatures kit I think.

Next up was the French Gatehouse.

It had a big 'bumper' of cushions inside carrier bags, taped together into a sort of life vest.

Unfortunately this had both squashed the geraniums in the window box...

and smashed the stair railing.  Some repairs needed here.

Also the rooftop finial had snapped off, but I can reglue.

Tissue paper revealed.

The bedroom has survived well, just had to rearrange some of the accessories.

The main living room is fine, just had to put back the lamp and some cushions and a stray bit of cheese.

The gate area was a bit topsy turvy, but easy to sort out.

Placed on the display area, waiting for repairs.

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