Saturday, 31 December 2016

Happy new year (for the tenth time)

DH has pointed out that in March 2017 I will reach my 10-year anniversary on this blog. The end of the year seems an appropriate time for looking back. I think I have kept this blog up week after week more for myself than for anyone out there who might take the time to read my ramblings.  It's a once a week health check on my creativity and output, as well as a record of what I've achieved (or not). It establishes a timeline, so  later on when I wonder when I actually started or finished a project, I can look it up. It's motivational because when things aren't going well or it feels like I never get anything done, then I can look back over my posts and realise I do actually finish things - sometimes a very long time after I started them, but eventually nonetheless. It's also motivational because I will make a push to finish something in order that I can photograph it for the blog. It's a record of things I've given away as gifts or sales. It's even a record of some of the ups and downs of our lives: changing jobs, moving house, empty nests, holiday craft shopping.  Thank you for joining me on this journey - some of you have been here since the beginning (Hi Swooze!) and I appreciate the company.

Last night I sewed the final piece into my Night before Christmas knitted advent project, designed by Frankie Brown and free on Ravelry (donations encouraged to Children's Liver Disease Foundation).  I really enjoyed this project, which was a crossover between my knitting and dollshouse hobbies, and also a great christmas project to work on through December. The designer has even included a basket of knitting next to the chair.






I've now cast on for the Fairwinds Hat by Tanis Williams, a pattern I picked to go with four balls of Debbie Bliss Blue Faced Leicester that I got for £2 a ball at the Mega Sale at Threads and Patches in Fenny Stratford in Bletchley on Wednesday.  This was my first visit to the shop and I was impressed with their broad range of stock.  There were more fabric bolts in one of the two sale rooms than I think my LQS has altogether.  It's not that close to us but I think would be worth the trip if I was looking for a particular fabric.  I only bought two fabrics in the sale, a honey gold print to go with the Morris fabrics I bought a while back at Duxford, and another Morris fabric that was only £5m and very pretty so an impulse buy.  I also bought some more Bosal (not in the sale) to replace what I used on the Honeycomb Basket, and the gingerbread men buttons on the cover of my knitted book above, and some more acrylic yarn at £1 a ball for my toyknitting stash.

As well as driving me to the quilt shop, DH took me into IKEA (very noble as he hates it there) to pick up a few things. I  bought two hanging fabric shoe organisers which I am using to store my knitted shawls which had outgrown the box under the bed. I feel very organised now and hopefully I will wear them more often. And I got some cheap plastic tupperware-type boxes to store my various dollshouse terrain in (turf sprinkle, foliage clumps, 'dirt' etc.) which was getting in a bit of a mess in their various bags.

It was time for the monthly sew-in I go to, and I decided to tackle some of the Japanese fabric I bought on holiday.  In an unusual-these-days burst of creativity, before I went I designed a simple strip quilt for the six fat quarters I bought AND a setting for the geisha panel.  This is the strip quilt which I put together with a border from some yardage I also bought in Tokyo. The colour balance has gone weird in the photo, it's a bit more accurate in the close-up but still not great. The fabrics are in pretty pastels. This is sized to be a wallhanging for an alcove in our study where I like to hang small quilts. The strips are 4x16". As the fabrics are so busy, I thought the setting needed to be kept simple.



For the geisha panel, I had the idea of setting it to look like one of the decorative scrolls that we saw hanging in many alcoves in Japanese historic houses and in restaurants.  For example, this is an antique scroll I saw in a museum.



And here is my fabric version, using the panel and two coordinates I bought in Tokyo, and some pale batik background. In order to stick to the scroll theme, I have turned it through pillowcase style without any wadding, and I will be adding some stabilising stitching to it. This will also be a wallhanging.


