Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Happy Halloween

An extra post this week to wish everyone a Happy Halloween, and to celebrate here are some pics of my 1:48 scale Halloween house.

It's from a Karen Cary kit, which I tidied up from the move and added some kits to.  Sorry the pics are a bit blurry, the camera didn't like focusing on something so small with depth of field.

This is the finished 1:48 scale Halloween shelf I put together.  I had trouble with the water slide decals so some of them are a bit rough, and I managed to semi-destroy the spiderweb doily, but in my own defense these  things were just so d*mned tiny.

And here it is in situ inside the house, on the wall above the kitchen.

Here is the spooky owner, waiting for trick-or-treaters to arrive - if they dare.

Hope you have a fun spooky night on Saturday!

Saturday, 24 October 2015

I can make versus I should make

During an idle afternoon at work this week I was Googling on the themes of productivity, having too many projects for the time available etc. I came across a number of pages aimed at writers and artists who have way too many ideas for plots or art than they have time or mental energy to create. I quite liked a blog post I stumbled across (sorry, can't link as would probably never find it again) where a woman talked about trying to prioritise her ideas and avoid the trap of "I could make that" whenever she saw a new craft idea on Pinterest or on someone's blog.  She was trying to resist the urge by asking herself if she wanted to make the new thing more than she wanted to make the old things currently in her queue, but also did she really want /need the new thing.

This has happened to me a lot in the past, when I end up making things just because I happen to have the things I need to make it (using up stash, having the right tool), or because it's cute, or because someone else seemed to have a lot of fun making it. When I had a lot more energy to tackle things, and better faculties (eyesight) this wasn't really a problem.  Now that I have decreasing quantities of energy, faculties and time, I feel like I need to be smarter about what I decide to make.

This is a long-winded introduction to the revealing of the finished Completely Pointless handbag, otherwise known as a design called 'Bloomin' Sweet' by Clare Scope-Farrell in the July 2012 issue of Simply Knitting magazine.

I am at a loss to explain why I made this (DH asked me). It's not practical, it's too naff to take out in public unless it was to a knitting event, it was incredibly fiddly to make and took absolutely ages to make all the components and to assemble, I have no idea what I am going to do with it.  And yet when I look at it, I feel pleased and happy.  I think there is something wrong inside my brain.

I have a small collection of vintage needlework magazines which are full of this sort of completely useless needlecraft-for-the-sake-of-it fancies, aimed at the woman with too much time on her hands presumably.  Maybe I was one of those women in a past life.  Or a contributor to the magazine.

I have also finished, apart from weaving in ends and washing it, the Gradient Baby Surprise Jacket. I think this is a much better use for this yarn.

I've started knitting the 'Knit like a Latvian' Latvian mitten kit i bought on etsy a few years ago.  I thought it came with a pattern but really it is just a 'recipe' so I'm following the chart and hoping for the best. It's quite challenging as there are more than two colours in a lot of the rows, so I spend a lot of time untangling the yarns.  It is also knit on stupidly small needles - it called for 1.5mm and I only had 1.2mm, but I've now gone up to 2mm because it was coming out a bit tight on my hand.


I finished quilting all three table mats and we have been using ours this week.  It looks nice.

I sent the third one off as a surprise gift to my older friend. However, I don't think she liked it as I have received a letter that only refers to it in a couple of lukewarm sentences: "Thank you for your surprise gift, I like the colours and I'm sure I'll find a place for it."   Hardly the rave review I was hoping for, sigh...   I hope m-i-l likes hers better when I give it to her for her birthday next month.  This is why I generally show things to people before I give them, to check that they like the colours or actually want it, after some major letdowns in the past.  Anyway, it was nice to be quilting things again and I am going to pull out the Christmas tablerunner I made a year ago and quilt that soon as well.

I also put together the Cosy Afternoon BOM quilt. It's come out nice, sort of a modern/vintage vibe going on, light bright colours and cheery - they are fresher than in these photos which were taken under artificial light. The quilt is 64" square.  I'm going to the Malvern quilt show tomorrow on a coach trip with a quilting group from another town, and I will look for wadding for it.  I think I already have some backing material.

