Saturday, 21 November 2015

A visit to the Lace Guild museum

Remember I joined the Lace Guild some months back? That's when I found out that they operate a small museum in Stourbridge at their headquarters, about a two hour drive away from me. I suggested to my small lace group that we might want to do a road trip one day.  Diaries were compared and a date set some months in advance but we have now finally accomplished it.

The museum is in a small three-bedroom house owned by the Guild, conveniently near a pub where we stopped for lunch. We were shown around by a friendly and knowledgeable volunteer and felt very welcome.  The first stop was the exhibition of 18th century lace, in gossamer thread so fine that it is literally impossible to replicate now as the fine threads are no longer manufactured.  How they turned out such intricate designs without artificial light or magnification is a marvel.  There were several examples of lappets (a decorative band that hung down from the headdress) from the 1700s with very complex designs.  Then we were shown the library where they must have virtually every lace book ever published. Members can borrow books for free (you pay postage to return them) so I borrowed a book on Tonder Lace that I had had my eye upon on Amazon. We were all pleased to find a large selection of secondhand books on sale, as well as secondhand bobbins, thread, examples of lace and other goodies all at very reasonable prices.  Much shopping was done and I came away with some loot.


Crocheted tray cloth, tambour work mat, 'Point Ground Lacemaking' by CC Channer, 
'Threads for Lace Edition 5' by Brenda Paternoster, two unopened spools of Bocken linen thread, a pretty bobbin, and a Newnham lace bobbin winder.

But the best part was being given a private view of the reserve collection. The museum has hundreds of pieces of lace that they have no room to display, and it's all stored in archive boxes in this room. Boxes intriguingly labelled 'Honiton', 'Large items', 'Binche' etc. After laying out a protective cloth and all washing our hands, we chose a box labelled 'Hankerchiefs' and opened it to discover well over fifty lace trimmed hankerchiefs in protective film, some dating back to the early 18th century.  It was a good box to choose as there was lace in all styles, and our guide named them for us and discussed the techniques.  Early hankerchiefs were often much bigger and designed for display of the lace rather than for much use, so there were some extremely elaborate examples in Honiton lace, needlelace, Maltese lace, Bucks Point - right up to some relatively recent examples in Torchon.  We spent a good hour oohing and aahing before we reluctantly said that we had to leave to make the trip back before it got too late.  It was a long way to go but well worth it and we all felt very inspired by what we had seen.

Quilting

Due to the new job, I have a new day off which is Thursday.  It's been a strange week, I think I am going to like the new job but it was a very hectic week as they are trying to train us as quickly as they can so that we can start contributing.  I've been quite tired in the evenings and having a new day off made me feel a bit mixed up about what day of the week it was!

But on Thursday I did a couple more hours of free motion quilting on the Starry Night Christmas wallhanging.  It's not the world's greatest job as I am so rusty at it but I've enjoyed it.  I've been all around the tree now and have stippled half the background.

Then I pulled out a seasonal UFO to work on which is a Christmas wallhanging in the stained glass technique using a pattern by Gail Lawther.  All the pieces of fabric will eventually be outlined in fusible black bias tape, stitched down with a twin needle.  I'm enjoying working on it but progress is slow as each bit of tape has to be applied individually then stitched down, because my bias tape is about 15 years old and isn't very sticky any more.  If I try to do more than one at a time, they start falling off! I like the colours though and I've added a bit of bling with metallic braid trim on some of the towers.

Knitting

I've knitted the second Lett Lopi felted slipper and I've embroidered a snowflake on one toe.  I just need to do the second snowflake then I can run them through the washing machine to felt them - and cross my fingers that they fit ok afterwards.  Commuter knitting has been the Arne and Carlos vanilla socks.  I've finished the first one with an afterthought heel, and I've cast on for the second one. I came out as a knitter at work, knitting in the break room on one of my lunch hours, but I haven't had time to do very much as it's been so busy there.  When we went to the Lace Guild, I was knitting on the Now in a Minute shawl but I kept knitting on the way home when it was getting dark and ended up dropping some stitches so I have some fixing to do on that one.

