Saturday, 28 May 2016

A long weekend

It's the late May bank holiday weekend so it feels lovely to think we have two more days at home after today. It was warmer today so DH painted another coat of blue on the inside walls of the gazebo and then when I got home from quilting we put a first coat of cream on the underneath of the roof. My arms feel like lead now, it's very tiring painting above your head for any length of time.

Today I was working on my blue and white Bear's Paw quilt and managed to complete seven more blocks.  I am pleased to announce that I finished the 20th and final block today - only 15 years after starting this project.  Looking through the bag of crumpled 15-year-old fabric, it looks like I have already cut out the setting squares and triangles (it's on point) and set aside half square triangles for a border. Looking at the photocopied instructions, apparently the quilt measures 90" x 104" which seems an odd measurement. My mattress is 60" x 80" so the quilt is going to be a bit long - I might scale down the size of the final border. The white fabric is a tone on tone, and the blues are various African indigo prints. Next time I go to quilting I will probably start sewing it together.

On Thursday I started work on my Lace Pillow Tote Bag, cutting 2.5" strips from the haberdashery themed fabrics I bought at Peterborough and adding in some other sewing-themed fabrics from my stash. I've sewn together two panels for the two sides of the bag and have started quilting them by sewing along the strips. I have some quilting-themed lining fabric as well.

Also on Thursday I mocked up the dormer roof for my Victorian dollshouse porch in cardboard until I was satisfied with the fit, then cut it out in wood and glued it on. Obviously it doesn't hide the existing shallow porch on the house but the dormer distracts the eye. The next job is shingling which is going to take a while with all the angles to cut.

Last Sunday my lace friends came over and I finished the Idrija bobbin lace motif that I started in the Idrija class at Peterborough.  It's not perfect but as a first attempt I'm pleased with it.  I'm going to try a bigger but similar pattern for a mat, using a homemade pricking traced from a picture I downloaded from Pinterest.

On the knitting front, commuter knitting has continued to be the Lallybroch socks and at the request of Swooze, here is a picture:

TV knitting has been the Que Sera cardigan, I've done both fronts and am now working on the back.  It doesn't look like much yet because it hasn't been blocked, but it is a diamond lace pattern with moss stitch borders.

I finished the second sleeve of my machine knitted practice t-shirt  in the week and washed, blocked and pressed the pieces ready for seaming and applying the neckline.

It doesn't look like much when it comes off the machine.

Damp pieces pinned out to shape. the row gauge is a bit out.

Looking much sleeker after a steam press

A close up of the picot hem.

Also in the week I finished my Now in a Minute Shawl with wedges knit from six sock yarns chosen from my stash to give a gradient effect. I found these instructions extremely confusing so I don't know if I've done it right or not - other shawls on Ravelry are more of a crescent shape whereas I have ended up with a deformed half circle. I've also got some dubious loose stitches on some of my short rows but that is my faulty tension.  I'm not very pleased with the shape which is a bit awkward to wear but the colours look nice draped around my shoulders.

I've also started a new shawl based on some instructions from the book Victorian Lace Today using a purple blue leicester laceweight yarn I think I got in the swap at SkipNorth a few years ago.  It is supposed to be a fairly straightforward pattern but for some reason I am having terrible trouble getting started, I think perhaps partly because it is knit from the tip up whereas I usually knit triangular shawls from the middle back neck downwards. And also partly because trying to watch TV while simultaneously puzzling out a new lace project is probably not ideal :)

Tomorrow we will be working on the gazebo some more: more painting and applying some silicon sealant to the seams on the roof. At some point this weekend we will visit the antique quilt exhibit at Bramble Patch quilt shop over near Weedon, and perhaps see a film and do some antiqueing. We might even have a BBQ if the weather is nice tomorrow, but apparently it is suppose to rain at some point which is traditional for a bank holiday weekend, lol.

