Sunday, 25 September 2016

Schrödinger's cat

Schrödinger's cat is, as far my tiny bit of understanding, both alive and dead simultaneously. This week we spent four nights and three days in a similar state of unknowing as our cat never came home Wednesday night, not even for supper.

By Thursday night, DH had given her up for dead, but I was still trotting downstairs to the cat flap whenever I thought I heard a miaow. And of course we looked in all the rooms, cupboards, the shed etc. On Friday, DH started leaving the doors to rooms open (normally we keep most of them shut as the cat can't be trusted not to scratch furniture) and I was going around closing them still thinking that she still might come back.

Saturday even I was losing hope and leaving doors open.  I put up some posters around the neighbourhood, and Googled about lost cats which was a bit like googling medical symptoms in terms of depressing stories.  I threw out the now-very-stale cat food, and felt sad whenever I passed the scratching post or a cat toy. We both felt very depressed.

Today I accepted that she probably wasn't coming back although I was still hoping she had just moved in with some other, nicer family, who were petting her all the time and giving her wet cat food instead of dry and keeping her litter box cleaner.  We spent a while this morning tidying the house for our guest that is coming soon, and I collected up all the cat paraphernalia and put it in a cupboard. I was being sensible and I called the vet and the microchip provider to report her lost.  Then we headed to a garden centre for lunch and to buy a replacement potted evergreen to replace the one that has died by the front door.

When we got home, we changed into our gardening clothes and I shovelled some homemade compost into the wheelbarrow in preparation for planting the evergreen. DH came over to help with the wheelbarrow and I suddenly thought that I heard a miaow.  I shushed DH and listened harder, and sure enough there was definitely an insistent, plaintive  miaowing coming from somewhere.  We live next door to an old church which has a derelict basement and the compost bin is on that side of our garden. On Friday evening I had tried calling her name through the broken basement windows but hadn't heard anything.  The church's old coal hatch is on the wall facing our garden so now I yanked that open and called her name again. The miaowing was louder, and by leaning right into the hatch, I was amazed and thrilled to spot our cat down on the floor against the wall, yelling her head off.  I called her while DH rushed off to get the stepladder, but she was able to jump up on some debris and then jump across to the lip of the hatch into my arms.

She is very dirty, and quite thin, but alive and apparently unharmed.  DH was quite overcome because as far as he was concerned she is back from the dead. We gave her some food right away which she ravenously ate, then she had a big drink of water.  I called the vet but they said that unless her behaviour is unusual then we didn't need to bring her in. They recommended giving her some wet food to rehydrate her so DH rushed out to get some, which she also ate ravenously.  Since then she has been following us around the house, wanting lots of petting and reassurance and miaowing if we go out of her sight. She's lying on the desk in front of my keyboard as I type this. DH is going to stay home from work tomorrow to keep her company, and the vet said not to let her out for a few days.  She must have had some water in there and perhaps managed to catch something to eat, but it must have been so frustrating for her to hear people and cars passing outside and not be able to get out.  We think she must have got in through the broken window by jumping up on some scaffolding that is near it. I hope she has learned a lesson and doesn't get in there again, but the coal hatch will be the first place I look if she goes missing in future.

Sew Brum - a fabric day in Birmingham

Saturday morning I headed off early for my pre-booked train trip to Birmingham for the Sew Brum event. This is a free event for anyone who loves to sew, and kicked off with a meet up in the lovely Edwardian tearooms in the city museum.  Then we headed out in small groups to visit the fabric stalls in the Rag Market, and the Fancy Silk store fabric, before heading out by bus to Guthrie and Ghani in Molesley (another great fabric shop).  My group had a lovely lunch at The Dark Horse in Molesley, then headed to G&G for shopping before finishing off upstairs with a cup of tea and the raffle and a fabulous free fabric and pattern swap. Everyone was really friendly and I met several interesting ladies of all ages.  I had brought several pieces of fabric for the swap so it was good to see them go to new homes, and I brought home a few new-to-me patterns.

In the Rag Market I found some linen printed with sewing motifs which I am going to use to slipcover my sewing chair, and some floral red knit (£2/m!) which I hope will be a long sleeved top.  In the Fancy Silk store I got some batik at £4.99/m for another summer top, and at G&G I got some lovely top quality marled jersey at £10.99/m also for a long sleeved top. So I am going to have some clothes sewing to do.

It was quite a pleasant day (despite trying not to worry about our missing cat) and I would definitely go again. In fact, DH said we might drive over to Brum ourselves and have a day out there to visit the museum and look around the town centre. 

