Sunday, 28 February 2016

Apparently I really am Sheldon

My family have suggested before that I have tendencies in common with the character of Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory. Even I've felt the similarities this week because our new sofas came and I just can't find 'my spot'.  I spent many happy evenings curled up in the corner of our knackered old IKEA corner sofa, knitting and sewing on projects while I watched TV.  So far I've tried four different positions on the two new sofas and I just can't get comfortable. They are very nice sofas and look much better in our front room than the dilapidated cat-shredded washing-machine-shrunk grubby covers and rock hard lumpy cushions of the old one. But they don't have my spot. I shall keep trying.

While shifting around uncomfortably, I did finish sewing in the sleeves of my Rowan Summer Tweed Cardigan. I was afraid it would be too small but it actually fits rather nicely at the moment. From prior experience I am expecting the yarn to droop a little over time but I think it will be a nice cardigan to wear to work. I just need to attach two ties to tie the fronts together. I do like this yarn, a mixture of silk and cotton that has a rustic dry handle and is very comfortable to wear. The pattern is a Kim Hargreaves design for Rowan, and I adapted it to eliminate the side and sleeve seams.

I also finished the Hewitt square of the GAA Afghan. Originally I wasn't going to knit this as the pattern shows it with multiple bobbles which I didn't like. But then I saw a square by another Raveler who had omitted the bobbles and it looked ok.  I didn't enjoy knitting it though due to the bizarre cable crosses across as many as 12 stitches which were quite fiddly.

I've now started my 19th of 20 squares which is the Salpekar square, which uses some clever tricks to create the appearance of a central cable panel with no obvious start or finish.

I've had a crafty weekend. Yesterday I went to a rag rug workshop to learn how to make a wreath. The tutor Lynda Kinnard was demonstrating various techniques to make a variety of flowers against hooked or prodded backgrounds.  I went with a prodded wreath and a Christmas theme and got on fairly well, I just have two more panels of background to fill in. The greens are a variety of cut up jumpers and the red is a cut-up wool coat from a charity shop.

The instructions say to stabilise the finished edges with glue, then cut out the wreath shape and add a backing.  You could use the same technique to make a rug but I'm not sure this is a hobby I would like to pursue.  For one thing a whole day of it made my hand quite sore because of the repetitive motion. But I enjoyed the day and I'm pleased with my wreath.

Today I had some lacemaking friends over and showed off my completed second miniature dollshouse lace mat.  It's turned out better than the first one although still far from perfect.  I've now started on some miniature shelf edging but there seems to be an error with the working diagram in the book so I need to figure out what to do.

I've finished touching up the paint on my Canadian dollshouse and it looks a lot fresher now, to me at least.  I've also toned down the Day-Glo red Disney effect on the 'brick' chimney by overpainting with various colours of acrylic, and cleaned off several years of accumulated grime from the plexiglass dust covers. I should probably sort out some issues on the inside before I turn my attention to the porch kit.

We went to see a local garden open for charity today full of spring flowers like narcissi, hellebores and swathes of snowdrops.  Very pretty and inspirational. Also they were selling plants quite cheaply so I picked up a couple more hellebores for my garden and three little pots of blooming narcissi for the dining room for now and I will plant them out when the flowers fade. It's turned quite cold again so I think I will be bundling up for my walk to the station tomorrow.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

More of the same

Nothing really new this week because I've only been working on existing projects that you've already seen.   I did go to a bobbin lace day yesterday down in Bletchley which was quite pleasant. It was well attended with perhaps 100 ladies (and two gentlemen) working away on various crafts, four traders, a raffle table, tombola, sales table, and refreshments. I took my second dollshouse lace mat project and managed to finish it including the sewings, so I just need to trim the ends and hide them. This second attempt went much better than the first time, I only broke one thread and managed to make the joinings at the end without breaking any of the starting loops. I've chosen my next project from the same book which is a 1/12th scale lace edging for shelves on a Victorian kitchen dresser, and I wound 10 pairs of bobbins for it. From the suppliers I picked up a tiny .5mm crochet hook, and on the sales table I got some back issues of Lace magazine, a little booklet on Bucks Point lace, and some lace pattern books.  We also received a goodie bag which has a few little projects and patterns in it which was fun.

On the knitting front I wound some yarn from a skein to start some toe up Lallybroch socks from a pattern I bought at FibreEast but I've only knit about an inch.  TV knitting has mainly been a square from my GAA Afghan, the same square I've been working on for several months which I'm not really enjoying. A few more inches and it will be done then I have two more to knit.

I also finished the second sleeve for my Rowan Summer Tweed cardigan and have blocked the sleeves and the cardigan body. I'm not sure if I've been too clever knitting the smaller size to combat the way this yarn tends to droop, it's looking a bit small overall and I'm not sure it's going to fit but we'll see once it's dry..