Other stuff

I've almost finished the Bobbin Lace Christmas Star, all the lacing is done and I'm just doing the sewings to join the finish to the start.  Then I will have a go at stiffening it with the stiffener I bought at the St Ives lace fair.  If it turns out ok then I will probably start another one so I can give one to my m-i-l. On Thursday afternoon I did some more cross-stitch and quilted some more on my cushion cover. In fact Thursday was a very crafty day which was a nice contrast to the busy first week on the job.

It's suddenly turned very cold here, down to freezing tonight, and with a lot of wind chill.  Not unusual for November but a bit of a shock after having been so warm for so long.  Time to dig out and wear the legwarmers I finished last week!

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Machine knitted legwarmers in 4-ply 2x2 rib

I wanted a more reputable pair of legwarmers to wear for the morning walk to the station for my new job, because these ones that I hand-knit in 2009 have become very pilly and sad.  I couldn't find a straightforward pattern on the internet for a machine knit legwarmer in 4-ply acrylic, so I slightly adapted this pattern by Slisen that I found on Google to produce these:

I've literally just sewn these up and they already have a cat hair on them.

Pattern for legwarmers (make two)
- to fit adult woman, knit on Brother 881 standard bed with ribber in acrylic coned 4-ply. Would probably achieve a similar result in sock yarn.

Set machine to knit 2x2 ribbing over 90 stitches and cast on according to your manual's instructions: my manual told me to hang the weighted cast-on comb plus two large weights, knit three circular rows on H pitch with an extra needle at left, then revert to P pitch and transfer the extra stitch to the main bed. Set RC to 000. Knit 175 rows in 2x2 ribbing, ending with carriage on left. Transfer all ribber bed stitches to the corresponding empty needles on main bed. Measure off ball yarn equalling three times the width of the 90 needles in work and break yarn. Remove weights and cast-on comb. Thread double-ended needle and do a sewn 'backstitch' stretchy cast-off through two stitches at a time (so each stitch gets sewn through twice). I found it easier to bring all the needles fully forward and as I finished with each stitch, to push its needle back to NWP and drop the stitch off. Allow the knitting to rest, or wet block and let dry.  Seam with as flat a seam as possible - I couldn't see the stitches well enough in black yarn to try a Bickford seam, so I just did a really tiny mattress stitch seam right into the edge of the knitting and it's fine.

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I can show you the results of my previous machine knitting now because the gift has been posted and received.  This is a Baby Romper knit in 4-ply acrylic on my Brother 881 machine, using a pattern from an older issue of Machine Knitting News Baby magazine. It buttons at the shoulders and has picot trim around the cuffs, armholes and neckline. I made a few mistakes as I am still fairly rusty at machine knitting but I'm sure the baby will not be critical  and the mother is lovely :)




A painted lady

Several years ago we had a holiday to San Francisco and really loved it. One of the souvenirs I bought was a HO scale plastic model of the Steiner House, one of the famous Painted Ladies.  This was a kit called 'Homes of Yesterday and Today', No 100-3, by Your Town USA and is in 1:87 scale.  It was very detailed and although blank on the inside, I had a vague idea that I might try to furnish it as a dollshouse.  Well I never did, but the box turned up when we were unpacking my dollshouse collection and DH nobly volunteered to put it together for me as a model.  He has all the skills and tools because his own hobby is military modelling.

He did a fantastic job and I'm really pleased with all the detail on this model. He also painted it apart from I added a bit more colour to the gingerbread decoration. It's a nice reminder of our fun holiday.





Quilting

This week I finished piecing together my cushion cover. It is supposed to be a 'red' cover but at the moment is looking more 'green'. But it will have a red backing and red piping which will tip the balance more towards red. I designed this on EQ6 and I feel fairly proud of it. Maybe I am getting my quilting mojo back a little.


