Sunday, 27 September 2015

Summer is over

We noticed today that there are dead leaves all over the front lawn, and it's so chilly in the evenings that we have had to break down and put the heating on for a few hours just to take the chill off. And while it was a lovely sunny weekend, it was only about 16 degrees in the shade so you definitely needed a jumper.

It was quite chilly in the Bede House in Higham Ferrers, a medieval building where a friend and I went to view the Higham Ferrers patchwork and quilting exhibition today.  Not very big, but it had some lovely pieces in it.  I think my favourite was a very simple quilt of large squares, mostly 30s repros and ginghams. It was only quilted in the ditch, but the colour selection was brilliant, very vintage and Brambly Hedge. There was a lovely display of mini quilts made by members of a Flickr group called Mini Mania which I shall have to look up, apparently they set monthly challenges for members so there were different interpretations of the same patterns in the display. There was also quite an intriguing display of fabric interpretations of famous paintings, all displayed in identical wooden frames next to photos of the originals.

On the other hand, when I was out in full sunshine planting bulbs in the garden this afternoon, it was really quite hot. I had a pack of 30 tulip bulbs, and a bumper pack of about 400 small bulbs.  Needless to say I only managed to plant about 100 of them before I was exhausted, it's quite hard work digging six inch holes and trying to avoid existing plants and root balls. I'll have to try to do more tomorrow.

Dollshouse room

I've continued to work on the dollshouse room this week, and also on renovating the French scene which is now done.

I unpacked all my books and magazines, and sorted all the magazines by year. These are mostly old Nutshell News, Miniature Collector and American Miniaturist.

DS put together two more bookcases for me, so they all store neatly onto those.

And I made a shelf to fit over my workdesk to hold frequently used tools.  I put it fairly high up so I have room to turn houses around on the desk without hitting the shelf.

For the French scene, I made replacements for the missing chimneys. The two chimneys in the lefthand column are the originals, the other four are my replacements. The chimney pots are made from painted dressmaking eyelets.

I went ahead and broke out the discoloured old plastic windows on the ground floor, only dislodging a few diners and their tables and chairs.  I cut new windows from clear acrylic 'glass' and fitted them, so you can see inside now to see all the detail of the restaurants.  I tried to take a picture to show you but the camera can't focus sufficiently.  I also bought some more railway people in HO scale, and repainted their clothing to tone down the bright colours, and gave them a dirty 'wash' so that they would match the vintage figures better, and glued them onto the scene to replace some of the missing figures.

It all looks pretty good now.  DH still doesn't like it, but I do. It is just such a stereotype of 'Frenchness' and I love all the work that someone put into it a long time ago.  It's in our hallway on top of our coat bench.

This week I tried out my nearest dollshouse club, which is a small and friendly group about a 20 minute drive away.  They were very welcoming so I have paid up to join for a year to give them a try. I'm not sure what the standard is, but it was nice to be amongst fellow enthusiasts again and I found out about a dollshouse show coming up in Market Harborough which we can drive to.


I finished the Witch's Hat, complete with embroidered spiders web.  It fits fairly well, perhaps a bit loose but then I'll only be wearing it one night a year. I might put a bit of stuffing in the tip to plump it up a bit.

My Fingerless Gloves commuter knitting has progressed to two completed gloves with all four fingers done, and I'm just starting the first thumb.  I need to choose the section of the colourway so that the thumb matches in with the palm colours.

TV knitting has been knitting the lining pieces for the Pointless vintage handbag, the one that I made the daisies for.  There are five lining pieces, I'm on my third.


I joined in with a bit of a Sew-Along online last night which was part of the Cozy Afternoon BOM, and got three hours of sewing done which was really nice.  I finished block 5 of the BOM.

And I put together all three table runners and put borders on them.  The long one is for us and has a brown check border.  The two smaller ones are gifts and have an autumn leaves print border. This has been a good stashbusting project.

Other stuff and Creative Bug review

I did a bit more cross stitch this week while I was watching videos on a free trial of a new video tutorial site called Creative Bug. The free trial gives you unlimited access for a month, plus one class to keep forever. I chose a class on making a leather totebag as my keeper, because I had seen some cheap pieces of leather in our local bric-a-brac store (I have subsequently gone and bought a piece of blue leather which I think is big enough to make a bag from).