Other crafts

Still not much crafting this week.  I did finish the thrummed slippers.  They are rather ungainly at the moment but I suppose the thrums of roving inside (second pic) will felt down into a smooth layer with use.  They feel very light and warm, a bit like wearing down-stuffed socks.

I also finished the Sirdar Baby Crofter baby dress and blocked it.  I bought some buttons for it in Birmingham so I just need to sew those on and take some pics and it's done.  I've added a few more inches in commuter knitting to the Victorian Lace Today Shawl and was knitting on it in Birmingham.

I've knit a tension swatch in the round using Jamieson's 2-ply jumper weight in preparation for a fair isle vest that I bought the yarn for a couple of years ago.  I've knit two of these types of vests in the past on the machine, it feels weird to be knitting fair isle with this wool by hand.  I've blocked the tension swatch but need to measure it and see if I am getting gauge (probably not).  I did a little hand applique one night, and I've been cutting up some quilting fabric scraps to fit my scrap system now and then. But that's about it.  Hope you are getting more crafting done than I am!  And if you have a cat, I hope it has the sense not to jump into derelict basements that it can't get out of.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Back to school (but not for me)

We took DS back to uni today for his final and fourth year.  This year he is sharing for the first time with two other boys, having had his own room for the first three years.  I'm glad he will get the experience of sharing now.  I didn't share with anyone until my late 20s and found it mildly traumatising having to tolerate other people's habits and noises. He's more easygoing than I ever was but I expect there will still be a bit of a learning curve.

Not much crafting this week as I seem to have been buried under a sea of paperwork at home and at work.. And my 'day off', although I am very grateful to have it, seems increasingly taken up with chores, errands, deliveries, paperwork and routine service visits for the boiler, the chimneys, etc. It's also apple season so I've been making apple pies from our tree.

I did manage to finish my second sleeveless top, the one in blue cotton that I blogged an in-progress photo of a few weeks ago.  I thought I had taken pics of the finished top but I can't find them so I must be imagining it. I wore the top to gardening club on Thursday night and to work on Friday.  It's fine. After the facings debacle, the armholes are gaping a bit but not unacceptably. The fabric itself is crisper than my first top so it doesn't drape as comfortably but it's wearable.  I'm attending Sew Brum for the first time this coming weekend, which is a jaunt around some of Birmingham's fabric shops. So I may be inspired to sew something else to wear if I find some nice fabric/patterns. Wish I were better at it though...

I've finished the knitting on my Sirdar Baby Crofter Baby Dress but haven't sewn it up yet.  This is a picture when I had done the first pocket then I knit a second pocket the next night. This is a one year old size made using a pattern called Caesia by Georgie Nicolson, which I found on Ravelry.

Yesterday I spent a pleasant day at the Lavendon Lace Day, which is organised by a lace group in Olney.  It was held in the village hall and had a healthy attendance of likely in excess of 50 ladies, mostly older but there were a few younger people. Most people this year were working bobbin lace and there were some very impressive projects going on, not too mention impressive pillows with dozens of decorative bobbins dangling from them.  I took my Idrija lace doiley and finished working the inner circle, then wound fresh bobbins and started on the outer circle.  Although it is quite a simple lace, I had several admiring comments as it is something a bit different from the more usual Torchon lace.

The ladies at my table were quite friendly, and I spent some money at the lacemaking supplier on threads but also on this vintage, part-worked stamped table cloth which was originally purchased in 1957. It was going for a bargain price from a clear-out by a lady in her 80s who must have decided she was never going to finish it. I don't know if I will either since I don't do embroidery, but I like it.

And there was a raffle in which amazingly mine was the first ticket pulled. So I had my choice of items - I was tempted by a bottle of prosecco and a cross-stitch book but in the end I went for yet another project which is this Dimensions kit for embroidered sewing-themed ornaments. Perhaps in my retirement I will open a museum of unopened craft kits and part-finished projects, lol. The packaging looks dated and it has an American price tag on it, so I strongly suspect that this has been sitting in some other lady's stash for some time. Now it can live in mine.

Commuter knitting has been the purple Victorian Lace Today shawl which I started a while ago. I also took it to gardening club to knit on during the lecture, but was dismayed when they turned out the lights for the slide show. After fidgeting for 10 minutes I found my eyes had adjusted just enough that I could make out the pattern chart, and the shapes of the stitches if I held them up against the lit-up screen. I managed to knit several rows of leaf lace largely by feel and counting the 12 stitch repeat, and as far as I can tell now, without any mistakes or dropped stitches which is amazing. I can't manage that in daylight some days, lol!