My big mouth

Once again I have opened my mouth when I should have kept quiet.  I've been made uncomfortable in the past at this monthly sewing group I go to because almost every meeting someone whose project has been admired offers to photocopy her purchased pattern (often purchased at the actual shop we are meeting in) and hand around the copies so the others can make the same project.  But today one woman was actively lobbying for the group of some 10 women to decide what patterns they want to buy from the shop, chip in funds to buy one copy, then photocopy it for everyone.  I just couldn't believe they were sitting in the very shop actively planning to defraud both the shop owners and the designers, so my mouth opened of its own accord and out came "But you do know that's illegal?".  I earned a disdainful stare from the woman (who has very decided opinions) and then a short lecture from her which finished with "and anyway, everyone does it." To which I couldn't resist responding (my mouth again) with "Well, I don't, because it is ILLEGAL. and also it's happened to me in the past when someone photocopied something I designed and gave it away and it really hurt me" or words to that effect. I got another short lecture about how everything is on the internet these days free for people to take anyway. I was conscious that the room had fallen silent while our discussion escalated so I ended it by saying that just because it's out there doesn't mean you have to take it, then I stood down. When she went off later for drinks, I apologised to the rest of the group for starting it in the first place. But I did feel like I was on the naughty chair for the rest of the afternoon.  I felt like asking if they would wander into the shop and just pocket some thread or a charm pack without paying, but I luckily kept my mouth shut on that one.  I am really wondering if I want to keep going. I do find it motivational to have to plan projects for the day, and to have the dedicated sewing time, and I like to see what other people are making even though for the most part I have very different tastes (probably outdated, lol). But they are fairly cliquey because they see each other at other clubs and some of them are personal friends or neighbours. And now I feel like I am in disgrace.  Also I know I am a hypocrite because I have copied patterns from books that I've borrowed from libraries, and in years past I did copy some patterns from American quilting mags to run group projects where we all made our own version of the pattern - because I was the only one who subscribed and at the time you couldn't buy them on the newsstand in the UK the way you can buy some American mags now. And I've watched YouTube videos of American TV shows I couldn't get over here etc which were very likely pirated.  Hypocrite, but I suppose we have to draw a line somewhere and I want the quilt shop to stay open and not go out of business due to outright theft by ungrateful, thoughtless customers.  Hmmm, perhaps I do need a time out...


Monday, 26 December 2016

Happy Christmas!

It's Boxing Day and the great eating up of leftovers has begun. I hope everyone had an enjoyable day yesterday.  I even got some sewing done and finished up the Honeycomb Basket project I was working on.  I've posted an extra post this week with my thoughts on the pattern, which hopefully might help others making the project.


There is a lot of hand-sewing in the original instructions, as you are sewing down the binding on the tops and the bases of seven pockets.  So that's what I was doing for most of the Christmas television watching.

Once the hand-sewing was done, it was back to the Night before Christmas knit-along project, which has now published all 24 patterns on Ravelry.  I made it up to pattern 21, and was stitching down curtains and knitting 'presents' while watching The Queen yesterday afternoon.


I don't know if you can see that I have the back cover and the spine of the book sewn on.  I still have to knit the front cover pieces before I can finish assembling the scene, then there are a few more decorations to knit such as stockings for the fireplace. There has been a huge amount of knitting to get this far, the equivalent of knitting a couple of baby-sized garments I think.

Did you get anything crafty for Christmas?  I was very happy with what was under the tree this year:

- an A3 paper cutter which will be brilliant for cutting straight precise lines on dollshouse wallpaper and printies.
- a handmade keyhole cover cloth for bobbin lacemaking, from one of my lace friends.
- a handmade little zip pouch and some quilt fabric from my m-i-l
- a handknitted lace dollshouse bedspread from an older quilting/dollshouse friend
- and most delightful: a gorgeous  little miniature Japanese cast-iron traditional tea kettle from Anita which will be brilliant for my Japanese dollshouse one day when it gets built. We saw a lot of life-sized tea kettles just like it on our holiday. Plus a cute 'Sew' sign and a craft calendar which I am sure will fit into my quilt shop very nicely.

I haven't taken pictures yet, sorry.

I'm struggling today because I feel like I should be taking advantage of my holiday to get loads done on my crafts, but I've eaten and drunk so much over the last few days that what I really feel like doing is having a nap, lol.  I'm a bit stalled on my shed project interior, I always have problems furnishing the insides of scenes, I much prefer doing the exterior.  I don't want to have to buy a bunch of new stuff but on the other hand I don't want the inside of the shed to look crude compared to the outside. And I need to get this club project finished so that I can get back to the long list of renovating and completing of houses that I need to do before the club comes to visit in July.  My concept is that it is a writer's retreat, so that I can finally use a Jane Harrop desk and chair set that I made a long time ago. This is a test layout that I tried out on my friend Anita, who rightly pointed out that the tea set is out of scale and that things aren't 'gelling' yet.  It's not a very big space which doesn't help.


Now that the Honeycomb Basket is done, I need to choose my next sewing project. I've got a much-scribbled out list from a few years ago of what was in the quilting pipeline, so I've brought that upstairs to type out cleanly and update.  But I know there is a bunch of stuff that hasn't even made it onto the list yet, like the kits and fabric I bought in Japan, or the fabric for two more pairs of pyjama trousers.  Perhaps I will type out a clean list, take it downstairs and annotate it, then bring it back upstairs to amend it again.  And that's how you spell p-r-o-c-r-a-s-t-i-n-a-t-i-o-n, children!


A few thoughts on sewing the Honeycomb Basket by Beth Studley

As I'm now on Christmas hols I've had more time for crafts, and over the last few days I've put together the Honeycomb Basket by Beth Studley.  I cut this out from two batik fabrics in my stash and using Bosal for the stiffener.