I haven't done any dollshousing this week but I've been procrastinating with purpose as I've continued to fix up and tidy up our real workshop.  It's not looking too bad now, and I've called the electrician to get onto his queue of work so he will come and fit some more sockets around the room.  You can see I've unpacked the table saw but still haven't read the instruction booklet. It's really cold in this room, it's got damp brick walls and a damp brick floor and the wind whistles in through gaps around the window. We will have to look out for some second yoga mats at boot sales to put down underfoot and look into expanding foam to fill the gaps.

I didn't do any sewing all week so today I made myself do a couple of hours and sew the borders together for my Let it Snow quilt which is becoming increasingly unseasonal as the spring bulbs start to come up outside in the garden.  I haven't sewn on the top and bottom borders because I need to make the final four corner snowman applique blocks.

It's turned a bit warmer today, 10 degrees although still quite windy.  We went out and gave the garden a good tidy up, collecting up the dead leaves and trimming off dead stalks and dead sedum heads etc. It was such a warm winter that the plants got very confused, some things were blooming in December that should have been starting to bud now so I don't know if that was it or if we will get another flush of bloom on things like the cherry tree.  I seem to have had my usual bad luck with the c 450 bulbs I planted - there are a lot coming up but probably less than 100. And the slugs are doing their usual number on my primroses which are just chewed husks dotted here and there around the garden. But we've got some lovely clumps of snowdrops and several crocuses opening in the intermittent sunshine, and some of the miniature narcissi are blooming. The magnolia tree has lovely fat buds on it so I'm looking forward to its gorgeous flowers, and the forsythia has lots of flower buds growing. The photinia tree we planted last summer hasn't grown any taller yet but it does have attractive new growth glowing red against the main greenery all over the tree, so hopefully it will shoot up a bit this year.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

A moment's inattention and bye-bye to most of a day's salary

My commute home by train is by a London train which stops in Kettering.  It is one of a trio of trains that come in a cluster within a few minutes of each other:  a non-stop train to London, a train to Birmingham, then the London stopping train.  I suppose it was only a matter of time before I got on the wrong one.  At least I didn't end up in Birmingham.  The trains must have come out of order yesterday due to some delay, because I got on the one after the Birmingham train only to realise after 40 minutes that Kettering was just not going to happen.  So my half hour commute home turned into a two and a quarter hour round trip to London and back, with the added punishment of having to buy an expensive London train ticket to avoid a penalty fare.  Grrrr.  Let's hope I don't do that more than once a year. At least it was a Friday so I didn't have to go to work today.

Today we continued to work on fixing up our cellar room, starting with a massive clear out of junk which went to the recycling depot/dump. Leftover moving cartons, leftover bits of flatpack furniture, warped shelves with rusty fittings that came off the walls, all sorts of clutter, broken bits, fittings from furniture long since gone, rusty paint cans etc etc etc.  One huge car load later and it all looked much clearer.  Off to B&Q to buy a second lot of lumber to build a second workbench. We didn't get it all built, but it's mostly done. It went a lot easier the second time because we knew what we were doing and already had the measurements worked out.  We still need to give the walls a good brushdown: all the paint is horribly flaking and many of the bricks are spalling due to the damp in this unfinished Victorian cellar.  Then we can start making toolracks for the walls and figuring out where things will go. We need more electrics fitted - I showed the electrician when he came to do my sewing room and asked him if he would be able to run more powerpoints in such a damp room but he didn't seem to feel it would be a problem.

Then I will finally be able to set up the Proxxon tablesaw I bought secondhand last year.  I have a childhood phobia about tablesaws brought on by having to hold the other end of a huge wobbling sheet of plywood while my Dad fed the front end into his roaring monster cutting machine. The noise and violence of it terrified me at the time and I still feel pretty nervous around electric saws. However the Proxxon is just a baby blade so hopefully I will get on with it ok - which is not to say that it wouldn't cut my fingers off in a second so I will still need to be careful.  I also have a vertical belt sander and an electric scroll saw - neither of them very good quality, but I will set them up for the first time since we moved in 2003 to a smaller house. The power tools will either go on the workbench in the foregound or on the adapted table against the far wall.


This week my second ball of white yarn turned up from Blacker Yarns and I was able to finish my Baa-ble mittens to match the hat.  Meanwhile I've ripped off the brim from the hat and am re-knitting it to be snugger and hopefully more windproof, and a bit deeper.

I've been wearing my Jaeger Fleece windproof hat a lot the last few weeks as we are having another cold snap. It's hovering around 5 degrees C and windy in the daytime, and sinking down near to freezing at night. The hat is pleasingly warm and covers my ears nicely.

I've done a bit of sewing this week. I cut the rest of the plaid squares for the border blocks of my Let it Snow quilt and pieced 8 panels of 12 three-inch squares which are pleasantly scrappy - I think the plaids add to the cosy winter feel.  The cat kept me company and chose the basket of plaid fabrics as the most comfortable spot in the room in which to perform her ablutions. No doubt the remaining fabrics are now covered in cat hair which was probably her aim all along.

