Saturday, 27 August 2016

Bank holiday weekend

Yay, three day weekend and next week only a three day working week. The British weather is traditionally poor on BH weekends and has outdone itself today with thunder, lightning and heavy rain. It didn't bother me much because I was at my quilting day.  This time I took a break from the Indigo Bear's Paw quilt and instead I sewed up some Christmas presents. This is a scissors holder which holds three pairs of scissors. I made a prototype to test the instructions which were from one of the sewing magazines I got at the boot sale a few weeks ago.  The test run revealed several flaws in the instructions including that the template didn't actually produce the same shape as in the photos. So I tinkered with the pattern a bit and improved it.  I'm fairly pleased with the outcome. I used sewing and knitting themed fabric to make five holders. One will be for m-i-l and four for my bobbin lace friends.

The other project I worked on was the Whirligig quilt.  I finished sewing the rows together, which is when I discovered a rogue square twisted the wrong way.  I unpicked around it and sewed it back in correctly.

I had a look through my ageing stash for a border fabric but couldn't find anything I liked for a baby quilt. However I did find a floral border print which seemed to match all the right colours so I decided to go with that.  I cut out the border stripe and sewed four sides on, but only managed to miter three corners before it was time to go home.

One of the other quilters asked what I was making and I said I wasn't sure because it didn't look like a baby quilt any more. After consideration, the group decided it's a tablecloth so I guess that's what I've made, lol.  We have a little table in our hallway that it might look nice on.  I may not use wadding in that case, just some backing to finish it.

I finished knitting the pieces for the Que Sera cardigan  this week and finished knitting the Multiway Wrap and blocked them both.  The wrap dried pretty quickly but the spongey Shilasdair cotton on the cardigan is still drying.

The wrap has buttonholes across one short edge and ten buttons sewn on the other short edge to enable various effects.  You can button it behind you or criss-cross it across your body and button it. You can also button it into a very bulky cowl.  I'm not necessarily going to wear some of these styles but at least I have the options.

At dollshouse club this week they were beginning to plan the 2017 programme and there is some talk of them coming to my house next July to see my dollshouse room and houses. It would be nice to show my collection off to interested people but on the other hand that gives me a hard deadline to finish several projects. Or at the very least to declutter the houses full of junk and kits waiting to be built so that they look better.  This week I glued on some coffee stirrers all around the shed roof ready to support the first layer of shingles. I also glued on the Plastruct right angle moulding I bought in York to conceal the tower corner kebab sticks.

I haven't finished the Victorian porch yet. I did spray the cheap wirework furniture and a matching table in a blue enamel which has made them look better, and I've made some striped cushions. I think I need some throw pillows as well.

Tomorrow (if it isn't raining) we are going to build a raised bed for our strawberry patch, so that harvesting isn't such a backbreaking job next year. I'm planning to put the raised bed in the exactly same place, which means digging up all the strawberry plants first.  We will build a basic box out of gravel boards and then fill it with more dirt from the big hole we've dug where our future patio will be. Then I'll replant the strawberries and hope for the best.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Autumn skies

I'm looking out the window at yet another grey overcast day.  I should think British sunlovers are in despair at the summer we've had.  It suits me fine as I have to stay out of the sun and overheat easily, but even I can agree it's been fairly dismal.  It's also been very windy the last several days, and some of our trees are already shedding a lot of leaves even though it's still only August.  It feels more like late September.

We were out in the garden yesterday installing our latest addition, which DH has deemed 'interesting' as he's not sure he likes it.  I think it's a bit of fun.

This is the Victorian cast iron fire surround that we bought on our antiques outing to Weedon a few months ago.  On Thursday I finally got around to wire brushing it to remove copious amounts of rust, then sprayed it with primer. On the 'show' side I finished it with a stone effect spray, and I protected the back with some normal metal paint.  It makes a little gothic-style picture frame to look through.  I did investigate buying some acrylic mirror to turn it into a mirror frame but shipping was too expensive.  It's supported by a couple of stakes driven into the ground behind it.  This is probably a temporary location because if we ever get the patio built then I think it might look nicer over there.

Nearby is the obelisk that we bought at the Newark antiques fair. I planted a clematis under it which has obligingly grown up to the top and we might have some flowers soon.