Other stuff
I've done a bit of dollshousing this week, still on the Repair and Refresh mission with my collection.  I've got my new glasses now which is helping with the smaller stuff. At the moment I am fashioning a few replacement 'teeth' for the sawtooth gingerbread trim on top of a miniature conservatory which broke off and vanished in the move.  DH drove me to a little dollshouse fair by MGM fairs in Market Harborough today.  It had more stalls than I was expecting and was pretty crammed together as the church hall wasn't that big.  I enjoyed it but didn't buy anything apart from a secondhand book.

I've only got four more days of work (yay!) because I have to use up two days leave next week, so I'm hoping to do lots of hobbies. I'm also thinking of visiting Luton Museum which some of my older bobbin lace books praise for its bobbin lace collection. No idea if any of it is still on display but I thought I might go have a look while I can still travel for free on my current season ticket.  I'm negotiating my working pattern with the new job at the moment, I had asked for Tuesday-Friday so I could still do the bobbin lace group on Mondays, but they want me to take Tuesday or Thursday off which I think is going to make for a really bitty week. I suppose if they won't change their minds then I will take Thursday off. I think having Tuesday off would just feel like having two Mondays every week.

Hope you are looking forward to some crafting time next week as well!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Plodding onwards

Autumn is my favourite season and yet there is something about the weather turning colder that seems to throw a biological switch for me. Suddenly I feel slower, more subject to inertia, craving more carbs, find it harder to get up in the mornings, and really feeling the cold even though it's only going down to about 9 degrees C in the morning. And then there is the whole 'getting up in the dark, coming home in the dark' business on work days.

Consequently I don't feel like I've got much done this week. I have lacked the mental energy to start anything new until yesterday, and couldn't face tiny bits of dollshouse at all. Also it has been fairly busy at work so I've been tired on work nights.

However, I have plodded onwards with works in progress.

I finished the Bucks Point motif and sewed in the ends.  There are some mistakes in it plus several of my picots didn't go right, I still don't understand why sometimes the picots work and sometimes they don't.  I suppose this is where it would be useful to have a lace teacher to consult. I might sew this onto a pincushion as a gift for m-i-l.

I've done a bit more on the next sample for the hankerchief edging but not very much.

I've completed the main body of the Gradient Baby Surprise Jacket, and now I'm going to pick up and knit a little collar for it. It didn't use up as  much yarn as I expected so consequently it hasn't utilised the full colourway of the gradient, but has stayed in the blue and green spectrum.

I've started quilting the Friendship Braid table mats.  I haven't actually quilted anything properly for a few years so I stuck with safe stencils like a walking foot cable and a simple free motion heart.  (On a sidenote, my sewing room is in a converted cellar and I have worried a bit about damp. So far I hadn't seen any evidence like mould, but I drew the heart stencil with a water soluble blue pen.  Overnight it disappeared almost completely which suggests the moisture content in the air is fairly high. Great, something else to be paranoid about.)

I completely quilted one of the small mats and gave it a wash to remove the chalk markings and shrink up the Hobbs Heirloom 80/20 wadding a bit. I wanted to check if I liked the quilting pattern and density before I tackled the other two.  Of course, the moment I laid it out to take a photo, the cat appeared out of nowhere and had to be shoo'd off.

I am reconciled to the upside-down braid as it creates a mirror image effect with the dark fabrics.

The quilting looks fine apart from I didn't like the effect of the echo quilting in the darker thread, so I will do the same stitching on the other two mats but change the echo quilting to a light thread.  I want to finish these as the instructions for completing the Cosy Afternoon BOM quilt have now been issued and I would like to get that one together.

Yesterday we sanded down and I painted a flat pack bench kit from eBay, then we put it together. Today I will put a second coat of paint on it.  It's to go here inside our porch, to make the space seem a bit more welcoming and useful.  It's a bit flimsy, but it will be protected from the weather in the porch so it should be fine, and we like the style of it.