The pieced cover 19" square unfinished

Basting the quilt for hand quilting

I'm going to hand quilt the cover, and I haven't hand quilted anything for a very long time. I dug out my portable pipe frame, which I last used about twelve years ago, and puzzled out how to put it together so I could use it for basting the quilt.  Since then I've had a few hand quilting sessions in front of Netflix using a smaller portable snap frame, and am gradually remembering key points such as keeping the stitches evenly sized.  It's turning my left index finger and middle finger into a pincushion though, but I'm enjoying it.

I also dug out a kit I bought for last Christmas and didn't make, the Stonehenge Starry Night panel which comes with a battery pack attached to Christmas lights to decorate the tree.  I've pinned it up for machine quilting and since taking this picture I have started to free motion quilt the tree.  I'm not doing the world's greatest job but the busy print hides a lot of sins  :)  I've done the tone-on-tone part of the tree in red thread but I'm picking out the gold 'ornaments' in metallic gold machine embroidery thread. Then I will lightly stipple the background.



Other stuff

This week I finished my Katia Velvet Loop Cowl and have been wearing it round the house, it's very snuggly. It's not really cold enough to wear it outside but our old house can feel cool on damp days. To join the garter stitch rectangle into a tube, instead of casting off I used a crochet hook to draw loops of the knitting yarn through the cast on edge then through a stitch on the needle, to 'crochet off' the seam invisibly.


I've also knit the first of my Lett Lopi Arne and Carlos felted slippers and have started the second one.  Based on my test swatch, I'm knitting a smaller pattern size than my shoe size which hopefully is going to turn out alright. I would hate to have to own up to my s-i-l that the yarn she brought me from Iceland was wasted on slippers that don't fit me. Although perhaps they would fit her.  I've got enough grey yarn left that I can embroidery something on the toe, perhaps a snowflake?


I've progressed on my bobbin lace Christmas Star with a certain amount of 'reverse lacing' due to mistakes.  I'm wondering if I can bear to make another one and then I could give one to the in-laws for Christmas.


I start my new job tomorrow - eek!  I'm trying to remain calm and optimistic, and not worry fruitlessly about my age/health/stamina, mental ability etc. etc.  I don't know Leicester at all so Friday I went up on the train with my new season ticket and conducted a recce.  I was pleasantly surprised: all the shops I might use in London are also represented in Leicester, there was a huge covered market, several fabric and haberdashery stores, lots of period buildings and nice places to eat, and a big new mall.  There is a knitting shop but it's a long way from the station so I didn't get there, and of course there is the fabulous Fabric Guild for warehouse quilting fabrics.  Too far to go on my lunch hour but I could walk there from the station on a day off.  I spent several hours wandering around and it seems like quite a nice place, there is the impression that it is on the rise with lots of refurbished and new buildings.  And best of all, no London crowds or queues.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Employment gap

As of Monday I will be officially unemployed.  The new job starts the following Monday so I get a week off. I'm hoping to do lots of crafts plus cross some DIY jobs off my lists.  I felt quite grumpy on my final day, I'd handed over everything and had virtually nothing to do, and since I had mentally left the building it just seemed like a complete waste of time to put in eight more hours.  Well, seven, as they let me go early.  Plus I had another irritating journey to work - it feels good to know that I won't have to face the London Underground sardine squeeze any longer. The general feeling amongst colleagues seemed to be envy that I was escaping the sinking chaotic ship for somewhere new. I have followed several colleagues out the door, and I think more will be following me as at least three of them are actively job hunting.

But I had a treat to look forward to which was DH driving me over to St Ives in Cambridgeshire for the Makit Fenlands Lace Fair the next day. It was quite a nice mix of lace suppliers, quilting suppliers and even a few knitting shops.
The bigger of the two rooms of the Lace fair

I enjoyed looking around and also bumped into a few of my lace friends. I was particularly looking at patterns, hoping to find something that I really wanted to make as I am getting bored aimlessly making samples of lace, but I didn't really spot anything.  I did get some fabric stiffener for the Christmas Star I have started to make using this free pattern.  I also found a stall selling secondhand bobbins quite cheaply and picked up a couple of nice ones.