It's a great design concept and I'm quite pleased with the outcome, which thanks to the Bosal and close quilting, is quite sturdy.

I had a little Google and I couldn't find any notes from other people making this project, apart from one test maker for the designer. So I thought it might be useful to jot down a few thoughts in case they help future basket makers. I'm assuming you have the original pattern and instructions.

Preliminary cutting out: If I were making it again, I would ignore the instructions to cut out 21 separate pieces for the seven pockets. This was time consuming and inevitably (for me anyway) resulted in pieces that weren't identical so didn't exactly stack into identical sandwiches for quilting.  Quilting was also fiddly as you had to go close-to-but-not-over the edges of your sandwiches and also avoid the pins needed to hold the sandwiches together.  I would instead trace three pairs of pockets onto Fabric 1 aligned along the straight side (so each pair would look a bit like a butterfly) and cut around each pair at least one-inch away from the traced line, resulting in three rough rectangles of Fabric 1.  I would then sandwich those three rectangles with equal rectangles of Bosal and Fabric 2.   Similarly I would trace and rough-cut  the seventh central compartment and sandwich it up.

Quilting: I found it much easier and faster to free-motion quilt the wavy lines, but by tracing pairs as above, you could quilt a pair of pockets at the same time, quilting right across the two pocket compartments and turning around in the spare fabric beyond the traced line for the top and bottom.  But do NOT quilt outside the two traced sides of the pockets as we need to keep the spare fabric at the sides unstitched for the next step.

Final cutting out:  You need three pockets with an inch-wide flap in Fabric 1, and three pockets with an inch-wide flap in Fabric 2.  Cut out your pockets on your traced lines but on three of them, cut Fabric 1 an inch wider while cutting the Bosal and Fabric 2 on your traced line. Reverse this for the other three.  For the central compartment, leave a one-inch flap on whichever fabric will be the outside of the compartment (which isn't seen on the finished basket).

Darts - these need to be marked on the lining fabric of each pocket so using the above method, you would need to mark and sew the darts after the quilting step, not before.  Pre-quilting might shrink up the pieces a little but I don't think it would be too much because of the Bosal foam adding stability, so I don't think (without testing I can't be sure) that it would affect marking the darts much.

Top binding: I would still sew the binding on the top edges by hand as directed, but I would cut the shaped binding strips a little wider by adding a fat eighth inch on either side as I cut out. I also wouldn't bother with the mitred seam as this only works if the binding is exactly the right circumference to match the pocket (you sewed the pocket darts exactly the right width).  I would pin the binding round roughly to see where a normal straight seam needed to be made to join the binding, and I would position this seam offset from the covered back pocket seam to reduce bulk. The binding seam is mostly hidden in the finished result so this worked fine.

Shaping the central compartment: I was measuring and remeasuring and couldn't get my central pocket to divide into even three-inch segments, then I realised that the divisions need to be made to line up with the 'valleys' of the scalloped edge.  So just do that and don't worry about the three inch measurements for each segment. I think mine were 2 3/4" and they fit the pockets just fine.

Bases: The pattern instructions likewise call for a one-inch flap to be left for folding over the raw seam edges inside the pockets at the base.  I found this extremely fiddly: the loose flap got in the way while seaming the bases to the pockets,  and wasn't wide enough to easily fold over the raw edges afterwards. Following the instructions results in the folded edge of the flap ending up on 'top' so it is on view when you look into the pocket.  I tried sewing the flap down by machine but as you have to pleat the flap to get it to lie flat, it looked really messy.  So I sewed all seven base flaps down by hand. This took a long time, was fairly difficult as the flap wasn't wide enough and the Bosal not easy to stitch into, and I ended up with cramp in my hand for a couple of days.   And you are still looking at the messy pleated result when you look into the pocket.  I was trying to think of a better way to do this.  I think if I were to do it again, I would just trace the Pocket Base Template six times onto Fabric 1 in a tight grouping, trace the central compartment base template as well, then sandwich this and quilt them all at once. Then I would cut them out on the traced lines: no flaps.  Then I would seam the bases into the pockets.  To cover the raw edges I would cut 1 1/4" bias binding from the appropriate lining fabric (Fabric 1 or Fabric 2 to match the lining of the pocket), and stitch this down onto the pocket side of the base seam. Then when you fold the bias binding around the raw edges (like binding a quilt), your folded edge is going to be on the 'bottom' side of the raw edge, which will be hidden from view when you look into the pocket.  So I think you could then machine it down without worrying about the messy look because it will all be hidden (or you could still hand sew it down but it will be easier because the bias binding will fold better and will be wider).