A drive in the country

Yesterday we drove about 40 minutes into Leicestershire, guided by my phone's satnav down increasingly narrow and winding country lanes, past hamlets of medieval stone housing and churches, passing tractors transporting massive wheels of hay, until we eventually arrived at a massive farm complex in the middle of nowhere.  We were there to buy firewood for the winter, and were greeted by a young woman with the voice of a drill sergeant who efficiently helped us throw a bunch of firewood into the back of her truck (to measure the quantity) before transferring it to our car - meanwhile simultaneously marshalling a tribe of children to handle the logistics of moving some of the 25 horses they board between pasture and stable. There were multiple enormous barns, a number of goats running around, dogs, horse boxes, all the paraphernalia of a huge working farm. We felt like urban fish out of water, and meekly did what we were told by the drill sergeant including shutting various gates while children chased goats around.  A completely different way of life, which made our city slicker 'challenges' seem pretty trivial.  So now we have enough firewood piled up in the cellar to see us through the winter I should think since we aren't actually heating with it.  The wood stove in the study does throw a good heat but the fireplaces in the dining room and living room are primarily for decoration as almost all the heat goes up the chimney.

A visit to the V&A
Last week I went to the V&A after work to see a couple of exhibitions while I can still take advantage of my membership (before I lose my season ticket to London). I wanted to see the Tower of Babel exhibition of miniature London shops.  Despite being displayed in a rather awkward area with a lot of overhead glare from skylights, it was just as impressive as I had expected.

The artist photographed more than 3,000 London shops and then worked with a Staffordshire pottery to apply the photographs to bone china shells. The tower is arranged by socia-economic strata, with the lowest at the bottom (derelict shops, kebab shops etc.) and the highest at the top (Selfridges, Harrods etc.)  The amount of detail is incredible, and I wish they had considered constructing a viewing platform so spectators could see the higher-up items.  As it was, the distance combined with the overhead glare made it quite difficult to see anything above head height.  The shops are all available to buy from the V&A website.

Also opening recently was the Fabric of India exhibition. This was an overview of the vast textile tradition of the Indian subcontinent, and the sophisticated techniques they were employing when the rest of the world was still making crude weaving attempts.  I liked the first part best, where they showed how several types of cloth and embroidery are created, together with short videos of Indian makers. It made me nostalgic for my long ago trip to India, to see the Rajasthan tie-dye, the chain stitch embroidery, the stamped indigo patterned cloth, the silk and embroideries.  The exhibition continues through the colonial era (boo, British imports ruining local industry) through to the modern day (yay, Indian craftsmen still doing work that is dying out in the rest of the world so increasingly being sought out by Western designers).  The inevitable gift shop was selling attractive tote bags made from remnants of hand-stamped Indian cloth and I succumbed as I am a sucker for a tote bag. There were various designs but mine looks a lot like this one.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Burning bridges

Well, I've done it: I've handed my notice in at work. It feels a bit nervewracking because I haven't actually got confirmation on the new role yet as presumably they are still background-checking me. But I had to give my notice this week in order to be free for the start date of the new job so I decided to go for it.  Having recently watched the superb documentary 'Iris' on Netflix, about a New York woman in her 90s who is a society figure, fashionista, model etc., I was swayed by all her inspirational comments about how you've just got to do these things when you can, life is short, go for it, won't know 'til you try and so on.  My boss took it well and said nice things, but did try to talk me out of it a bit (but realistically that is mainly because it would make his life easier if I stayed). So the clock is ticking on my one-month notice period.  It feels really good, I definitely feel it is past time to move on. And the trains and Underground have been particularly irksome this week so I am looking forward to a shorter journey in the other direction with no Underground to navigate.  Wednesday I walked up to the St. Pancras Tube station just as all the alarms went off and they evacuated the entire station due to overcrowding, so I ended up having to get a bus to work which took over 30 minutes to navigate three miles. Thursday morning their solution to overcrowding on the platforms was to disable half the ticket gates so instead I had to queue like a sardine for about 10 minutes just to get through the stupid barrier.


