Sunday, 31 July 2016

I passed!

My big news this week is that my line manager called me in on Friday to tell me that I have passed the training course in my new job and am now being given my authority. I'm quite pleased and yet at the same time it's quite scary as now my work won't be checked so any mistakes I make are going to be my own responsibility. I'm in the first one-third of the recruits to be signed off and only the second part-time person to pass (the other was a former barrister!) so I feel I've done well. So it was Prosecco all round at home on Friday night.

We're also very proud of DS who achieved a 2:1 on his big exams at the end of his third year studying Chemistry at Oxford.  He's a very clever boy although you wouldn't know it from this afternoon's exchange.  I was fast asleep enjoying an afternoon nap after a tiring morning excursion to the Fibre East yarn festival in Ampthill when his bellow snapped me awake: "MU-UM, IS MY RAILCARD STILL VALID?" This would be the railcard that's in his own room that he was apparently too lazy to go and find.  Much hilarity ensued and by hilarity I mean yelling...  Then he had to walk to the station and renew his own railcard and no I didn't pay for it, that's why he has a job.

I did enjoy my annual visit to Fibre East which is always good. I think it is probably bigger than Unravel and there is a really nice mix of indie dyers and makers, books, various textile crafts and fibers, guilds etc. There were some lovely ceramic yarn bowls on several stalls this year, although I am lucky to already have one. I fondled lots of lovely yarn but was able to resist by thinking of all the lovely yarn I already had waiting in my stash. Until I came to the Coastal Colours stall, dyers in Lancashire, who had some absolutely gorgeous colourways. This 400m skein of 85% Bluefaced Leicester with a 15% Donegal Nep came home with me at a very reasonable price.


I flirted with some gradient skeins from Knitting Goddess but in the end, it was only the single skein above that came home with me.  I had a nice chat with the people on the machine knitters' Guild stall, and with the medieval re-enactment textile group, and saw a lovely sample cardigan on one stall called Siri which is available as a Ravelry download which I might have a go at.

Yesterday was my monthly sewing day, although I only stayed 4 hours because I had an outing with my dollshouse club in the afternoon.  In four hours I managed to cut, press and trim 184 half-square triangles in mixed indigo prints that I had previously sewn using Thangles papers.  This was an incredibly tedious job which I would never have stuck at if I were home. They will be a sawtooth border around my Indigo Bears Paw quilt.

This week, inspired by the weather and the Great British Sewing Bee, I actually went out and bought a sewing pattern. I dabbled rather unsuccessfully at clothes making many years ago, but I thought I should be able to manage a simple sleeveless top. I now remember why I don't like sewing clothes, as I am bogged down in trying to get the pattern to fit my measurements which wander across five or six sizes on the size chart.  Luckily I have the mannequin I made last year so I've been able to adjust the bust darts and all the seams, and add some back darts. The challenge will be to transfer the new positions back to the paper pattern and also to adjust the facings to match. I've bought a nice denim blue printed cotton to use for the actual top, but this toile is cut from old sheeting.


TV watching craft time this week has been split across several projects.  I'm knitting the skirt on the Sirdar Baby Crofter baby dress, which is knit top down from a ruffled yoke. This yarn is really nice to knit with.


I'm about two thirds of the way along the Multi-way wrap and also added a few more inches to the Que Sera cardigan sleeve.  And I've done some hand applique on the next block in my 25-block applique quilt.


In dollshousing time, I've become sidetracked onto one of the kits I discovered when I was going through my cupboards.  This is a Robin Betterley secret book kit, which is sort of 'no scale' but I suppose closest to a large 144th size.  The kit comes with the artwork and the laser cut pieces for the book itself and the tiny furniture.  I've completed the book which has a spine which slides out to reveal two rooms.  I'm currently working on the furniture for the upper room. I think this must have been an impulse buy at a dollshouse show.  I'm torn between thinking 'how cute!' and 'what am I going to do with it?'.