Final joining: the instructions suggest that it is tricky to join the basket together by machine.  I actually found this quite straightforward and gave a neat result.  I was able to easily join all the pockets to the central compartment, sewing just in the ditch of the binding for an unobtrusive seam, and I sewed the 1 1/2" joining seam between pockets the same way.  Make sure you put a stronger needle into your machine to go through all the layers, I used a 90 sharp needle. Seaming the pockets was slightly trickier as you must flatten down the central compartment to get your needle into the starting position to sew outwards along the pocket for 1.5", but it certainly wasn't hard.

So there you are. I hope these thoughts might make the job easier for another person, and if I make another basket, this is how I would do it.


Sunday, 18 December 2016

Three more days

I have three more days of work and then I am off from Thursday right through to the following Thursday - hurrah!  DH is even better, he's off right through until the new year. DS is home now, we collected him on Saturday. He hasn't been home since late September so it feels quite different to have a third person in the house again. I think if this had been his childhood home then it wouldn't be an issue, but because we've only been here a couple of years we've established routines in his absence at university.  He likewise has his own routines, like sleeping in until mid afternoon, sigh...

I've been doing a lot of knitting this week, trying to catch up on the Night Before Christmas KAL.  I'm still behind but I've done enough now that it's starting to look like something.


I still have to knit the book covers and the christmas tree, and obviously the fourth wall needs installing still. I'm really enjoying this project, it's sort of a crossover between my knitting and dollshousing hobbies.

I also finished the Christmas panel that I was quilting on in my last blog post, and it is adorning one of the sofas in the living room.  While I was looking for something in my stash, I came across some plaid fabric which rang a faint bell, and reminded me that I had made something Christmassy last year. I looked in my corner of many tops awaiting quilting, and sure enough there was the snowman quilt from last year which I had completely forgotten about.  Still only a top, but I hung it up to add a festive note. The quilt on the bed is a festive quilt as well all made from Christmas fabrics, that I made years ago from a Marti Michel pattern. One of these days I am going to have to bite the bullet and get out my quilt frame and see if it will fit into any of the rooms in the house, so that I can tackle the small hill of tops waiting to be turned into quilts.  This quilt won't go on the frame though, the snowmen are appliqued from thick wool felt which wouldn't roll smoothly. It will have to be quilted at the normal machine.


After finishing the panel, I started work on the Honeycomb Basket that I cut out the pieces for at the last sit and sew session.  The first step is to assemble and quilt the six pockets, which is going to take a while.  I am using Bosal foam as the stiffener.


I'm calling my Shed Project base finished now.  I painted some cheap gardening tools to look used and old, and have glued them into the garden scene and also finished the trellis seat.  Now I am trawling through my stash looking for items to furnish the inside with.


After we got back from Japan I felt really inspired by all the beautiful gardens we had seen, and I ordered a couple of secondhand books on Japanese gardens from Amazon.  As a first step, we installed a few rocks from the garden centre in the gravel border in our alley to make it look more interesting. I also found a cast stone Japanese lantern on eBay which doesn't look too terrible (we saw some appalling ones at the garden centre cast in resin and painted in technicolour). It would be nice to get a real stone one but they cost hundreds of pounds. It's a start anyway.


I've been working on the Japan scrapbook most nights as well, trying to get it finished so I can show the in-laws at Christmas.  I'm almost done now.  I'm a bit worried that to someone who wasn't on the trip, it is just going to look like a messy compilation of garden and temple pictures. But to us it is a nice memory capture of the whole trip.  It was sure a lot of work, I wouldn't do it for just any holiday.  I've more or less given up on whittling down the mountain of 1200 digital images, but I'm planning to pick 12 favourites and get a 2017 calendar made from them for me to use at my desk.

Hope your Christmas prep is under control and you are looking forward to a great festive weekend.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

On track for Christmas

When I was younger I felt aghast at older people sighing about Christmas for various reasons: the commercialism, the expense, the treadmill of chores and cooking demanded by tradition, they didn't want any gifts because they didn't need any more stuff, etc. etc.

Another sign of my middle-agedness (as if I needed more signs, lol) is that Christmas has come to feel a bit like a long list of chores which must be completed by an immovable deadline; but this year (touch wood) I feel like I am on track.  This week we christmasfied the house, including a lovely tall tree; we bought a turkey and some trimmings for the freezer yesterday (learned my lesson in previous years about leaving that one too late!) as well as a bunch of other treats; I wrote my cards yesterday; and I've ordered or shopped for gifts for almost everyone. I'm knitting away on the Night Before Christmas KAL and I'm even quilting the Christmas panel I bought.  It's been a busy week but I feel good, and looking forward to the holiday.



DH thought the cat might want to get in the mood as well

I've turned the panel through using the pillowcase method and now 
it's pinned up ready for some quilting.

The Night Before Christmas knit along, I'm
knitting hard trying to catch up with the main group


Earlier in the week I grafted my Gilmore Girls Cowl so it is now finished.  I like how it's turned out but I do find the Rowan Hemp Tweed (the main yarn) a bit scratchy on my neck.  I may need to reblock it and add some fabric conditioner to see if that helps.