Hope you are enjoying a nice long weekend if you are in the UK , with lots of craft activities.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

A girl and her power tools

I spent the morning surrounded by power drills, of which we have four for some reason. One is knackered and every time we do DIY I promise myself to ditch it and yet somehow it ends up back on the shelf. Two are ancient hand-me-downs from relatives, and one is my lovely lightweight Ryobi with rechargeable powerpack.  Today we built the corner gazebo for the garden, so I was using three of them: one for drilling, one for countersinking, and one as a power screwdriver. Having three made the work go much faster as we didn't have to faff around changing over bits except when I needed to change drill sizes.  DH did the heavy lifting and held things in place while I attached them together.  We also did production line drilling and countersinking when we needed to, for example, drill six holes into the sides of each of eight roof pieces.

Surprisingly (given some past DIY cock ups) it all went quite smoothly. The panels are not exactly watertight as there are some fairly large gaps in the joins due to some rough and ready construction by the manufacturer, but it is all attached pretty sturdily and the part I was really worried about - the complicated looking roof - went together quite straightforwardly. Although having no upper body strength, by the time I had screwed home 48 attachments on the roof panels while holding the drill above my head, I had pretty sore arms.  We love the colours we've painted on the walls and roof, and are just thoroughly pleased with how it looks both from the garden and from the house. It adds height to the garden, acts as an interesting focal point, and gives the 'snowman' shaped lawn diagonal something to point to at long last. There is plenty of room inside for a table and two chairs, and you could probably squeeze in a third chair at a pinch. It is also quite private as the roof and back walls block out all the overlooking windows.  It will be a nice place to knit in the summer.

And I am really getting rid of that knackered drill! It let me down too many times this morning.

It's turned cold and rainy again this weekend but once we get some warmer weather we will touch up the paint on the gazebo, paint the inside of the roof, install a stone slab doorstep, and then landscape around the gazebo with the plants that we dug up last week.  The weeds are romping away now with the warm wet weather so the garden needs a major tidy up. I put in an hour or so in the front garden when I got home early on Friday and filled two big trugs with both weeds and over-enthusiastic self-seeded plants that were swamping other plants.


I haven't done too much in the way of crafts since last posting on Tuesday.  Knitting of course: I have fumbled my way to the final wedge of the Now in a Minute Shawl although I pulled most of it back last night when I realised that it wasn't looking like the picture and therefore I probably shouldn't have been knitting the increase section even though the confusing instructions don't say not to for the final wedge.  The yarn I ordered from Black Sheep Wool turned up, it's a chunky wool/cotton/acrylic blend by Sirdar called Faroe Chunky in the Moorlands colourway..  I'm going to knit this free pattern from Let's Knit magazine for a multiway wrap with it.  We're going camping this summer and this will be a good holiday project I think.  And I've turned the heel of my toe-up Lallybroch Sock and am heading up the leg now. I've wasted a lot of time picking up stitches because my new pointy addi metal DPNs are too short and very slippery and I keep losing stitches off the other end. I added some Knit Pro Zing DPNs to my Black Sheep order so hopefully they will be the right combination of pointiness but not too slippery and they are longer at 20cm.

I have also cut my way to the end of my first box of quilting fabric scraps at long last. I ended up with a pretty full bin of 2.5" strips and squares, as well as 1.5", 2" and 3.5" bins and the start of a collection of 10.5" squares for backing.  I have a couple more bags of yardage and fat quarters that are destined to be backing so I will cut them up into 10.5" squares as well because I think it will be a lot easier to join together squares than my previous method of trying to join up odd sized bits.  So my sewing table is finally freed up and I am planning to start on my jelly roll tote bag for my lace pillows using the Missouri Star YouTube pattern that I used a couple of years ago.  I won't be using a jelly roll this time, I'll be cutting strips from the haberdashery-themed fat quarters that I bought at the Makit lace fair a few weeks ago. I'm going to make a new bag that is deeper and wider so I can squeeze two pillows into it, my bag of accessories, and hopefully secure it all with a zip closure at the top.