I spent a couple of hours out in the garden on Thursday hacking back weeds and overgrown shrubs, it's all looking a bit rough this late in the season.  We still have some blooms: roses, phlox, rudbeckia, crocosmia, day lilies, salvia, Japanese anemones, fuschia and begonias, but there is more green than bloom.

This week I finished my sleeveless summer top and wore it to work.  I'm fairly pleased with it. My altered facings fitted their destinations which was a relief, and my understitching worked fine so the facings stay inside during wear. However they tend to poke out when putting the garment on, so I have to spend a few minutes faffing about and poking them all back inside which is annoying.  I'm tempted to run a line of top stitching around to keep them in permanently.  The fit is fairly good.  I found when wearing it that the armholes were a little too closely fitted so I've adjusted the pattern for the next time. Also I think the back darts should extend further down at the back so I've drawn that on the pattern for next time.  Anyway, nobody said anything at work so it probably  just looks like a top and doesn't scream 'home-made'.  Quilters will recognise the fabric as an Aunt Grace feedsack print but I don't think there are any quilters on my team.

I've bought some more of the blue fabric so I will make a second top in that.

I've finished sewing all the rows on my Whirligig Trip Around the World and have started sewing them together. The upper panel in this picture is the sewn-together part.

On the knitting front, I've been trying to get the Que Sera cardigan finished during TV knitting and am nearing the end of the second sleeve which is the final piece.  Then it will be blocking and perhaps picking up for a neck band, I can't remember.  I'm just starting the lacy border on the Raindrop Shawl after a bit of jiggerypokery with stitch count. For some reason I ended up with three extra stitches after the final garter border even though I started out with the right number. Not sure what happened there so I had to hide them into some K3togs in place of K2togs. It may have happened during some trauma with a disintegrating KnitPro Symfonie interchangeable wooden tip.  It started de-laminating and catching the yarn on every stitch which was incredibly annoying.  I tried rubbing it down with fine grade sandpaper which seemed to help but soon it was doing it again. Then when I tried to unscrew the needle so I could swap it with the good needle tip, instead of unscrewing, the bad tip just split completely across one of the laminations lower down the needle and came apart.  This happened on the train at the beginning of my trip home.  I spent half an hour knitting 20 stitches at a time onto the broken stub, then feeding them onto the jagged bit still attached to the cable before deciding I wasn't that desperate to knit.  I've had several problems with Symfonie tips and cables, I don't know if it is a quality control issue or if my needles have reached the end of their lifespan after 3 or 4 years.  I had a cable break just at the join the other day, and in the past have had a couple of issues with brand new metal joints arriving mis-threaded so you can't screw on a tip.  And the acrylic Trendz needles seem really fragile, I wouldn't say I knit with a death grip but I've snapped several of the acrylic needles 4mm and under just knitting with them, and also a 3.25mm or 3mm wooden one too. Some of the cables seem to be becoming very stiff as well, when originally they were pleasantly flexible. Annoying because these sets are not cheap and to begin with I was really happy with them.

I've finished the first round on my Idrija Lace doiley and am contemplating whether I have enough thread still on my bobbins to tackle the smaller inner round, or whether I should rewind the bobbins. It's tempting to keep going with the old bobbins but then I will have to deal with the knots as well.

That's about it this week - thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Upgrading from a tortoise to a hare

Virtually no pictures this week because most of my spare time has been spent on installing my new computer and trying to work out what was on my old PC that needs to be copied over, and how to do that.  My new PC makes my old PC look like a Model T Ford, it's lightning fast and whisper quiet. I timed the boot today, in 16 seconds it went from switching on power to displaying the log-on screen with virtually no noise. Whereas my old computer (six or seven years old?) wheezes like an asthmatic and you could go make a cup of tea while it was booting up. Downloads and installations are over in a matter of minutes (or seconds for small files) and I don't have to worry that the graphics card is going to crash after 20 minutes.