Computer obsolescence

My 'new' computer is now several years old and has been getting increasingly creaky and slow. I had a scare a few months ago when it wouldn't boot up, and another when it repeatedly blew the fuse on my power bar a few weeks later. Thursday morning the graphics card decided to go on strike. I took the case apart and hoovered out the graphics card fan which was rather gummed up with dust bunnies.  After that it would grudgingly run for between 10-20 minutes before fritzing out and the screen going black. I used my ipad to look into a replacement graphics card but it's difficult because of the PC being so old and it looked like a new card was going to cost in excess of £100. After three hours I decided 's*d it' and started researching (in 20 minute gaps) for a new computer.  I've now ordered a general purpose machine which is supposed to be good enough for both a home office and a non-serious gamer so hopefully that will turn up in a few weeks and won't be too hard to set up.  I will need to look into how to get everything off my old PC and onto the new one, without cluttering up the new one too much. I also need either a partition or a virtual machine as my financial software will only run on Windows XP (currently I have a partitioned drive). In the meantime the weather has turned cooler and the graphics card is mostly cooperating with only the occasional blackout.   If the new machine is too good for gaming then I may be having to beat DS off with a stick when I want to use the PC.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Too hot

Summer has hit with a vengeance and it was in the low 30s C at the beginning of the week. I hate hot weather as I overheat easily and sunburn in minutes.  My office has air conditioning but it is almost never put on because some people complain about drafts or being too cold.  They had to turn it on for three days, but chose not to turn it on until 10am by which time I was just about to throw up on Wednesday it was so hot. On Tuesday they turned it off at 2:30pm because some people said they were too cold, and when I left early at 3pm it was already an oven and apparently the people working until 5 or 6pm were just roasting. It's crazy.  Then it broke down altogether on Thursday but luckily Friday was cooler when I was back in the office and I could tolerate the temperature with the help of my desk fan.

When I finally tottered into my house Tuesday afternoon after walking a mile from the station in the roasting temperatures, I shut the door, put down my bag, and just lay down on the deliciously cool Victorian tiles of our hallway for about 10 minutes, spreadeagled, soaking up the chill.  The cat was rather mystified and kept walking around and over me, meowing. Luckily our house, being older, has quite thick walls and the lower ground floor stays wonderfully cool. So I spent most of the evening down there working on my dollshouse porch.

I've now finished all the shingling. I ended up removing the top row of shingles and reapplying longer ones for a better fit against the house. I've given the roof several coats of acrylic paint and nothing warped so the sealer did its job.  It looks good.  Since taking this picture, I've sealed over the acrylic paint to protect it. The construction is now basically finished, I just need to apply some trim to the dormer. Then I can move the house and the porch back into the dollshouse room and put in some furniture and perhaps make some hanging baskets.



I also did some sewing on the hot days because my sewing room, while not as cool as the workshop, is still cooler than upstairs.  I've completed several rows of Whirligigs now but haven't sewn the rows together yet. That's why they look a bit skewed in the picture.

I was lucky on Thursday, my day off, because it was overcast and a lot cooler. I was able to go into my attic knitting room and knit the neckline onto my machine knitted t-shirt and seam the big seams on my linker.  Then I sat in the relatively cool living room and finished the seaming and backstitched the neckline.  It has turned out quite well, perhaps slightly snug but I think it will relax a bit with wear. I haven't pressed all the seams and hems yet which is why the hems are flaring a bit in this picture. It will be a nice transitional garment as it is 50 cotton/50 acrylic.


Commuter knitting has been the Rainwater Shawl, which I am enjoying. The yarn is lovely, it's a heftier fingering weight that came with my KnitCrate subscription a few years ago, really bouncy and squidgy and lovely tones of pink from an Indie dyer. The stitch definition is great.

Today I acquired what I think is an IKEA Detolf glass display cabinet, for about 30% off from a local shop that is closing down.  It just fits into the gap by the door in the dollshouse room. After I give it a clean, I am thinking I will bring my 1:48 houses down from the dining room where they are hard to see, and put them in here instead. IKEA sells spotlights for these at £5 so if we are ever down at the IKEA in Milton Keynes I hope I remember to pick one up.


TV knitting this week has been the toddler dress, where I have completed the gathered yoke and am now facing a lot of stockinette for the dress skirt.  I also kitted up the next applique block for the 25-block applique quilt and have done a bit of stitching on that in front of the telly.  After visiting Castle Howard on our Yorkshire holiday, we are watching our way through the original Granada drama series 'Brideshead Revisited' which I don't think I ever saw and DH doesn't remember.  I was enjoying it to begin with as it was all lovely architecture in Oxford, Venice, London and Castle Howard, but now we are about 2/3rds through and it is all getting very black.  No spoilers please  :)

I've done a bit more on my dollshouse inventory this week but I've also been working on my itinerary for a holiday to Japan.  There are loads of blogs online listing great craft shops in Tokyo, but it is a job to work out where they actually are and to try to plan an itinerary that won't make DH's head explode.  And of course I want to fit in some actual sights as well, I'm not sure DH is going to think Nippori Fabrictown to be a highlight of his trip, ha ha ha.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Trawling the past