I've virtually finished my Idrija bobbin lace motif, I just need to do the final sewings to secure the ends.  I will do that tomorrow afternoon when my lace friends come over for our monthly meeting. I need to think what my next project will be in this new type of lace, possibly a mat.  I've kept going on my practice machine knitted t-shirt and have knit the front now and one sleeve. So I just need to do the second sleeve and then I can block the four pieces in preparation for partial seaming and knitting on the neck band.  It's a round neck so it will depend on the length needed as to whether I can knit it all in one go on the machine or have to knit it in two pieces as the machine needlebed is only so long. Hopefully I can just seam one shoulder and hang the entire neckline onto the machine needles and knit the band directly onto the t-shirt.  It will be a picot edged hem to match the sleeves and garment lower edge.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Another signal failure

Set off to work as usual this morning only to end up back home two hours later as the signals have once again failed on the train line to Leicester.  We waited half an hour for a diversionary route but they said it was going to take 55 minutes to get to Loughborough then buses back to Leicester. I decided I didn't want to go to work that badly so waited another 45 minutes for a train to get through the blockage and take me home.  This is the second time in two months, I hope this isn't going to be a regular occurrence or my manager isn't going to be too happy. She didn't sound very happy when I called in to say I wouldn't make it.

But the sun is shining and I've been happily pottering at my desk, cleaning out email, printing off knitting patterns, getting suckered into ordering sale yarn from the Black Sheep Wools clearance sale, and making some arrangements for our Yorkshire holiday in June.

This past weekend I murdered the Virburnum shrub standing in the way of our new corner arbour. It had finished flowering and there was nowhere to put it, so out it came. We also dug up and temporarily potted about another dozen clumps of plants, some of them in flower which isn't ideal but hopefully they will survive. We also had to dig a big hole and move the Photinia tree, the one we planted last year, about a foot to the right. It's in flower as well but we moved quite a big root ball so hopefully it won't realise what has happened as long as we keep watering it. Then on Sunday we made a trip to the DIY store to purchase the cheapest concrete things we could find to pile up to be piers to support the base of the arbour, which turned out to be economy patio slabs and concrete blocks. We already had some bricks, so that gave us three heights of block to combine to arrive at eight edifices that would be level and support the wooden bearers for the hexagonal base.  We were building out over a sloping concrete path that ran alongside and up to 18 inches lower than our lawn, so each edifice was a different height. Miraculously we managed to get it all fairly level.  We weren't using mortar as that isn't in our skillset, so to stabilise the piers we piled lots of leftover building rubble around them then dumped in eight wheelbarrows of topsoil (dug up from the location of our future patio) to level the area surrounding the base to a similar height with the lawn.  The result is surprisingly stable although I don't think you could dance on it. Our future plans include sedately drinking tea so it should be fine.  We hope to build the walls next weekend if it isn't raining. As well as giving us a private place to sit, this will be a feature looking down on the garden from the house.

Crafty stuff

I actually did some machine knitting this week as I want to make some summer t-shirts.  I'm starting with a practice shirt using two strands of some pale blue crepe I already had. I've done the back but had some trouble shaping the back neck which is much more fiddly than hand knitting. I succeeded in dropping a stitch which in this slippery yarn promptly ran down about 8 rows, and while I was trying to fix this, one of its neighbours also made a break for freedom. Good thing this is a practice.  But I've ordered two cones of Panama 50/50 cotton acrylic from Yeoman for the real things. This is a nice summer yarn which I have used before in the distant past when I used to be a machine knitter. The one on the left is a denim blue, the right one is a duck egg colour.

On the bobbin lace front, I have almost finished the Idrija lace motif I started on the workshop weekend before last. I've also been investigating the German book I bought in Peterborough with the of online translation aids and online lacemaking friends.  Apparently it is related to Belgian bloom lace so I've ordered a book for .01p plus postage on Amazon which is a recommended resource on bloom lace techniques. There's nothing quite like Amazon for instant gratification and sourcing obscure books.

In handknitting, I've started the right front of the Que Sera cardigan  now and have gotten into a right pickle with the Now in a Minute Shawl. The shawl is a free pattern from Brenda Dayne so I don't like to grumble too much. But I find the instructions extremely confusing and non-intuitive, and looking at the comments on Ravelry I am certainly not alone in feeling that way.  I've made it to wedge five but I don't seem to have the right number of stitches any more, and since the pattern doesn't say how many repeats to a wedge or give any in-progress stitch counts, I'm not even sure where I went wrong.  I've pulled back to the start of Wedge 5 and am trying again with the short rowing.  I've also blocked all 20 squares now for the GAA Afghan without any trouble so I don't need to knit any extra borders.  Next step will be to sew them all together but I need to research what is the best way to do that. I may need to crochet all around each square first.