Quilting

Earlier this week I finished off my Christmas tablerunner with bias binding.  It looks quite nice on our coffee table although it won't be going out on show until December.


I've also started piecing my design for a cushion cover using the fabrics I bought at Malvern and my EQ6 design.  I've just got to sew up four more blocks. The colours look nicer than this, the photo has come out a bit weird under artificial light.


I am looking at what to tackle next and I pulled out a kit for McKenna Ryan's 'In Full Bloom' applique quilt that I bought before we moved house. The rationale was that it was fusible applique so I would be able to do it without a sewing machine while we were in the rental house. However, in the event I never touched it.  I unpacked Block One and read through the instructions, it looks insanely complicated to cut out and I have no idea what I was thinking when I thought I would make it. (fighting urge to go back in time and smack head of younger self before she presses the 'Buy' button).

Knitting

I've done up to the thumb on the Latvian Mitten. It's quite complicated as you are knitting four colours in a row and there are some very long floats.  I'm using a finger stranding tool but it's still slow going.  I'm also knitting it inside out so that I can scoop up the longest floats occasionally rather than try to weave them in when there are four strands of yarn to deal with.

Commuter knitting has been the Now in a Minute Shawl. There's something about this pattern that I find very non-intuitive.  The actual shawl is not that complicated but I find the pattern hard to understand in the way it is written. So I made a bit of a dog's breakfast of the beginning of the shawl but have persevered. I think I understand the sequence now, and I'm on the third colour of the six colours of sock wool that I chose.


One of my friends, DaisyDaisyDaisy, is expecting so I did a bit of machine knitting for her over the last few weeks but that's a surprise so I can't put a picture in yet. I'm also giving her the Baby Surprise Jacket which she knows about and which is all done now with collar and buttons.



As I think I have previously demonstrated, I am very susceptible to advertising and this week fell victim to a Katia ad in Let's Knit magazine where a model was wearing a luscious-looking cowl knit in Katia Velvet Loop yarn. It just looked so warm and soft and you can knit the cowl from just one ball.  A few clicks of the mouse and the yarn was mine and I've almost finished the cowl which is just a strip of garter stitch.  The yarn is a chenille with regular loopy bits and is easy enough to knit with on 9mm needles.



In a similar vein, an article about Arne and Carlos, the Scandinavian knitters, included several pictures of cosy warm-looking felted slippers.  A quick trip to Amazon to find that it is a book and then it was mine, bwah ha ha.  The recommended Rauma yarn isn't available in the UK but I've got some Lett Lopi from Iceland that my s-i-l brought back for me, and I've felted a trial swatch which felted well. So I'm going to knit some slippers in Lett Lopi and hope I have enough.


Other stuff

Investigation of the mirror I bought last weekend revealed that it was cast plaster and probably modern. It seemed too fragile to try to remove the old paint so I repainted it in some Mylands emulsion in a stony-white colour. I also removed the mirror and gave it a very good clean as it was covered in old paint and dirt.  It looks nice now in the ensuite, adding a touch of period flavour but unfortunately showing up the hideous wall light that came with the house.