On my day off I was 'planting' greenery around the Shed Project and adding various details like moss on the stepping stones and planting up the urn. I made the trees and bushes myself using the electric drill and wire method which is featured on YouTube if you search on 'bottlebrush trees' only I used brush bristles instead of frayed rope. I think the outside is just about done, I just need to add the garden seat to the trellis and some gardening tools.  Then I will need to furnish the inside of the shed, always the least important bit for me, I prefer the structures.




When I tried on the pyjama trousers I cut out last weekend, after basting them together, they were enormous. I reduced the width by a couple of inches by pleating the middle of the pattern and re-cut them smaller. The legs are good now but the abdomen is a bit snug.  They are wearable, and I have been wearing them this week, but for next time I have slashed the pattern to open up some more width in that area.  I should be able to cut future pairs out of quilt fabric but it will need almost 2.5m which is more than I keep in my stash apart from backing.  I'm going to go to the Fabric Guild in Leicester before they move locations and investigate their Moving Sale to see if anything says 'pyjamas' (or 'I need to come home with you').

We went to our two club christmas evenings this past week, and this coming week are the work 'do's.  My team are doing a pizza lunch at work one day and then going out for lunch at a restaurant on Friday.  We get Friday afternoon off which is nice.  Then I'm back at work the following week just for a few days and then home for a week over Christmas - yay!  And this year we can enjoy Christmas just the three of us as we are visiting the in-laws in advance of the holiday, so no long drives on Christmas or Boxing Day nor any guests to entertain.  I know those are both parts of many people's Christmas traditions but we like nothing better than a quiet cosy Christmas at home enjoying our hobbies and just relaxing.

Hope you are on track for your Christmas, whatever kind it is, and looking forward to fitting in some craft time over the holiday as well.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

I have bad builders karma

I have to face facts, my karma when it comes to employing tradesmen of any kind - builders, electricians, plumbers, kitchen fitters, whatever - seems to be very poor.  I try to do everything right: I seek recommendations, I investigate references, I research online, I do a lot of advance preparation and planning, I get more than one quote....  and still they let me down, don't turn up, don't do what they contracted to do, don't supervise their subcontractors, work erratic hours, go wildly off piste from their instructions, or just do bizarre things like leaving unsightly eight inch gaps between the top of the refrigerator and the overhead cabinet, or leaving me a gap for my dishwasher but not actually providing any electric point to plug it in or any gap for feeding its drainhose through to the wastepipe.

The latest to let me down is a plumber/builder recommended by neighbours for having done a really good job on their recent bathroom remodel. I've been waiting almost two years for the builder we used on the house renovations to find time to put a shower into our main bathroom so we don't have to all use the (leaky) shower in the ensuite, so I was excited that I might have found a replacement.  I sent the new man an email, he didn't answer. I followed up a week later with a phone call and he made a firm appointment for last night. So I spent part of my day off cleaning the main bathroom and ensuite, working on design sketches, pulling together a brief, emptying the walk-in closet that might get converted into a shower so he would be able to measure, and I made sure I was home in good time for work.  Did he show up? Did he even call to say he wasn't coming?  Of course he didn't.  I called after half an hour and left a message, and he eventually got back to me an hour and a half after he was meant to be with me to basically say that he'd forgotten all about it.  Just the kind of business person you want to commit several thousand pounds of work to.  Not.  But I'm desperate so I've made another appointment for next week and hopefully this time he will remember.  Grrrr.  I feel like I have money for this project that I can't give away.

On my day off I once again put some time into dollshousing.  I had already sanded down the filler I spread on the shed base last week and given it two coats of brown paint. So I was able to start the basic flocking with various ground materials.  I was going for a variegated effect but at the moment it is looking too patchy. But I think once I start adding plants and bushes it will look better.  Here's a picture just before I glued the shed in.


And here's what it looks like with the shed glued in (now with
windowboxes and hanging baskets) but without the gap around the
shed filled in yet.


TV knitting this week has continued to be the Gilmore Girls mystery knitalong cowl and I'm almost finished. This is Clues 1-4, each with a different contrast lace pattern. So I just need to knit a couple more contrast stripes and then graft the end back onto the held stitches and block it.


I haven't managed any sewing this week yet (I'm hoping to do some today) but I did cut out a pair of pyjama trousers using the free pattern I got at the Sew Brum day.  I measured a couple of my existing pairs of pyjamas to decide what size to cut out. I also modified the pattern by lowering the front of the waist by a couple of inches as I didn't think it was going to fit very well if the front and back rise both measured the same. My plan is to baste it together and see if the fit needs adjusting any further.  This is cut out in a blue polkadot cotton which is a slightly heavier weight than quilting cotton, that I bought on the market in Leicester before my holiday.