I enjoyed watching through several videos but found that the site suffers in comparison to Craftsy. Classes are shorter and more of them seem aimed at complete beginners, and production values are not as high as Craftsy. Presenters also seem less slick, so presumably aren't getting as much coaching as Craftsy gives to their presenters. Editing could be improved, a lot of time is wasted for example watching a woman sand a cupboard and a coffee table in the refinishing furniture class, when I think Craftsy would have shown it once and said 'now keep doing that until the piece is sanded'. I did enjoy a one-hour t-shirt tutorial which I have printed the pattern off for and might try. There is a short class on choosing leather for projects which was useful as background to my leather bagmaking class. One thing the site does have which I don't think I've seen on Craftsy are 'Work-Alongs' which seem to be classes split up into weekly stages where you can do the project along with the instructor. As I explored the site, I was continually annoyed by the inability to view a full list of classes on screen - it will only show you one screen at a time and you have to keep clicking on 'Load More' to view the next screen.

Subscription is fairly cheap at $4.95 a month, and they seem to have plans to add more classes regularly.  I don't think I would subscribe, there wasn't enough content to interest me. But interesting to see an alternative to Craftsy.

Hope you had a crafty week also!

Sunday, 20 September 2015

At last, something that's not falling apart in middle age

I had my eye test this week, bracing myself for more depressing news about how everything is breaking down and getting worse with middle age. To my astonishment, he said the reason I've had trouble seeing things clearly is that my eyes have actually gotten better! This means my glasses are now too strong, which is why they weren't really helping me to see my bobbin lace etc. So I need new lenses. The only downside is I will have to do without glasses altogether for 7-10 days  while they re-glaze my frames.

On the bobbin lace, I finished my second sample of Bucks Point lace. I feel I am grasping the principles but still making mistakes, and my picots are still pretty mediocre.  I've now started a third sample which is like a small bookmark.  I started it on Saturday while attending a Lace Day near Olney. These are quite fun: a whole day doing bobbin lace (or knitting or whatever else people bring along), with two lace suppliers, a big secondhand stall, refreshments, a raffle, and friendly company.  I bought a little book on Bucks Point lace, some more blue film for covering prickings, a pin pusher, and some finer pins which are making it much easier to see what I am doing on this finer lace.

Commuter knitting has been the Fingerless Gloves.  There has been a certain amount of un-knitting as I work out a pattern to suit my hand, but I'm almost finished the first glove. I wound off some yarn to break the colour sequence, so that the fingers will all be blue. I started the second glove already and am almost up to the fingers. I was able to start in pretty much the same place in the colour sequence so the gloves will be quite similar. I'm making the fingers quite long for extra warmth.

I've knit the witch's hat - this is just pinned together for a picture as I still need to embroider the spider's web on it before I sew it up.  I am planning to wear this on Halloween.

In the dollshouse room, I've started renovating the battered French scene that I bought at an antiques fair a few years ago.  It's pretty grimy, and is missing various chimneys and people. I think it must have once been on display rather than part of a railway set up. It's been designed so that the light will shine through the rooms from one side to the other, and all the shops and restaurants are furnished inside with a lot of detail.  You can hardly see inside now because the plastic they used for glass on the ground floor has become very dark with age - I'm considering replacing it so you can see the interiors but I don't want to cause more damage trying to break it out.

The dark film over everything didn't yield to water, nor to white spirit. But I tried sugar soap wipes which claim to contain a powerful degreaser, and they started making inroads on the grime.  I can't rub too hard or the paint starts coming off, but you can see on the right that it is a lighter colour on the yellow base than on the left.

The wipes also worked on the green and white awnings which look a lot brighter now.  I've used a cotton bud dipped in sugar soap to clean into the nooks and crannies, and to wipe down windows. I'm going to take one of the broken people to the railway shop and see if they sell the same scale - I think they are Prieser figures or similar. I am planning to make replacement chimneys as well.

Earlier in the week on my days off, I finished piecing the chains of Friendship Braid segments and have joined together the first small table runner / mat.  These aren't really my colours but I think my m-i-l will like hers. I need to sew together the other two runners and put a narrow border around them all.  I don't want to buy anything as this is a stashbusting exercise, so the borders will likely be brown rather than anything exciting.