It's not all sunlight and roses. It's considerably bigger than my old PC, about the size of a carry-on suitcase, so it doesn't fit in the nice gap next to my desk any more. At the moment it is awkwardly underneath my desk with all my cables trailing across the work surface while I contemplate where I can cut holes to feed the wires through more neatly. And it came with Windows 10, which has made a determined effort to force me to have a Microsoft account by refusing to let me use things like Cortana or download any apps unless I agree that Microsoft can invade my privacy, monitor my every waking moment and take my first born child. No thank you. And it turns out that Electric Quilt 6 (which to be honest I rarely used) can't be installed on Windows 10. I corresponded with EQ customer support, apparently the installer just doesn't work with Windows 10 which a bit of googling of user feedback seems to support. I've still got my old PC so I suppose if I were desperate to use EQ then I could fire it up again (and go make a cup of tea while it was thinking about it). It's still annoying to have purchased this software (and it wasn't cheap) and not be able to install it. If you don't know what EQ is, it's software that lets you design quilts on screen, try them out with various colours/fabrics, then print out the resulting templates. There's a few other tried and trusted bits of software like Resize-o-matic (for resizing images) which don't seem to be available for Windows 10, and some other software that I don't have disks for and can't remember where I got it (Adobe Acrobat 8 Pro for example) which I am now missing. I suppose eventually it will all settle down and I will find replacements.

So I haven't done much of anything crafty this week apart from TV knitting and about five minutes of bobbin lace when I got up early one morning.

There were a few crafty things today. After having my hair done (and fingers crossed I don't wake up looking like a Klingon again in a few days, after the allergic reaction last time to the hair colour) we headed out to Burton Latimer which was having a community garage sale all over town.  You paid £1 to get a map of everyone who was participating, then just wandered from house to house to have a look at what was on offer.  I came away with half a dozen sewing and quilting magazines, a Debbie Bliss baby knits book. an old tutorial book for Torchon lace, a lavender plant in a nice blue ceramic pot, a micrometer (for measuring thickness very accurately, might be useful for dollshousing) and a little glass knickknack cabinet which I have filled with small dollshouse items for display.

After that we headed into Northampton to visit Daily Bread, a wholefood store where I buy bulk gluten-free oats for my homemade muesli. I've been meaning to re-visit Get Knitting, the knitting shop in Northampton, for a while, because I hadn't been there since they opened a few years ago and I keep seeing their advertisements in the knitting magazines. So we headed up there and I had a nose around. They have a lot more stock now, mainly acrylic but a decent salting of pure wool, wool blends, Debbie Bliss, Auracania, Ella Rae, and some nice cottons and even an Erika Knight cotton linen blend  I didn't actually buy anything as I am trying to use up stash but it was nice to fondle various things.  Then we headed over to A Most Marvelous Place to Shop (their name, not my description) in Abington Square because I had seen on Ravelry that an Indie dyer, RiverKnits who apparently lives and dyes yarn on a boat, had stock there.  It's a big building with quite a few dealers stands stocking vintage items and bric a brac but I found the yarn shelves fairly easily.  I was clutching my typical choice of skein in a variety of blues but I forced myself to put it back and pick something a bit different - because I would say 90% of my stash is blue or pink, and the other 10% is purple.  I came away with this skein of Superwash Blue Faced Leicester in colourway 'Paper Flowers' which isn't what I would normally choose but is still in my comfort zone of attractiveness.  The photo's a bit dark, sorry. I also found a vintage tray cloth, a cotton damask duvet cover which I am hoping to turn into a tablecloth, and some great gift tags made out of samples of embroidered vintage linens.

When I got home I finally got into my sewing room for the first time in a week and put in a few hours refining the pattern for the t-shirt I am trying to sew.  I cut out a second toile using the first one as a pattern, and basted it together then made further adjustments before transferring the final pattern back to the tissue paper pattern. Then I had to adjust the pattern pieces for facings so they would match the new measurements.  I think I've achieved a decent fit but proof will be in the pudding.  The really annoying thing is that when I went to cut out the final pattern from the blue cotton I had bought, there wasn't enough. Grrrr.  The pattern envelope says 1 3/8 yards for the size up from mine, and I bought 1.25 metres. So I have 48 inches when they want 49.5 inches, but the tissue paper pieces were hanging off by a good five inches so I think the pattern envelope is lying.  I probably could have gotten away with it if my fabric were not directional, but it was.  This sparked a protracted hunt through my quilt fabric stash to see if there was anything that would be wearable and in sufficient quantity.  I've come up with some leftover quilt backing in a feedsack pattern which I think will work although it might wrinkle a bit more than my original crisper choice.  I suppose I could always go back to John Lewis and see if they still have the bolt of blue fabric and buy another metre.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Finding my tribe

This week I kidnapped a complete stranger off the street and forced her to look at my craft rooms and sit in my living room talking about knitting.