Commuter knitting this week has been to start a new Baby Surprise Jacket, using the gradient yarn that I frogged from being a shawl. According to Ravelry I should have just enough yardage. I could start the new project because I finished the Fingerless Gloves and have been wearing them this week. As you can see, they are fairly respectable fraternal twins due to manipulating the colourway pattern.

I've also very slowly (because it's fiddly) assembled the inner zipped shell of the Vintage handbag and I've started to sew the daisies on.  The green part is the outer lining, and will be covered up by the basketweave knitting eventually.

Today I did something I've been meaning to do for a while, which was to sit down in my knitting room and make a list of the ever-expanding pile of 'kits' awaiting attention, plus the WIPs (some of which never made it on to Ravelry).  As well as nine quick kits for toys that came free with magazines, I have six works-in-progress, one partly-done scarf that I'm going to frog because the yarn doesn't suit the pattern at all, four more sweaters-worth of yarn + patterns, a Latvian mitten kit, a couple of shawl yarn + pattern kits, a sock yarn+pattern, slippers yarn+pattern, Fair Isle vest yarn+pattern, for a total of 25 items.  And I'm not a very fast knitter.  Hmmmm....

Luckily I have someone determined to help me - not.  That's my elbow in the picture, I'm lying down knitting and Oreo decided that if she sat on the yarn then I would pay her some attention.


I've seamed around the  three Table Mat sandwiches, trimmed the wadding and corners, and turned them through to the right side.  Then I carefully pinned all around the edges so that I could edge stitch the border.  That's when I realised that two of the three mats have the second braid inserted upside down.  WHY DIDN'T YOU POINT THIS OUT?????  I showed you all a picture of them on the design wall a few posts ago! I'm very disappointed in you... :)  and me. Because it was far too late at that point to unpick everything and fix it.  So I've decided it's a design feature.  I'll have to give the one correct mat to my m-i-l because she is a quilter as well.  The one I've made for me will probably annoy me every time I see it until I forget it was supposed to be the other way.


As it is October already, I jumped ahead to fixing up my 1:48 scale Halloween house so I can put it on display.  I had some laser cut wood decorations to paint and add, and I had a kit for a decorated shelf.  However, I found it quite a challenge to work on such small dishes when I am so out of practice and without good lighting nor good spectacles.  I'm getting my prescription changed and should pick up my new bifocals next weekend.

This is the shelf kit, which comes with tiny decal transfers I haven't dared try yet.

This is a tiny Autumn wreath with a bird silhouette on it, about half-an-inch wide, in the palm of my hand, that I assembled from laser cut leaves  I glued it on the front door of the house.

Bobbin Lace

I went to another bobbin lace day recently, it was a smaller one and didn't feel as lively as previous days. But they did have very good suppliers.  I bought this really cute bobbin pouch which holds 34 pairs in pockets inside.  They had several cute sewing-themed fabric choices.

Zipped shut

The double row of pockets inside.

And they had a stand selling really nice bobbins and other turned wood products, at very reasonable prices.  I bought two lovely painted bobbins, and two Tulip wood bobbins, and this stand for hanging wound pairs of bobbins while you are preparing them, and this little spike for holding your reel of cotton as you wind bobbins.  All beautifully made

I put them to good use almost immediately because in the morning I finished my Bucks Point motif that I was working on, so I wound another set of bobbins and started on the next sample from the Pamela Nottingham book which is a Bucks Point edging with a scalloped headside.  If I get on with the sample ok, I was thinking I might try doing it all the way around a hankerchief.

Other stuff

I spent most of Tuesday waiting for things to be delivered so had to stay within earshot of the door.  I decided to finally tackle making the earrings that I bought beads for last month.  I only know how to make one style of earring and I'm not very good at it, so don't judge the varying size of my loops.