Today we did loads of digging in the garden: uprooting a six-foot bay tree and a seven-foot weeping cherry tree to make room for the Photinia tree I've ordered. And before we could dig up the trees, we had to dig up and temporarily pot about  ten perennial plants that were growing underneath them. We also had to dig up a patch of Rudbeckia (michaelmas daisy) to make a hole to replant the bay tree, and cut down three sunflower plants to dig a hole to replant the cherry tree.  Altogether including cleanup it took about 2.5 hours and I was absolutely knackered afterwards - I'm still feeling stiff now. But now we are all ready to plant the new tree when it arrives in a few weeks, and hopefully the transplanted trees will get sufficiently established before the winter (and not die).

Saturday, 12 September 2015

House progress

I don't feel like I've done a lot of craft this week, between job interviews and mundane life interfering: boiler service, kitchen fitter sorting plinth out, brickie and labourer outside, and of course work.

However it does feel like there has been progress on the house front.  The brickie is really doing a great job of rescuing a wall that some of the builders quoting on it just wanted to tear down and start over.  Crumbling buttresses have been straightened, ancient ivy roots removed, and friable frost damaged bricks removed and replaced with reclaimed substitutes in better shape. A lot of repointing has taken the place of what was essentially dirt and gravel in between courses of brick.  He's done the lower half of the wall, up to about five feet high, and this coming week there will be scaffolding to boost him up to tackle the upper six to eight feet.

The kitchen fitter sent his fitting partner around who did a brilliant job cutting up a decor panel into superwide skinny polygons to create plinth which could cope with the sloping floor.  The dollshouse room is essential finished now (apart from I still haven't sorted the desk issue out and I need to scrub the floor). One day I will possibly get carpet laid but for now I put back down some grotty carpet that came with the house (after I took this pic).

So I've started unpacking my final dollshouse, the biggest one, which I've nicknamed the Vic-war-gency house because it is rather a muddle of eras inside.  As you can see, there is a lot of tissue paper to fish out!

I haven't had simultaneous time and energy to actually do anything on miniatures this week, but looking forward to getting back into it.


Remember this?

Well, now it looks like this:

Yes, I frogged the gradient shawl.  I realised I would be too embarrassed to wear it in public where a knitter might see the horribly wobbly stitches my erratic tension produced in this unforgiving and not that nice to knit with yarn.  Also, it had turned out to be a wide shallow crescent, a shape that I find least useful in a shawl because it doesn't drape around my neck very attractively and doesn't cover much other than my shoulders if I drape it across my back.  I've had a few furtive looks on Ravelry at work for an alternative use for 425m of gradient fingerweight yarn, and meanwhile I have dampened it and weighted it to take out some of the kinks while it dries.

Meanwhile, I've started knitting a witch's hat for Halloween, using a pattern from Let's Knit magazine.  For commuter knitting, I had finished all the daisies...

... so I've started a pair of fingerless gloves riffing off a pattern from Ann Budd's Handy Book of Knitting Patterns and some Opal Harry Potter Yarn in the colourway Ron and Harry.  Love knitting with this stuff and seeing the patterns emerge.  It's not soft enough for my sensitive neck for a shawl for example, but fine for socks or gloves and it's quite hardwearing.

I'm also still knitting occasionally on the Rowan Summer Tweed Cardigan, I'm just finishing the second front then will start knitting up the back from the armholes.

Other crafts

Not a lot this week.  I have progressed the second sample of  Bucks Point bobbin lace. I'm having trouble seeing what I'm doing clearly enough with the finer thread.  I definitely notice that just over this year (since I started doing bobbin lace, hmmmm) my ability to focus on things within 50cm seems to have disappeared.  I'm getting my eyes checked on Monday and bracing myself for new glasses.

I did select fabrics for the next applique block in my 25 block applique quilt, marked up the background square for placement, and created templates to draw around for each required shape.  So that's all in my carry-around project case for the next time I feel like doing some applique.  Never did get to do any cross-stitch this week.


I discovered today that for almost two years in my new abode I have been unknowingly living within reach of the Aladdin's cave known to muggles as Coleman's Craft Warehouse.  It's like a Hobbycraft where everything is tidy, good quality, and reasonably priced.  DH took one look and immediately suggested that he carry the money while we were in there.