I've made a push to get through the cutting up of quilting scraps because I want to make a jelly roll bag to put my lace pillows in.  Now that I've moved from cutting strips to cutting squares, it is incredibly time consuming. I hope I actually make something some day with all of these squares and strips and I'm not just wasting my time. Although it satisfying to turn crumpled scraps into neatly cut squares.

Hope you are enjoying the sun where you are!

Monday, 9 May 2016

Bobbin Lace weekend (with fabric shopping)

This weekend was all about bobbin lace as I attended the UK Lace Guild's weekend in Peterborough. It was quite fun and felt like a mini-holiday surrounded by like-minded crafty people.

On Saturday there were several full day workshops being held at the hotel and I learned a type of Russian lace called Idrija (pronounced Eh-dree-ya) from Slovenia. It's a narrow tape lace which progresses quite quickly and is suitable for beginners so I quite enjoyed the class taught by Jacquie Tinch. There were around a dozen people with four of us doing Idrija and the rest doing Russian lace, so Jacquie found it a bit challenging to give time to everyone and occasionally we had to wait for her. But she was a great teacher and I feel confident I can complete the motif we started on my own at home. I've also ordered a recommended book by Bridget Cook which has more patterns.

Jacquie making the rounds

My work in progress - this is how far I got by the morning after the workshop.

After class I nipped over to the nearby Queensgate Mall to visit the Hotter shoe shop that other lacemakers had been raving about for comfortable shoes, and picked up two pairs. As usual all the 'pretty' summer shoes weren't sized for wide feet - apparently once you have wide feet you only want to wear items that look orthopaedic... Then back to the hotel to get ready for the lace dinner which was attended by 70 members.  There was supposed to be a 'Lace In' evening after dinner but the hotel service, while very friendly, was so slow that dinner stretched out to three hours and most people were too tired by the time it finally finished.  Me and some others on our table did get our pillows out and do some lace making for 40 minutes or so, plus I was knitting on the Lallybroch Sock while waiting for the tea and coffee service to finish (60 minutes to make sure all 70 people had a drink, unbelievable. I wonder what it's like when they do weddings...).

Everyone I met was really friendly and it's so enjoyable to spend time with a group who are passionate about what they do.  As well as bobbin lace, there were people tatting, others were making beaded bracelets, and a fair amount of lace on display in the form of collars, brooches, ruffs etc. I have to say that it was for the most part a rather elderly crowd with quite a few people in their 70s, 80s, and even 90s, so I felt very young and thin which is always a nice delusion.

I stayed over at the hotel and met up with lace people again this morning for breakfast, then did a bit more Idrija in my room before rejoining the group for a shared taxi over to the Peterborough Arena for the Makit Lace, Quilting and Needlework fair.  This is quite a good fair for lacemakers but there were also several good quilting stalls this year. I had no intention of buying any fabric but I had been thinking I need to make a bigger bag to carry my lace pillows in and fell victim to a roll of ten haberdashery-themed fat quarters which will be perfect.  Having started down that slippery slope, a William Morris jelly roll and layercake, and a Moda charm pack soon joined my purchases.  I also picked up a Ruby anniversary commemorative lace guild bobbin and cover cloth, some secondhand bobbins, and a cool book of coloured lace which is in German which I don't actually read.  There is a glossary converting key terms to English, Italian and French but I see a lot of Google translate in my future.  At 11:30 I took time out from shopping to attend the Lace Guild AGM, which lasted an hour and was surprisingly well attended with probably well over 100 people there. I did some more knitting on my sock and reached the heel turn. I actually did too many increase rows and had to pull out a few of them. After a bit more shopping, DH picked me and my bags up from the fair.  I was so worn out when I got home that I had to have a nap. Fun weekend.