Raw materials chosen at the bead store

My favourite pair

Some time later...

Sunday, 4 October 2015

I hope this is good news

I found out on Monday that I have been conditionally offered the job I interviewed for a few weeks ago. I'm quite surprised given how many dozens if not hundreds of people took part in the testing session, plus as I stated in a previous post, competency interviews are not my strong point.  So it felt quite good to be one of the selected ones although it's not a done deal until they complete all the background checks. The start date will be mid November.

One of the best parts is that it got me out of attending Team Hell Day this coming week, because I told my boss that it was very likely I would be giving notice soon and therefore I didn't feel comfortable going to a session that was all about bonding and planning for the future when I wasn't ready to tell people yet that I was probably leaving in a few weeks. He was quite understanding, I'm not the first nor even the second team member to be leaving because of jobhunting that we all started back during the redundancies, plus I have a fairly long and expensive commute into London.

I feel taking the new job is the right thing to do for several reasons but somewhere in the back of my brain a little voice is screaming about failure and being too old to learn a new job and not enough stamina to work four busy days a week when I've only been doing three easy days for so long.  I'm trying to ignore the little voice and concentrate on the benefits.

Craft Day

On Tuesday I happened to not have any commitments and I decided that if I wasn't going to have many more free Tuesdays, then I wanted to really commit to crafts all day and not get distracted by mundane concerns like laundry and email.  So I set myself an unofficial timetable.

I started out slowly, waking up in front of the telly while I finished off a knitted mouse for our cat Oreo for 30 minutes.  Needless to say, she had no interest in it whatsoever at the time - since then she has once or twice deigned to bat it around for a few seconds.

Still in the living room, I spent the next hour stitching on my next hand applique block for my 25-block applique quilt, stitching down some stems for the flower wreath.

Then I popped out to the grocery store to pick up some milk chocolate and some treats for lunch.  I melted the chocolate to dip in my second-ever batch of Cake Pops, which I decorated with sprinkles.  I find these American treats very rich and a bit cloying, but DH and DS thought they were wonderful.

Then of course I had to eat a cake pop and have a cup of tea for elevenses  :)

Next I did some more bobbin lace which was still out on the dining table from my Monday group meeting.  I've made some mistakes on this Bucks Point motif but I feel like it's going better. It's still very slow, I only get about half as much done in an hour compared to Torchon lace but that's partly because the threads are finer.

Then it was 1pm and I had lunch.  After lunch I headed down to the dollshouse room where I spent the next 2.5 hours quite happily.  I tidied up after the big magazine sort out of last week, and then I tackled the desk drawer problem.  I solved it pretty much as Swooze had suggested: by moving the leg of the worktop desk out of the way, and cutting a slice out of the IKEA desk drawer so it can open underneath the worktop desk.

I want to go through my entire collection and sort out all the outstanding issues and winnow down some of the things I don't want any longer.  For example, I threw out two decaying cardboard beach huts left over from a long ago club project when we all contributed to a big beach scene.  I harvested useful items from the contents first.  Then I examined a kitchen project I made at the Gulf South minis show in New Orleans back in 2003. I had been thinking I might get rid of it as well but I discovered one of the reasons it looked so dingy was that the plastic front had discoloured to amber.  When I removed that, the whole scene looked a lot fresher and I remembered how much fun I had making it. So I made a new 'glass' front from plexiglass, and also gave it a label to explain that it was made from all the kits and giveaways from the show.  I also made a new 'glass' front for a quilting room box that had never had a proper cover. Time just flew by and I was quite surprised to see that 2.5 hours had elapsed.

After that I felt like I had been inside too long so I headed out to the garden and spent an hour or so planting more of the 400 bulbs from the collection I bought.  I've planted 50 crocuses, 50 Anenome de Caen, 100 Oxalis and about 50 Allium Molly so I hope that at least some of them come up in the spring. I generally have very bad luck with bulbs and all the hard work to plant them is just wasted.