I've been getting the garden ready for the winter over the last few weeks: mulching around tenderish plants like the fuschias, clearing dead leaves, planting the last of the bulbs, and today I cleared away the rhubarb leaves and mulched around the crowns with manure.  We've still got some colour in the garden from plants that are hanging on to their flowers but then I don't think we've had a really heavy frost yet. In fact it's been rather ridiculously warm the last week, up to 18 degrees C in London, even though it is typically wet and blustery weather.  Today we got the stepladder out and attempted to string fairy lights in one of our trees at the front of the house.  I had a 50% chance to pick the correct string of lights from two identical strings. It wasn't until we were just finishing off an hour of reaching up into branches and tying lights on to them that I discovered I'd picked the string with the faulty repair so the end section wasn't lighting up.  Grrrrrr.  Fun and games trying to pick off the electrical tape and re-do the repair while standing on a ladder on the pavement/sidewalk.  I've got most of the bulbs lit again but I've had to wind duct tape around the repair and hope that's enough waterproofing to keep it dry for the next few months.  It feels a bit too early to put them on every night but we will go out and admire our handiwork tonight.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Malvern quilt show

Last weekend I joined a coach trip to the Malvern Autumn Quilt Festival with a  quilt group from the local area (I'm too far away to be a member) . I hadn't been to a bigger quilt show for quite a long time, and it felt a bit like visiting a country I used to know well in long ago days.

It was smaller than the last time I went some years ago, but I think partly that was because it was the Autumn show so they didn't have the marquee extension that I remember from the spring show. It was also very crowded together, with narrow aisles. But there was a good assortment of vendors and several exhibitions of quilts (no competition at this show) to look at. I enjoyed wandering around and looking at the latest trends in fabric - I was pleased to see a lot more traditional and repro fabric, and less of the 'modern quilt movement' 70s revival trend. I had a go on the Janome stand on the Horizon MC8900QCP, which apparently is the modern successor to my old Janome 6500P.  It seemed fairly similar, with the main difference being an 11" throat compared to 9" on my old one, and more decorative stitches which I rarely use anyway, a free arm, and the ability to stitch 9mm wide stitches (a lot wider than mine).  I'm not sure any of those new features are worth £1,199 to me (the show price, reduced from £1,499).  My machine still seems to be working fine especially since its service, and in any case we don't have the money.

I picked up a few more reels of piecing thread, some Hobbs Heirloom 80/20 wadding, some FQs of Civil War repros to make a cushion cover for our window seat, and a cute pattern for a tea cosy. The latter from a stand that had several patterns for appliqued houses embellished with free motion drawn-on architectural elements which I quite liked.



All in all it was a pleasant trip. I was a bit worried that I wouldn't enjoy it after being out of the quilting world for so long, but in fact it was inspiring and made me want to do more sewing.

I sat down the next night and designed a cushion cover using EQ6 which I am going to try to piece. It's 18.5" square and the blocks are 5.5" square. These are only representations of my fabric, not the actual fabrics - the actual fabrics have less contrast and are more subdued (shame because I like this drawing!)



Also on the quilting front this week, I dug out the Christmas table runner I made last winter and quilted it with stitch in the ditch, and free motion around the bows and ribbons. I used a decorative stitch around the inside border. I felt quite rusty as I haven't quilted anything for a long time, but it was fun.





I also did a bit more stitching on my current hand applique block.



Knitting

On the knitting front, I did a bit more on my Latvian Mitten and I've finally started the Now in a Minute Shawl that I wound off the stash sock yarn gradients several weeks ago for. I found the shawl directions somewhat confusing and as a result mine doesn't look like the picture at the start of it.  I decided not to rip out and just call it a design feature.  I also tried on the Rowan Summer Tweed cardigan by pinning the shoulders together on the body - it looks like it should fit fine, perhaps a bit snug but then I knit the smaller size because I know Summer Tweed grows a fair bit in wear.  I still need to knit the sleeves.

We went to Oxford this weekend to see DS and I visited the excellent Oxford Yarn Store which is full of lovely yarn. I averted my eyes and just bought what I had come for, which is the Regia self-patterning sock yarn by Arne & Carlos. I've been seeing it in magazines and always like it, so I bought the pink colourway and also fell for a pumpkin orange medley.  We were going on a pub crawl that evening and I realised I needed some knitting, so I bought some dpns and started a vanilla sock as we went around Oxford's pubs.