I've done a bit of work on my Victorian dollshouse shed project.  I've been fashioning and painting some scrollwork trim for the porch, and I made and painted five window boxes. I've also primed and painted two hanging baskets (from plastic caps) for the shed, and five more baskets (from wine drink bottle tops) to go on the gazebo porch.  I need to pull out all my greenery and dollshouse gardening stash so that I can make plants to fill the boxes and hanging baskets.

It's time to turn DS's room back into a guest room, which we will do this week. I actually have a guest coming over from France in a few weeks which I am looking forward to.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Wavering progress

This week seems to have been a succession of do-overs.

For example, last week I reported that I had finished my Rainwater Mint shawl.  The pattern calls for a decreasing bind off after the lace edging. I was sceptical that this would make too tight an edge but none of the other projects on Ravelry reported any difficulty so I had faith and followed the instructions.  It did block nice and flat, but when I went to put it on, I found the firm edging with no give caused the entire shawl to 'cup' unattractively either upwards or downwards.  In the end I pulled out the entire castoff, and cast off again using a Frilled bind off which has a lot more give to it. I had to do a spit splice to add on more yarn (which luckily I have lots of). Then I wet the edge of the shawl and did a reblock just of the edge, pulling it out into small points.  I'm glad I did all that because now the shawl drapes much better.

Next do-over was the Que Sera cardigan.  I chose eight buttons and sewed them on with matching embroidery floss one night then put the cardigan on and looked in the mirror.  It looked like a drunk had sewn them on at random, they were wavering all over the place. (Admittedly I was drinking a glass of Prosecco at the time for my wedding anniversary, lol).  So they all had to be cut off the next night (and I had triple knotted them for security) and resewn in a more conventional vertical line.  Although the pattern doesn't call for it, I think the cardigan would have benefited from the top button being higher up to the neckline.  I'm wearing a white sleeveless vest under the cardigan in these pictures which is showing through a lot. I'm quite pleased with the fit.

Continuing my theme, I sewed an armhole facing onto my blue summer sleeveless top.  It didn't seem to fit as well as when I sewed the first top, but I put that down to cutting error.  After grading (trimming) the seam, clipping and doing the understitching, I moved onto the other armhole. I couldn't get that facing to fit at all, which is when I belatedly realised that I had accidentally switched the facings and sewn the first one on reversed (back of facing sewn to front of top).  I couldn't face taking it apart with all the understitching etc, so I stupidly thought I would try bodging in the second facing.  Needless to say that didn't work at all, so TV knitting time one night was actually seam ripper time as I unpicked all the stitching from my poor abused garment armholes.  I had to throw out the facings and make new ones, but then faced the challenge of sewing an intact facing into a trimmed and clipped armhole. I've managed more or less with the first armhole but haven't tackled the second one yet.  I wrote in pencil to label the back pieces and underarm seam of the facings so I can get it right this time!


I did manage to finish the shingling on the roof of my Victorian shed without having to backtrack.  I gave them a couple of coats of brown paint then distressed them a little with some mid-brown paint then with a mix of grey and brown. I still don't think the colour is quite what I want yet but I'm thinking about it. I might do a green wash on some of the shingles.

Meanwhile I started work on some finishing touches, like gingerbread trim for along the underside of the porch roof, and I cut a larger base.

I've done a bit more work on my Idrija Lace doiley this week because I've left it on the dining table where I can easily sit down and do a few minutes on it.  TV and commuter knitting (when I haven't been re-doing things) has been the Sirdar Crofter baby dress which is almost down to the hem now. I've also been experimenting with some Thrummed Slippers.  I took part in a Learn to Thrum workshop at Skip North the last time I attended, and I bought some yarn and roving to make slippers at one of the shops we visited.  Thrums are little loops of wool roving inserted to the inside of knitting for added warmth.  I couldn't find a pattern for the thickness of wool I have, so I am adapting a not-very-good Drops slipper pattern and it's turned into a bit of a bodge job.  Not sure these are going to be viable slippers but I am persevering with the first one.