I've spent a lot of time the last few weeks trawling through  nine years of blog posts, eight years of financial records, and searching through my email account of several years. And I've been opening a lot of cupboards.  After years of procrastinating since we got burgled in 2011, I'm finally making a start on putting together records of my dollshouse collection for both insurance purposes and posterity. The insurance adjuster who visited about our burglary said that it was worth doing even if a lot of the collection is irreplaceable and even if I don't have receipts. He said a detailed written estimate of what every item cost, plus photographs, would support my claim in the event of loss due to, say, fire. Obviously it is a huge job to do retrospectively and thus the procrastinating.

The cupboard opening was because the research revealed various purchases which I didn't even remembered making, such as a complete kit for a 1:48 Debbie Young quilting studio with all the furniture kits to go with it. So I've also been started a list of all the kits waiting to be made up.  It's all been a tad depressing, both at the amount of money I've spent on things that are in cupboards, and the amount of things that are in cupboards waiting to be made up.  It will be an ongoing project  because eventually I am going to have to photograph all the individual rooms and make lists of what's in them and how much I think I paid for them.

I had a few days off this week which I spent between tasks on my 'to do' list and enjoying my crafts.

Tuesday I spent the entire day in the living room taking apart the Edwardian screen and recovering the panels with the fabric we bought in Yorkshire.  It was a huge job, not least because after coaxing out the various screws (including having to dig one out that had been buried in filler) I had to remove probably over 100 staples that were holding the previous fabric onto the panels.  It is quite a clever construction, the outer pieces unscrew to reveal inner wooden frames which have the fabric stapled around them.  The outer pieces hide the raw edges as long as these are cut close to the frame.




The first two panels went well, and I managed to cover them fairly smoothly and keep the edges neat.  The third panel was more of a problem because I didn't have enough fabric for an exact match of the repeat and also there was a bad historical break to one side piece. Previous owners had obviously had a go at repairing the break in the past, with ancient glue, and lots of staples.  It held together fine while I recovered the panel but of course as soon as I went to reassemble the frame, the breakage suddenly gave way.  Then I was faced with trying to mend a break that I couldn't get at because I had stapled all the new fabric on.  I had to take out enough staples to get at the broken part, restaple the two wooden pieces together, then try to restaple the fabric back on neatly. Annoyingly it didn't work very well and there is a bulge and some ripples around that area.  By that time I had been at the job for about seven hours and I was too tired to try again. Some day I may have another go and disassemble the screen, remove the fabric from the panel and try to make a better job of fixing the break.  Apart from that, the overall appearance is very effective and the television just disappears now which is what I wanted. It makes the fireplace the focal point of the room as it should be.



Wednesday I finished putting together the Spinning Pinwheels panel of charm squares, and started cutting out the pinwheels.  Since then I've made up four rows and it is looking good.  I am sewing each row as I cut it because there is a high risk otherwise of getting the pieces mixed up.



Over the few days I also put together a kit for a 1:48 'wrought iron' table and chair set, which is actually laser cut card.  It is so tiny and fragile.  I bent one of the table legs just getting it out of the motherboard. But it looks quite nice now that it is made up. I put a high gloss effect on the medallions on the chair backs and on the table top.



I said last week that I was knitting a striped toy bunny from a pattern from Let's Knit magazine.  I enjoyed putting him together but I found my choice of colours meant that the black eyes and nose detail don't show up very well.  I stitched around the eyes in pink to make them a bit more visible.  The bunny has a baby-safe pompom for a tail which I made using these instructions here.  This is for a colleague at work who is going on maternity leave at the end of August, so I am ahead of the game.



It was nice to knit in DK after starting a lot of projects in finer yarn so I've now started a Toddler dress in Sirdar Baby Crofter using a design called Caesia by Georgina Hallam.  This week in TV knitting I also finally finished the first Lallybroch sock.


Also on the knitting front I have machine knit all four pieces for a machine knitted tee in Panama cotton/acrylic coned yarn this week, and I blocked them today. Knitting the practice t-shirt really helped and the real one went fairly smoothly. Hopefully it will go together well and I will end up a nice wearable garment.

I've finished sticking all the shingles on the Victorian gazebo porch. After spraying them with sealer to help reduce warping, I've given them a preliminary coat of green paint.  Shingles are such a textured 3-D surface which makes painting a long job: every time you shift your sight line, you see a bit that you missed.