I was wearing my knitted Halloween witch's hat from pub to pub, it kept my head warm as I knit it from wool. We had a good time although DH's ambitious target to make the rounds of 15 chosen hostelries was not achieved, we petered out after pub number eleven.  But we saw lots of students dressed up in cool costumes (sometimes literally as girls wearing very little walked shivering down the street in the cold evening temperatures).  DS joined us for pubs five and six and it was nice to see him.

We stayed in St Hugh's college as they let rooms to tourists, which includes a full English breakfast in the dining hall the next morning. So it felt like a very collegiate weekend.  The next morning dawned very foggy, and we went for an atmospheric walk all around the University Parks, and then as usual in Oxford stumbled across a hidden treasure. This time it was the Holywell cemetary, which was so beautiful as the sun started to burn off the mist.  Kenneth Grahame who wrote 'Wind in the Willows' is buried here - his grave is the long low one at left in the foreground.




On the way back to the car, we stopped in for elevenses to the new Weston Library, finally open after being hidden behind hoardings for all the years we've been coming to Oxford. It has a great cafe run by Benugo, with delicious cake, and an interesting exhibit case on Ada Lovelace, and an exhibition on some Armenian manuscript treasures.

Dollshousing

This week, as well as repairing some snapped off gingerbread trim from my miniature conservatory, I had fun tarting up a £2.50 laser-cut Christmas ornament from Homebase.  This is what it looked like to start with.

The first thing I did was to cut out the back, by drilling holes in the corners and using a saw blade in my X-acto handle.

Then I gave it a base coat of acrylic paints. When dried, I sprayed it with matt sealer.


Before I sprayed the sealer on, I added 'snow' created by mixing glitter glue with some white paint.  I did visit the railway shop to look at snow effects, but the smallest container they had was enormous and cost £13, so that's why I used paint.  I also found a little snowman in my stash Christmas collection of bits and pieces.


On the inside, I added a Christmassy paper rug, and hot-glued in some bits I had in my stash: a resin tree, some wrapped gifts, a little wreath charm, and a cute little china chair.


It was quite fun to do, and now it's all ready to hang on the Christmas tree in another month or so.

It was a lot easier to work on this project because I spent a few hours first emptying out my craft cupboard, which had become a dumping ground the past year as we renovated our house.  I did a big clear out, organised all the tools and materials, and put it all back neatly in labelled containers.  This clever cupboard is an old kitchen larder cupboard that I bought at an antiques fair about 12 years ago - at the old house it was in a bedroom closet and held a lot of sewing stuff as well.




Other stuff

My Netflix infatuation continues, and consequently I have almost reached the halfway point on my cross stitch.  From a distance it is really cute! Close up I have a lot of malformed crosses but at least the counting is much more accurate with the new gridding thread applied.

On the way back from Oxford, I spotted a sign for a new antiques store and we popped in (well, I popped in while DH slumped exhausted in the car after his night of Oxford revelry).  I've been wanting a more interesting mirror for the ensuite and I found this at a good price.  It's rather caked in paint but I'm hoping I might be able to remove that.  I'm not sure yet whether it is wood underneath the paint or gesso/papier mache.


As I mentioned in last week's post, this week I paid a visit to the Luton Museum. It'sin an old Victorian mansion in the middle of  handsome Wardown Park, which I assume used to be the grounds for the house. The lace on display is in the Costume and Textile gallery which is the first room as you enter the museum.  There were a lot of displays explaining lacemaking to the layperson, examples of lace in use, and pull out drawers of bobbins and some lace. There was also a learning corner with lots of lace books and magazines, and some videos to watch.  I enjoyed the visit but it didn't take very long. I also bought some prickings in the gift shop and a copy of The Lace Dealer's Pattern Book, a wonderful archive of hundreds of old Beds and Bucks bobbin laces, a real treasure trove.  It doesn't include patterns but some modern authors have used the laces as source material and give prickings in their own books. The variety is amazing, as is the fineness of many of the older laces, very inspirational.

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