Suddenly summer

Only a week or so after the snow, it has soared to 23 degrees Celsius this weekend. So we spent much of the rest of Sunday afternoon and early evening out in the garden. We've installed a temporary privacy screen of split bamboo cane while we think about what the permanent solution might be for our very overlooked garden. Possibly a pergola but not until next year. This year's big expensive project will be getting the shower installed in the main bathroom which we've been waiting over a year for. The builder thinks he may finally be here to do it in September.  I also planted out some of my seedlings that I've been clumsily raising. I don't know if I have hardened them off sufficiently so I hope they survive.  I've got another 30 or so that are too small to go out yet.  The rhubarb had re-sprouted through the week so I cut another crop for our third batch of rhubarb crumble.  I used to hate rhubarb when I was little but I think it was the way my mum cooked it, and also I didn't like tart things much when I was a youngster.

On my day off last week I was cutting up more fabric scraps: I've done all the strips now and am starting to iron the odd shaped pieces for cutting into squares.  I also started blocking my 20 GAA knitted squares.  I don't have room to do them all at once so blocked eight to begin with.

TV knitting this week has continued to be the Que Sera cardigan. I have now reached the armholes and divided for the fronts and back, and am continuing up the left front.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Stiff and old

It's Bank Holiday weekend here in the UK and amazingly it hasn't rained yet, so we spent a few hours out in the garden yesterday afternoon and again this morning. I was digging up weeds, tilling a bit and then spreading the Strulch (composted straw mulch), and also spreading lawn food by hand. Consequently I am feeling very stiff and achy - I can see why older people retire to a bungalow with a paved-over small garden with a few pots. I can still call myself middle-aged but I am unfit enough that a few hours gardening does me in. But hopefully putting in the work now and getting the weed-suppressing Strulch down will save many hours of weeding over the summer.  That's if it doesn't blow away - I'm still not convinced as it seems very lightweight.  We've watered it in for now but what happens when it dries out in the summer?  Our garden is quite windy.

Also yesterday we went around a set of nine gardens in the picturesque stone and thatch village of Great Brington, northwest of Northampton, which were open for charity under the National Garden Scheme.  Some very pretty spring gardens, some gorgeous cottages, it was sunny, and I picked up some inspiration for things we could do in our garden.

I  spent a day at the monthly quilting 'bring your own project' day and worked again on my ancient UFO Indigo Bear's Paw quilt, piecing five more blocks and cutting out the remaining seven block kits and pulling off the Thangles papers from the half-square triangles.  Then I stitched on my hand-applique Hawaiian Quilt for a few hours so it was a productive day.  Well worth it as if I had been at home I would have quit out of boredom after a few hours which is why the Bear's Paw quilt project is fifteen years old.  I was obviously delusional in my younger quilting days thinking that I could simultaneously complete all these enormous and time-consuming projects that I am still trying to finish off a decade later.

This week was also the great Dollshouse Shed reveal, although that turned out to be somewhat anti-climatic as only around half the members attended this month's meeting.  Still, the ones who were there were impressed with it. Although I was a bit surprised when one woman asked if I had made it myself - why would I bring someone else's half-finished project to the club?  It needs some more gingerbread trim on the porch, something to cover up the seams on the tower, and of course shingling.  But I've finally been able to tidy up the workshop (I am a horrendously messy worker and gradually fill all surfaces until I am literally working on the corner of the table) and get back to working on my bigger Victorian porch.  DH is going to take me to Hobbycraft in Northampton today to pick up some paint for the big porch shingles and while I am there I will look for something to use for the shed porch gingerbread.  Once the shed is done then I need to fit it onto the provided base and create a garden around it.

Knitting this week has continued on the Que Sera Cardigan, the Lallybroch socks and I found a shawl I had forgotten about, the Now in a Minute Shawl so I've done a few inches on that as well.  The shawl had been tidied away inside a cupboard so out of sight, out of mind.  And I have brought my bobbin lace down out of the attic to the dining room for the same reason, and forced myself to soldier on for a couple more inches on the miniature shelf edging.

The only other thing I've done this week, besides debating with DS on why he needs me to send him more money when he is only a few weeks into his third term at uni, is to take apart a large picture I got at a bric-a-brac shop and paint the white frame to look like dark wood. That took several coats of wood stain and tinted varnish but it doesn't look too bad now. Bit streaky but nothing that would offend the casual eye. So I reassembled the picture yesterday and it's hanging in the living room where it looks nice on the blue wall.

If you are in the UK, I hope you are enjoying a pleasant Bank Holiday weekend also.

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