I've been making a bit of a push on my Idrija bobbin lace doiley because I would like to get it finished so that I can start practicing for the Bucks Point class I am taking in March.  It takes me about 90 minutes to do one 'curl' of the outside border, I'm quite slow. I do find having to constantly stop and do the sewings to connect to previous work a bit tedious. I think I prefer Torchon where you can just make the lace stitches without interruption. So I don't know if I will do much more in this type of lace.



We've started putting up Christmas decorations bit by bit.  Last week we did the lights in the trees outside.  I was up a ladder cursing under my breath as I wrestled with the satan's tangle of wires, lights and branches, wondering why we had ever had such a stupid idea in the first place, when a family walked by. The Dad looked up and said how glad he was we were putting lights up again because they had looked so nice last year, and they all beamed at us. Ahhhh, bless....  We did eventually get everything untangled and into the trees and they do look very nice. We;re hoping to go get a tree today.

I also got out the Advent calendars and put them into action on Thursday.  This one is a quilt panel which I made up several years ago and always enjoy using.  You put an ornament on the tree every day until the tree is fully decorated.

The rest of my free time this week was mostly spent on picking photos to go in a 'scrapbook' of our Japan holiday. I have put 'scrapbook' in quotes because it isn't a proper scrapbook like scrapbookers make. It's a child's A3 colouring pad into which I have stuck various maps, brochures and ticket stubs while scribbling a narration in my appallingly messy handwriting.  I've chosen 316 photos to go into it and have uploaded them to Snapfish and ordered prints. I stuck post-it notes onto each scrapbook page with the photo numbers so that when the prints come back, I can stick the correct photos onto the appropriate pages.  This is the first time I've done anything like this but a friend made a simpler version from her holiday and I thought what a better way of preserving the memories than just keeping a couple of hundred prints in a box I never look into. Yes, it would be nicer if it were tidier, but I think the main thing is that it gets done while I can still remember the holiday, ha ha ha.

Have you seen this free knitalong on Ravelry The Night before Christmas by Frankie Brown? When you open the knitted book, it reveals a complete knitted Christmas scene.  It's cute and I think I might have a go at it. I've ordered some plastic canvas for stiffening the pieces. I think Frankie is releasing a free pattern every day in the run-up to Christmas for all the component parts.


Sunday, 27 November 2016

Snuggling down for winter

I hear so many people moaning about the weather and saying things like 'roll on summer' but I have to confess that I rather like this time of year. Last night we had a wood fire in the fireplace as we watched the Gilmore Girls revival and sipped some Lindisfarne Mead that DH found when he was out christmas shopping. I was wearing my felted Arne and Carlos slippers I made last winter and it all felt very cosy. I like bundling up in my woollies to go outside, and I've got two handmade quilts on my bed to stay warm at night.  And anyway, it's very unlikely to ever get as cold here in the East Midlands of the UK as it used to do when I lived in Ottawa in Canada, where it regularly dropped down to minus 40 Celsius in the winter. Although that was a dry cold, and it can feel rather miserable here even at 11 degrees when it's raining and my feet get soaked, which happened on Monday.

Today we are going to go out and try our best with our too-short stepladder to arrange some outdoor lights in our front trees.  We managed one tree last year and it looked nice so we are going to go for two this year.  DS isn't coming home until quite close to Christmas this year, so we can put the tree and decorations up when we choose.  Perhaps next weekend.

I spent a lot of my day off working on dollshouse stuff and I am going to try to keep that up.  This week I was working on filling window boxes and hanging baskets for my shed project and to finish off the Victorian gazebo porch.  I also started work on the base for the shed, riffing off some tips published by Bea Broadwood of Petite Properties in an article about creating 1:48 bases published in Dollshouse and Miniature Scene magazine. After choosing some accessories then drawing around the base of the shed, I filled the terrain in with Tetrion filler and left it to dry. It doesn't look like much yet.


The windowboxes I built myself out of lolly sticks and the hanging baskets are re-purposed bottle caps. I filled them with paperclay then 'planted' them with various bits of greenery.  The wires sticking out everywhere will be the hanging basket supports. I managed to stab myself on one of the sharp wire ends and it wouldn't stop bleeding so consequently there are some interesting 'rust' stains on several baskets.



Saturday I was back at the quilting shop for a sewing day.  I had prepared the rest of the pieces of the appliqued houses tea cosy and finished the quilting on it, so I was able to assemble it first thing in the morning.




I spent the rest of the morning cutting out the numerous pieces required for the honeycomb basket pattern that I bought at the Makit fair in St Ives.  There are seven pockets that all require outside fabric, inside liners, bases and base liners and Bosal stiffening pieces, so it took a while. But it's all cut out now ready to start sewing.