Today we visited a couple of gardens open under the National Garden Scheme.  The second one was Coton Manor Gardens, which is quite big at 10 acres and based around a lovely old manor house.  There's a tea room where we had quite a nice lunch, and a big plant nursery. The gardens were extensive and quite impressive even at this time of year.  We plan to go back next year to see the bluebell wood in spring and then again in summer to see the borders at the height of their glory.  And they had a small flock of pink flamingoes which was just so incongruous against the traditional English landscape. The birds didn't seem fazed at all by the visitors staring, but they weren't so keen when a little boy started running enthusiastically around them. Highly recommended if you are in the area.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

A tale of two summers

I had my lace making friends over today, who are all retired apart from one who works three days a week.  They were chatting away and exclaiming over what a lovely summer it's been and so hot and dry.  I was just sitting there with my mouth open wondering if I had strayed into a parallel universe. Until I realised that they have been out and about on sunny weekdays when I am trapped in my too-hot office, whereas almost without fail it has been overcast and rainy on my days off and every weekend. It's also quite chilly in the mornings now on my walk to the station, and it's dark by around half past seven so I don't get much time when I get home.  Grrrr. Roll on retirement I say.

While we were chatting, I was working on my Idrija Lace doiley, I'm now working the inner circle and am about halfway around since taking this photo.

Last week I mentioned we were going to build a raised bed for our strawberries on Bank Holiday Monday.  It took a few hours and a lot of digging but went fairly smoothly. We made it out of gravel boards which are treated and relatively cheap. I dug up dozens of strawberry plants as they had thrown out runners like crazy. But when I googled on planting strawberries, most sites agreed 14 inches apart in rows 30 inches apart so we only ended up replanting 14 plants after taking this picture. But I'm sure they will increase (if they survive) and it will be so much easier picking them now that they are 35cm above ground level. It also will stop them sending runners out into the flower beds.  We took the soil from the ever-growing hole on the site of our future patio, which is almost big enough to park a skinny car in now and about two feet deep. The neighbours must be wondering what we are planning to bury.

I did a little sewing this week and got my second summer sleeveless top cut out and started sewing it together.  I've put in the neck facing in this picture but haven't done the armhole facings or hem yet. This is a 100% cotton fabric from John Lewis.

While watching TV this week, I have seamed together my Que Sera cardigan and much to my amazement, it is actually quite a good fit.  I need to sew on buttons then I will pose for some pictures.

The yarn is Shilasdair cotton which they were selling very cheaply on their stand at Ally Pally a few years back, and I think I may know why.  Despite several rinses, the water remained a vivid turquoise when I was getting ready to wet block it. It also left turquoise stains on the old white sheet that it was pinned onto for blocking.  So if I get wet when I am wearing it, I will probably turn turquoise as well, lol.  Hmmm, perhaps on the first wash I will need to add something like Synthrapol if I can find some here in the UK.

I had another finish this week which was the Rainwater Mint Shawl by Sally Oakley and I blocked it today.  This was quite an enjoyable knit, mindless enough for the train but at the same time sufficiently textural not to get boring, and relief provided by switching between the garter stripe and the lace pattern.  I think I might knit another one as holiday knitting, possibly using the lovely skein of yarn I bought at Fibre East. Mine has turned out deeper than the given measurements, probably due to my loose tension.

Every few days I have been sticking more shingles onto my little Victorian Shed dollshouse project and I'm almost finished now. I'm just doing the tricky penultimate row on the tower and having to cut little triangles to fill in tiny gaps on each corner seam. I will be painting the shingles so it doesn't matter that the fishscales along the roof top are a different tone of wood.

I have permission from the project organiser to use a larger base than the one that's been handed out by the dollshouse club, so I might do that so I can have more of a garden. Because I've added so much on to my shed, it only barely fits on the club-provided base.  I'm in two minds, a garden would look really nice but be quite time consuming to construct then will be a dust trap once it's finished. 

The three of us had our picture taken at a professional photo shoot on Saturday. I booked it because we have never had a proper professional photo taken of us as a family, and DS is starting his final year at uni so won't be living at home for too much longer (possibly).  I knew what to expect as I used to supervise photo shoots when I edited the staff magazine in previous jobs, but DS and DH were a bit taken aback by someone whizzing around taking a billion photos of them in different poses.  DS went completely off the whole thing after about 15 minutes of being posed and having to listen to ludicrous pep talks designed to get us smiling. So in all the subsequent pictures his main expression is one of barely-controlled fury. I got an earful as soon as we had left about how he was never ever doing that again and how patronising the photographer was and how stupid the whole thing was etc. etc.  I do think the photographer was actually taking the mickey out of him (mocking him a little) by the end and he did offer DS a lolly like he was a small child, but it must be difficult trying to make a living from creating great photos of people you only met five minutes ago, and having to deal with barely-cooperative scowling youths.  Oh well, out of the hundreds of photos he took, hopefully some of them are decent.  We get to see them this coming week and I am bracing myself for it to cost an arm and a leg.

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