OK, perhaps 'kidnap' is a bit strong.  I was babysitting a parcel which had been left with us by a very inexperienced My Hermes delivery woman, who insisted it was for an office across the road when it clearly wasn't. The intriguing factor for me was that it was from Deramores, a UK online yarn supplier, and was temptingly squishy (I had both DH and DS telling me that no, I couldn't open it to see what this unknown knitter was missing out on). After a few days I thought perhaps the recipient wasn't coming at all, but my doorbell rang on Thursday and there was a woman tentatively asking if I had a parcel for her.  After exchanging our views on the hapless delivery woman, who hadn't even left a delivery card so my neighbour had to track down the parcel online, I said that I had known it was yarn. This led to a brief exchange where we found out we had both been to Fibre East on the weekend so I said she had better come in for a cup of tea.  Which she did, and I found out she is BlueHydrangea on Ravelry and we ended up talking for an hour and a half and supper was very late that night but luckily the family didn't mind.  It's just so nice to talk to someone who understands about yarn and sewing and sewing machines and gadgets and circulars vs straights.  I've met other local knitters in the past but they aren't on Ravelry and are mainly acrylic yarn adherents so not really in my tribe, whereas my neighbour really is.  This week I get to go round her house to see her knitting - which judging by her projects page is much more technically advanced than mine. I'm looking forward to it.

It's been a bitty week for crafts, just some snatched time here and there.  I did get a lot done on the Raindrops Shawl as I went on an all day coach trip with my gardening club on Saturday and there was a lot of waiting around or sitting on the coach.  We went to Wightwick Manor in the morning which was an absolutely brilliant Victorian house full of William Morris wallpaper and Pre-Raphaelite artwork, but built to look like an old Tudor house.

I'm stalled on the sleeveless top because it is just so daunting trying to get the toile to fit me properly.  I knit a tension sample on the machine for a second machine knitted sleeveless tee but haven't managed to start it yet.  My bobbin lace friends came over  so I did do a couple of hours on my Idrija lace mat which is slowly coming along.  I've also had to spend time out in the garden watering so it doesn't all die, and pulling out the bindweed I discovered was swarming amongst the shrubbery.

I brought the finished Victorian gazebo porch and my Canadian dollshouse back into the dollshouse room.  I was sorting out the things that had fallen over inside the house in transit and was puzzled to find a puddle in the bedroom underneath a Chrysnbon plastic rocking chair.  I couldn't work out where it had come from, and was looking up stupidly at the ceiling of my room wondering about leaks, when I happened to touch the handmade patchwork cushion on the rocking chair. It was sopping wet! Not only sopping wet, but sitting in its own puddle on the sodden crochet mat on the rocking chair, which itself was starting to suffer and lose paint.  That's when I remembered that many years ago, I had stuffed the cushion with table salt for a realistic look and weight. It had never caused any problems before but obviously sitting in an unfinished damp cellar for several weeks had proved too much. I had to throw the cushion and mat out, I'm lucky it didn't cause any more damage than it did.  I won't be using salt as a cushion filler again!

I've started trying out furniture to fit on the porch. I have some wire sofas which I will spray paint and make cushions for, and a pretty little pink wicker set which I think I got on sale a while ago.

I got out the Windolene and cleaned my new glass cabinet in my dollshouse room, and ordered some plastic strips for the front corners to dust proof them.  I've brought down the smaller houses which were upstairs in a dark cabinet, and also installed some of the items which have previously lived under cling film dust covers.  It's lovely to be able to see them all now, safe from most of the dust anyway.  I can display my 1:48 New Orleans house open for the first time, and some of my 144th scale houses.  And I finished the 'secret book' kit. I've got a friend in France who owns a miniatures museum (Hi Anita!) and this cabinet makes me feel like I've got a little museum of my own.

I've been doing some 1:1 scale decorating as well.  I bought a little table for £5 from a secondhand shop, and I've given it a couple of coats of chalk paint (not Annie Sloan).  I'm pleased with how it is turning out, after I give it a coat of wax then it will go up on the upstairs landing.  Perhaps decorated with a cloth from my vintage linen collection although that is just asking for trouble from our cat...

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