Sunday, 13 March 2016

Getting my life organised

I have been feeling anxious for a while because my desk was getting more and more covered with things waiting to be sorted out, the box of bills and receipts was overflowing awaiting entry on our financial software, my in tray was full etc etc.  Working four days a week instead of three has made a surprising inroad not just on my available time but on my available energy.

On Thursday I headed off to work as usual on the train, but after a while the train started to slow down in between stations which is always a bad sign.  They announced a total signal failure in the Leicester area which was my destination, no trains going in or coming out.  They had no real suggestion on how one would reach Leicester so I got out at Kettering which was chaos, people milling around, unintelligible announcements, virtually every train cancelled.  I made an executive decision that life was handing me an extra day on a plate so I hopped on the first train coming southwards around the diversion and was back home two hours after I started. I then had the luxury of an entire day to sort out my life in paperwork which felt really great (although I probably worked harder than I would have done at the office!).  The best thing about it was that I already had Friday booked off and had been thinking I would have to devote a day over the long weekend to the paperwork, and then I had three days free with no guilt!  Well worth losing a day of my annual leave allowance.

One of the things I did was sort out a motorhome hire for a week's vacation this summer in Yorkshire. We've never driven a motorhome before but it costs about the same as staying in a hotel and I really like the idea that we can be pretty flexible on where we go. Also that we can relax in the 'living room' in the evenings and knit, read etc. and we won't have to eat out all the time as we can self-cater.  DH developed a passionate loathing for camping in our days of owning a folding camper several years ago but I'm hoping the motorhome will be comfortable enough (and dry inside if it rains) to win him over.

So I've had much more time than usual this weekend for crafts, although we did do three and half hours of gardening yesterday spreading manure and soil improvers which hopefully will yield results as things start to grow.

Dollshouse porch

I've been doing a lot on the dollshouse porch kit. In the week I assembled the railing substructures  using a spacer jig that came with the kit, and then did some preliminary painting on the posts.  As my porch will be removable, I've tried to make it a bit stronger by drilling a hole in the base of each post so that I could insert a cocktail stick 'dowel' to glue into a corresponding hole in the porch.

Of course, trying to get the holes in just the right position that the posts are in the right places to avoid gaps between the rails, while keeping the posts vertical and the rails spaced correctly, was enough to make me wish I had eight arms like an octopus.  The straight sections were bad enough; the octagonal gazebo was a saga.  But eventually after using up most of a roll of masking tape I achieved a result which wasn't too bad.

The next task was to assemble the ceiling, cut it to fit round my house (which is different that the house the kit was designed for), prep it, attach the trim, and then glue it onto the posts. I gingerly weighted it down with paint tins, holding my breath in case the whole thing collapsed like a pack of cards.

Somewhat to my surprise, the structure held up.  After the glue dried I was able to drill through the ceiling and dowel into the tops of the posts for added strength.  Then today I glued on the trim around the floor edge, and glued in the gingerbread trim between the posts - more sanding and tweaking and lots more masking tape.  It's starting to look really nice.

Although I did have a conversation with DH about the fact that 15 years ago I would have thought it looked great, whereas nowadays I know that any closeup photo with a digital camera is going to highlight any number of flaws, gaps, lumps and bumps. Sigh.  The next big job will be to finish priming the bare wood then carefully paint the final white paint coats on the entire structure before starting on the roof.

Another rescue operation

Remember the cross-stitch pictures from the 80s that I framed a few weeks ago?  Well I've 'rescued' another cross stitch which turned out to be quite a find.  When I spotted it in a bric-a-brac store, it was sealed in a packet and folded so that only the house portion was showing.  I could see that the house was already stitched  and it was priced at only £4 so I thought it was worth a punt and might be something I could frame or cut up to use to cover a box or something.

So I was very surprised when I got home and opened the packet to find a huge and elaborate reproduction of an antique sampler, 95% finished and exquisitely stitched on evenweave linen.  The back is almost as neat as the front. To give some scale, the letters are about half an inch high.

Presumably the expert stitcher who created this is no longer with us, and somehow it ended up at the bric-a-brac store. The top lines are a quote from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and the bottom quote is from a poem called Endymion by John Keats (thank you, Google).  I will probably try to finish it but I will be worried my stitching will look crude next to the original work.

Other crafts

I've gotten started on the miniature lace shelf edging but it's slow going: each 'zig' is taking about an hour which shows my inexperience.  But it is looking nice, I'm pleased with it.

I've done a few hours of blanket stitching around the Let it Snow quilt snowmen applique corner blocks. It's quite time consuming as there are a lot of thread changes and also I'm having trouble seeing what I'm doing.  My glasses aren't quite the right focal length and the Optivisor is too short a focal length so I end up hunched over the machine. To complicate matters I've somehow managed to lose one of the lens of my glasses and will have to get a replacement.

I finished knitting the cabled frame for the GAA Afghan square. and have started to sew it onto the central square.

I forgot to mention last week that I finished the Rag Rug Christmas Wreath. The teacher's sample had the edges of the hessian turned in on both the inside and the outside, but I rather like the look of the hessian filling the centre of the wreath. It gives  more of a sense of how the 'rug' was made and I think will help the wreath hold its shape. I could use it as a table centre perhaps under a candle, but I also sewed on a ribbon loop so I can hang it on the wall. Fun to try a new craft.

Parrs-Reel Rulers for guided free motion stitching 

I also meant to talk about a new gadget I saw at the Duxford quilt show, which was a set of rulers which can be used to guide freemotion quilting on a domestic machine.  Rulers have been around for quite a while for long arms but weren't previously suitable for use on a domestic machine because the free motion foot is shaped differently and wouldn't safely follow a ruler without hopping over the edge and breaking needles etc.  The Parrs-Reel Ruler comes as a set with a special deep free motion foot, a slippery table mat and thick acrylic rulers with channels cut out of them in various shapes. Their website has videos I think and I watched the vendor demonstrating. Basically she was holding the ruler down to the quilt's surface and moving the quilt so that the foot travelled along the channel. It looked cumbersome and as the rulers are not that long it required frequent starting and stopping to adjust the ruler. By aligning the ruler in different ways, you could turn a serpentine curve into a chain of circles for example by moving the ruler and stitching back along a previously stitched pattern.  Or you could pivot the ruler after stitching a half-oval to stitch the other half of the oval.They had stitched examples of all their ruler patterns but most of them seemed to be patterns which could be stitched free motion with a little practice.  The basic set costs from £49.95 and each ruler after that is £12 I think so it is not cheap.  And it will not work on a quilting frame as unlike a long-arm, a domestic machine on a frame lacks the supporting 'table' surface underneath the quilt to apply the ruler onto.  So an interesting idea but not something I feel I would invest in.


Daisy said...

You ought to see my desk! Although I have a good excuse (14 weeks worth of stuff piled up, funnily enough).
I think the porch looks really good...

swooze said...

I saw the Lace Society at the Dallas show last weekend and immediately thought of you. I was so short on time that I did not spend any time visiting with them.

I am glad you got a bonus day. There are days when traffic is so bad here but with some effort I can get around it most of the time so I dont have these reasons for an extra day off. Hope you enjoyed it!

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