The retail area extends around the corner from  what you can see in this picture.  Towards the back left there was a long table with about 15 ladies having a scrapbooking class and they run a programme of demos and classes.  I would say the shop is about 65% scrapbooking but that encompasses a huge amount of things I can use in my hobbies like various flavours of Mod Podge, crackle glaze, esoteric glues, cutters, punches, fancy wallpapers, papier mache and MDF boxes and shapes, charms etc etc.  Other useful things are a selection of jewellery making tools like needlenose pliers and soft wire  (useful for dollshouses, spangling lace bobbins etc.), a small selection of quilting fabric on the bolt, some yarn and haberdashery, lots of stamping suppliers (useful motifs, stamping inks etc. for dollshousing), and various other treasures and gift items. Definitely a shop to go back to and to take any crafty friends/relations that might visit us.

And of course I had my job interview earlier in the week.  I would say it went alright: for some of the questions my memorised answers were very apt, for others I had to bend the script to try to make it fit, and for a few questions I had no clue and ended up waffling.  I think they are probably interviewing quite a few people, probably in the double digits, and they said they would let me know in a couple of weeks with successful candidates looking at a mid-November start date.  I'm still feeling ambivalent about whether leaving my current job to go for this one will be the right choice, but I don't have to worry about a decision until I find out if I made it through the selection process.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Competency-based job interviews should be banned

Most of my free time and mental energy this week has been focused on getting ready for a job interview on Tuesday.  Back in the day, I used to be quite successful at interviews - when all's you had to do was look intelligent and make a good impression with your CV and qualifications.

But now it's all "Tell me about a time when you..." followed by some completely artificial question that requires you to delve into the most ancient history, bend facts, and do your best impression of a professional actor as you try to present your over-rehearsed/under memorised script in a coherent and plausible fashion. I don't have a very good memory, plus my 'achievements' from up to five years ago feel like they happened in another lifetime, and I'm not very good at spinning BS.  The only way I can survive is to write down what I've been doing in each job before I leave it, so that I have something to memorise for the next set of interviews.   It seems to me that these competency-based interviews, where they are literally counting your buzzwords and scoring you on whether you've used the right key messages, are like some bizarre form of Bingo that favours those who 'talk the talk' without necessarily being able to 'walk the talk'.  Bleah.  Wish me luck because I will need it big time.

So the main craft activity this week has been knitting (re-knitting) the Rowan Summer Tweed Cardigan.  I laboured back up to the armholes for the third time, and have now completed one front and am working up the second one.

I've also done a bit of cross-stitch, and finished the first sample of Bucks Point bobbin lace.

I've started a second sample of Bucks Point but haven't got very far.  I've also done some more piecing for the Friendship Braid Table Runner.  I had so many pieces cut that I'm making three: one long one for us, and two short ones for my m-i-l and a friend.

The plastic underbed boxes I ordered for the dollshouse room turned up and they fit perfectly into the cupboards.  So I've been able to unpack the various excess furniture pieces from their hiding places in cardboard boxes, and lay them out in plain view on a layer of bubble wrap in the boxes.  Four boxes then stack on top of each other inside the 60cm wide cupboard.

DS also kindly put together the IKEA desk which fits perfectly into the bend of the cellar stair. Yesterday I screwed the two IKEA legs onto the bit of leftover worktop and attached the back of it to the wall to make a second desk.

Can you spot the design flaw?  Look closely...

Gold star if you spotted that the  blue drawer on the IKEA desk is completely blocked by the worktop desk. So either I don't use the drawer at all, or I will have to cut away the corner of it so it slides under the worktop.  Even then it will hit the desk leg after a few inches.  On the plus side, the two work surfaces are almost exactly the same height so it creates a nice little L-shape to work at.  No excuse now (except perhaps the drawer...) not to get busy with the minis again.

We had some good news - the brickie that had the heart problem has unexpectedly returned to work after all, so our builder thinks he can start the repairs on our boundary wall (that I've been asking about since February) possibly as soon as next week.  That will be good because it's been really autumnal here, cool and wet so I was worried that the weather wasn't going to be any good for using mortar by the time the builder had another brickie free in October.  He's also cut down his cost estimate which is really helpful.  It will be great to get that work done this year. So next weekend we need to move everything in the garden away from that run of wall, and I need to cut down the rudbeckia even though it's still in flower, because it's in the way as well.  I'm going to run some hazard tape on canes around the flowers I don't want them to step on, that are too near the work area.  They'll be bringing in scaffold as well so there will be a fair bit of traffic, just hope it doesn't churn up the garden too much.

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