I was tired after that so I sat down in front of the computer and watched craft videos while I worked on my cross stitch.  In fact, I've done a fair bit of cross stitch this week because DS set me up on his Netflix account and I've been bingewatching Season 3 of a so-bad-it's-good fantasy called 'Once Upon A Time' on the PC. It only went to Season 2 in the UK and then it was dropped from the schedule, but meanwhile in America I think it's on Season 5.

Then I had to stop and make supper, but after supper I headed down to the sewing room and cut out backs for all three table runners and sandwiched them up with batting.  I'm going to do the pillowcase method and turn them through before I quilt them.  In my experience, finishing placemats with bias binding inevitably leads to the mat not laying flat because over time and washing, the different thickness and grain of the edging behaves differently than the main body of the placemat.  So the last set I made I turned through and just quilted and they've held up very well through several washes.

I also stitched a new cover for my Filofax diary, which may be old-fashioned but remains vital to the smooth running of my life.  I made the new cover out of printed 'patched' fabric but used the old one as a pattern.  You can see that it is all cut in one piece from stiff doublesided fusible pelmet interfacing, lined on one side, and the main fabric taken over the edge and hemmed down by machine. I also stitch by machine along the fold lines, then I fold it up and hand-stitch it into a little book cover shape. You can see how worn out and dirty the old cover is, but it lasted eight years quite well.

The rest of the week

The rest of the week hasn't been as crafty due to work etc.  I did finish knitting all five pieces of the lining for the vintage handbag.  That's all the components knitted now so I need to start assembling the handbag.

I also finished all the knitting on my Fingerless Gloves and I'm just stitching in the ends now.

I got a new bin for my knitting room - how cool is this?  It's from Lakeland Limited and is made from moulded plastic.

Today we took DS back to university, so the house is ours again.  I asked him to tidy up his room before he left, so we can use it as a guest room.  Superficially it looked tidy until you got down and looked under the furniture, where it was armageddon with dusty bunnies on top.

Yesterday we went to the Peterborough Festival of Antiques. I thought it would be a nice day out but in fact it was so big that it was quite overwhelming.  It's not as big as the Newark fair, but we can't go to that one because it's on weekdays.  At Peterborough we thought we would do the outside stalls first as it was a nice day.That took three hours because we kept thinking we were done, and then we'd come around the corner of a building and see another field full of them.  The inside part of the fair stretches across four buildings at the East of England showgrounds, any one of which would qualify as a big fair just on its own.  It was too much for DH and he had to go sit in the car but I soldiered on.  It wasn't all quality antiques, there was a fair bit of 'collectables' so for example if you were a Moorcroft collector you had your choice of likely 30 stalls specialising in Moorcroft alone.  I found that because of there being so much choice, it actually made me feel like I didn't want to buy anything, because nothing seemed special and my brain was just overloading.  However I did get some silver polish, brass polish, and a small bottle of leather conditioner for the leather handbag I want to make. And we found a nice pair of brass candlesticks for the dining room.

The only other thing I bought was a Victorian mahogany button back upholstered chair. I had admired it on one of the outside stalls in the morning, and it was still there in late afternoon when he was packing up. So after a bit of negotiation I got it for a very cheap price and I quite like it. It does need reupholstering which will add to the cost, but it suits the period of our house and looks nice in the lounge, and it's comfortable - with arms low enough that you can knit in it, an important criterion :)  The dealer said that antiques are going so cheaply at the moment because the Europeans and Americans aren't coming over to buy the way they used to. So it's a good time to buy, before prices start picking up again if the foreign shoppers come back.  I paid £110 for the chair, and as DH said, you can't even get a cheap upholstered armchair from IKEA for that.  Even after the costs of re-upholstery, it will still be cheaper than some of the IKEA armchairs and will be a beautiful antique that should last for another  150 years hopefully.

Miniature Collections

Miniature Net Ring

This site is owned by

Want to join a
Miniature Network Ring?

[Next] [Previous] [Random] [List Sites]