I cut more 6.5" squares from the new blue mottled background fabric and re-pieced the border strips with the original snowball blocks.  My design wall isn't tall enough to display a vertical quilt so everything looks a bit higgledy-piggledy at the moment until it all gets seamed together. Then I need to make four corner blocks which each have a different appliqued snowman in them.

I put together another dollshouse swap item using some of the Fimo food that I created when we were in the rental house two years ago. I had an unpainted crate which I aged and then added some printed labels, I was pleased with the end result.  This is 1/12th scale and hopefully my swap partner will like it. I didn't make the marrow, it was in my stash.

I've started the next dollshouse renovation project. This is my oldest house which I built in Canada in the early 80s and brought over to the UK when I emigrated. Over the years it has taken many knocks so I spent some time filling in dents and gouges, and gave the woodwork a clean.  The 'clear' glue that I used 30 years ago has now turned toffee brown where it is exposed to the air so I have to decide whether to try to get it off or just repaint the entire exterior of the house which is looking very tired.

The sad micro-porch is all that is left of a Federal-style porch with columns and a porch railing, which had to be cut off in our first real house because it projected too much to allow the house to sit on the available shelf.  You may remember I impulse-bought a heavily-discounted kit for a wraparound porch at Maple Street dollshouse shop a few years ago, thinking it might go onto this house and improve the external appearance.

Today I opened the kit for the first time and discovered there is considerably more DIY involved than I was hoping for.  I think this will have to wait until the new workshop is up and running.  It's going to make the dollshouse quite large and therefore harder to pivot it around to see inside, unless perhaps I can keep the porch detachable.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Mental arithmetic with fractions makes my head hurt

This weekend we went out and bought this lumber:

Then turned it into this robust workbench:

...but not without a huge struggle in which I had to do mental arithmetic with multiple fractions because we were using American instructions based on imperial measurements.

American instructions using imperial measurements
referring to lumber that isn't actually measuring what it's called, eg a 2"x4" isn't actually two by four inches after planing
I had to comb the internet to work out how to buy equivalents in the UK in metric - eg the closest equivalent to a 2x4 seems to be a 50mm x 100mm x 2.4m, 3/4" plywood is 18mm here etc.
   - then-
I had to work out how long to cut various bits allowing for the differences in metric lumber vs the American timber.
  - resulting-
in me having to calculate things like 34 1/2" minus 2 x 3 15/16ths" minus 19 3/4" = ?
ow ow ow headache...

But we got there in the end and the bench is really solid, it's got a useful shelf and we added a good-sized bench vise.  Best of all, I now have all the measurements worked out ready for when we build the second one next weekend. The instructions are here, free to print from the detail below the Youtube video - we didn't actually watch the video before building it as the instructions are pretty good by themselves (apart from not being in metric). Our carpentry skills are pretty minimal so if we can manage it then almost anyone with a handsaw and a power drill should be able to cope. We got the plywood cut to size at B&Q.

This was the first step in tackling the final dumping ground in the house which is the unheated cellar room. It's a disaster zone at the moment, full of stuff that got left there when we were unpacking, untidy messes of tools and packing material, empty boxes, paint tins etc.  I want to turn it into a more tidy workshop with decent storage, and places to put our power tools. And eventually a place to build dollshouses hopefully.

Also on the DIY front, I installed the painted brackets I posted about last week. They look good, like they are holding up the beam rather than just stuck to it. A subtle bit of bling for the room. And you can't see the hints of lime green  :)


I did in fact run out of white yarn for the Baa-ble mittens so they are stalled while I wait for another ball to arrive in the post. I have the tip of the second mitten to do, and thumbs on both mitts.

I also went shopping for fabric as the Fabric Guild in Leicester emailed me about their sale when I was having a weak moment. I wan't happy with the solid blue fabric for the border of the Let it Snow quilt, it was just killing all the joy of the central panel stone dead. So I headed up to Leicester on my day off to look for an alternative. I found a mottled blue which is much more what I wanted, so I've unpicked the snowballs but I'm leaving the corner triangles in solid blue and will replace the plain squares with the new fabric. They also had this snowman fabric for £2/yd so I picked up some for the back of the quilt, and fell for this cute pack of four FQs and this vintage sewing fabric. I felt I was showing real dedication to my craft as the Fabric Guild is a little over a mile from Leicester station and it was very windy and raining as I trudged along on foot there and back on what was meant to be my relaxing day off.

I did a bit more stitching on the latest applique block from my ancient UFO 25-block applique quilt.  I manage about two blocks a year and I think this is only block 17, sigh...  It is starting to look very pretty though, will be fab if I ever finish it.

I also finally finished the first Basket Check Sock - commuter knitting took a real back seat to my re-reading an urban fantasy series from my bookshelf the last few weeks. You know how it goes, you pick up the first book because you don't have anything to read on the train and before you know it you are procrasti-reading all eight volumes and stalking Amazon to see when the next one comes out.

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