In the afternoon I was chain piecing half square triangles for the saw tooth border of my indigo bear's paw quilt. I was annoyed to find that I was several squares short because I thought I had made enough.  I couldn't face making any more right then so I started to put away my sewing machine. Guess what I found when I shifted the sewing machine?  Yes, a little pile of the remaining squares hiding under the machine. So I was able to complete four strips of sawtooth.  I finished off the day by stitching a very little on my Hawaiian applique quilt.

While we were watching Gilmore Girls, I was working on my Gilmore Girls Mystery Cowl, a mystery knit along organised on Ravelry.  Clue 2 is really long so I am still stuck on that one, but clues 3 and 4 are already published.  I can't look because I don't want to spoil the surprise.  This is what I've got so far.

There are four contrast colours so I am guessing that the stripey section will get repeated in the other three colours.  The lefthand part of the V is on waste yarn so I expect we will be knitting a big loop then grafting back onto the held live stitches to complete the cowl.

I was clearing out some of my sewing room yesterday and came across the Christmas panel I bought a while ago so I am considering whether I want to try to make that up in time to use as a table runner or wall hanging this year. My son was making me laugh on the telephone as he was grumbling about having to pay up for a deposit for a Christmas meal with his office team, his first experience of the non-optional social convention of office Christmas do's.  We only have a small round of those this year: I'm going to DH's modelling club christmas meal and he is coming to my dollshouse club's turkey dinner at the pub. Then we both have separate office christmas meals as well.  Something to look forward to, plus some holiday coming up.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Getting back to normal

We've been home a full week now, and already Japan is starting to seem like it was a while ago.  I'm still trying to weed out photos, I have probably eliminated about 100 so far but that still leaves far too many.  By Friday, work was starting to feel like "oh, so this is my life huh?" so the weekend has been a welcome respite.

I hope some of you checked out my extra posts this past week about Japan.  I have one more photo of stuff I bought which didn't fit in the previous posts:


These are all paper items.  Six cards of classic Japanese woodblock prints which I am having framed into two sets of three.  Two sets of woodblock coasters, two reels of pretty printed washi tape (good for decorating envelopes etc) and a pack of indigo printed washi paper which I'm sure I'll find a use for.  I got more coasters and more washi paper as gifts for my bobbin lace ladies as we seem to have gotten into the habit of bringing each other gifts from our holidays.

Catching up a bit, just before we left for Japan I managed to hotwire my broken overlocker footpedal and finish off my One-Hour top, a free online pattern from Fancy Tiger Crafts.  I wore it to work after I got back.  I don't normally like dolman sleeves but the fabric is so drapey that the excess under the arms didn't bother me, and I quite like this £2/m fabric I got off the market in Birmingham.

I also finished the winter cottage tea cosy I was knitting before we left. This was a pattern 
from Let's Knit magazine but I couldn't find the colour of Aran
yarn they used for the cottage. So I experimented with holding two colours of
DK yarn together but I'm not entirely happy with the
mottled effect this created. Although I suppose it looks brick-like.



 This week I've done some more work on the applique houses tea cosy I started before we went to Japan. (You may be wondering why I need so many tea cosies, lol. I just like making them.).  I've now moved on to embellishing the fusible applique with free motion stitching in black thread.  It's a good refresher on free motion quilting.  This is the first side embellished and I'm working on the second side currently.  Then the background of both sides gets quilted in toning thread to create a textured effect before making it up into a cosy with a padded lining.


We've watched a fair bit of TV this week, catching up on what taped while we were away.  I'm still working on the Drops top-down yoked sweater and have just about finished the yoke now.  I went to get more yarn from my 11-ball stash and realised that I had already used four balls just on the yoke. I panicked a bit and have now ordered a safety margin of more Drops Karisma yarn from Wool Warehouse.  It won't be the same dyelot but I feel better knowing I will have some more in case I need it.

DH had a big finish this week by finally completing the cross stitch blue and white picture that he started several months ago.  I bought the pattern from someone selling off their mother's cross stitch stash, just because I thought it was pretty. I didn't think I would ever make it because it is so big and complicated. DH had done a bit of cross stitch before and having studied the pattern, volunteered to have a go at it. I was sceptical because he didn't really enjoy what he had made before although he likes the end products.  He persisted so I pulled together the supplies for him and ordered some linen evenweave cloth.  He did a brilliant job, painstakingly unpicking anything he wasn't happy  with, and soldiering on through multiple complex charts. He was pretty much hating it by the end but he completed every stitch. The 'white' background of the plate and tea set is all individually stitched, and there was a ton of intricate back-stitch. Doesn't it look great?  I will get it framed and it will go on display in pride of place on our living room wall.  He says he is never doing any cross stitch ever again. :)



It's turned quite cold here so I've been enjoying wearing the Baa-bles hat and mitten set that I knitted last winter, nice and warm.  We went to Oxford on Saturday to visit DS and take him his obligatory souvenir t-shirt (and a few other things). It was great to see him and Oxford is already starting to look quite festive with lights and christmas-sy things.  We had a lovely cup of tea and some very nice cakes and cream scones in the Vaults in Radcliffe Square.  All three of us are feeling sad that this is his last year in such a lovely city.

Hope you are staying warm in your hand knits or under your handmade quilts!


Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Dollhouse / miniatures - extra Japan post number four

I had done a little research online before we travelled but couldn't find much about the Japanese miniatures scene apart from a maker of food items in Tokyo and an annual Tokyo show (dates didn't coincide with our trip).

But I was on the lookout all the time in souvenir shops and craft shops for items that might work in my dollshouses. In particular, there is my Italian partwork to make a Japanese Ryokan inn that I bought on eBay last year, still waiting to be made.  It's in 1/16th scale but I was hopeful of finding some items that might fit into it. So I took lots of photos whenever we went into traditional buildings which I hope will help me in creating the interiors.

I was disappointed to find very little in the way of miniatures in the places we visited.  We went to a couple of toy departments but there was no dollshouse section or doll furniture. One toy shop in Kyoto did have an aisle of plastic mini items to furnish little vignettes, but the scale was all over the place. I did buy one card of kitchen appliances which I hope will fit my Ryokan scale.

Some of the doll shops or shops selling altars had no-scale simple furniture designed for use by the dolls/gods.  A couple of souvenir shops had crudely made wallhung room scenes in frames at astronomical prices.  Some of the souvenir shops had miniature sushi platters or food trays, as display items or fridge magnets, but again no particular scale and fairly crude.

We did see some superb scale models in various museums or at sightseeing sites.  In particular, the Edo-Tokyo museum in Tokyo is highly recommended, both for their interesting collections and recreated buildings, and for the extensive and detailed models of historical Japanese scenes and buildings. Here are a few shots of the Edo-Tokyo models.




DH found a sheet of stickers at Daiso (a 100-yen shop) of traditional Japanese woodblock prints which could be used at 1/12th or 1/16th. I also found a miniature rubber Buddha figurine at Tokyu Hands, a tiny ceramic Lucky Cat at a tea shop and a bigger Lucky Cat at a souvenir shop.

On one of our last days, DH spotted an adorable origami miniature doll display, like the dolls they display on Girls Day, which he bought for my birthday.




So I was quite astonished to spot a poster for a dollshouse museum when we were in Hakone-Machi, in the mountains.  The generic map made it seem like it was in the nearby resort of Moto-Hakone, but after conferring with the bus station information assistant (I took a picture of the poster and showed it to him on my camera), we were directed to take a bus up to a remote hamlet.  The museum was directly opposite the bus stop.  It's located in a strange set of linked greenhouses which I assume was formerly some kind of botanic garden. I couldn't help thinking that it is a most unsuitable environment for antique dollshouses due to all the light streaming in and probably a lack of temperature/humidity control.  Most of the labels are in Japanese but in English it explains that they bought several items from the Mott's Miniatures collection when it closed down and also from the sale of the Vivien Greene collection.

According to the poster, the museum opened in July 2015 but they seem to be still unpacking things. There was a large group of antique dollshouses in the last room which haven't been unpacked at all yet, huddled together with their contents in tupperwares.  I recognised items in display cabinets from English makers so I think someone may have made visits to the UK shows. And there around a half dozen thatched cottages from Little Homes of England, obviously someone's favourites.  The collection is a good size and it took us probably 45 minutes to go slowly around the linked greenhouses. There is a small shop area in the reception building with a few  hugely expensive imported minis (nothing Japanese), and a little cafe area.







This pond/water feature was randomly in one building, presumably left over from the days as a botanical garden centre.

 The houses still to be unpacked.

Although mainly of Western items, there were a few Japanese items. These
are some tiny 144th scale Japanese shops.

And this display below was by a Japanese maker, I liked
the unusual structure of the base.

This below is also by a Japanese maker, we weren't sure if it
is meant to be Shaker or if it is a Japanese carpentry shop (because
the worktable is so low). 


So if you visit the resort of Hakone and you are into minis, definitely make the effort to go see this museum. I don't think it would be worth a special trip from Tokyo, but it's relatively easy to get to by bus if you are in Hakone anyway doing the 'loop' around the area. The stop is on the way back to Hakone Yumoto (the main base for the area) from MotoHakone and I think there were at least two buses an hour.

I would really like to start building my Japanese Ryokan kit now, but I know I need to finish all my outstanding dollshouse projects before my club comes to visit in July which is my deadline. At least I have amassed a good photo reference library of interiors and interior items like kitchen items and baskets which I'm sure will be quite useful.

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