In another blast from the past, I dug out the summer top I knit in 'Breeze' last year.  I've almost never worn it because it was too cropped and the sleeves are a bit clunky. I still have several balls of yarn left so I picked up all the stitches around the bottom of the shirt and knit a few inches of 2x2 ribbing which I think makes a vast improvement on how it fits.



It felt very odd to be back at work on Friday just for one day, I kept thinking it was Monday.

I hope you've had a crafty week also. Summer has suddenly arrived at last, with temperatures up to 25 degrees today and predicted to be hotter still this coming week.  Not looking forward to my non-air conditioned office tomorrow.  At least, there is air conditioning but they never turn it on because of the people who moan about drafts, so we all sit there and bake instead.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

I'm too young to go grey

I spent the early part of the week looking a bit like a Klingon after having an allergic reaction to something - probably the hair dye applied on Saturday at the salon. My eyelids puffed up so much that the inside corners of my eyes were almost closed, giving an odd leonine look to my face and making my nose look really wide.  It wasn't itchy but it felt peculiar, like I had masking tape stuck on my face. A course of antihistamines reduced it back to normal by Friday, by which time three different people at work had regaled me with tales of someone they knew who mysteriously developed an allergy to all forms of hair colouring and were forced to go grey.  I've been having the same product applied for years, and it's a semi permanent because I am sensitive to some ingredients in permanent colour. I talked to the hairdresser today and she wants me to come in and do a sensitivity test (which I haven't had a problem with in the past) before my next appointment.  I don't know what I'm worried about more: having a more extreme reaction next time, or having to go prematurely grey before I'm ready.

Quilting

I had ordered a stretcher frame from the same place I used before, as they will cut bars to bespoke sizes with a clever mitre joint at each corner that doesn't need any glue. The bars cost pennies but they sting you on the postage so the frame for my Venice picture cost about £10 in total - but then I'm saving on the cost of wadding, backing fabric and binding.  I fused on a few more leaves in a lighter green to lighten the foliage effect, then stretched the picture over the frame and stapled it on the back.  It looks good, I'm pleased with the effect.  I emailed one of the women who contributed a panel back in 2007 to let her know I'd finally finished it and sent her a picture, she couldn't even remember which panel she'd done, lol.


The back, showing the staples


I've now only got three old UFOs on my list: the Hawaiian applique quilt, the Bear's Paw quilt, and the 25-block hand applique quilt. So I am moving onto the 'projects in grocery sacks' which are non-started projects, some of them also quite ancient.

I've started out with three packs of charm squares in red, white and green which I picked up very cheaply at some long ago American quilt show.  They are a bit wishy-washy in colour value - actually they look better in this photo than they do in real life..  I'm sewing together 11x11 squares in a Trip Round the World layout. Then I am going to try the spinning pinwheel effect which I did on a small scale several years ago, where you cut smaller squares from the panel at an angle then re-piece into pinwheels.


Dollshouse 

I've continued to stick on shingles, and have almost completed the gazebo roof now.  It's slow going because of having to cut all the angled shingles. I'm a bit worried about painting these flimsy shingles in case they warp so I'm considering spraying with sealer first (after masking off all the white areas).


I put together a little kit for a 1/24th scale knitting bag which I sent off, along with a printie, for an online swap. I hope they like it.

I've been dealing with some of my recent miniatures purchases to get them into their intended residences.  I added some accessories to the little vintage tinplate cooker and have installed it in the French gatehouse. It looks interestingly foreign and not obviously blocking access routes although someone coming in the (non-working) door would be in the way of the cook.


Knitting

From time to time I go through a toy-knitting phase, and I seem to be in one again. I started a free magazine kit for oddly-shaped farm animals on the drive to Mablethorpe last week, and I've spent this week knitting all five and putting them together. I can't decide if they are cute or just weird but hopefully some child will like them. I think I've got some printed farm fabric somewhere, so if I can find that I might sew a drawstring bag for them to go in.


I still feel like toy knitting so I'm going to start a striped bunny pattern that was in Let's Knit magazine, as someone at work is going on maternity leave in September.

I've given up on the Lallybroch socks as commuter knitting and have demoted/promoted them to TV knitting. I went wrong on the sequence of the double moss stitch again and spent 20 minutes of my train journey unraveling stitches and peering nearsightedly at my knitting trying to work out where I had gone wrong, and realised that I just wasn't having fun any more. I don't know if it is the fine gauge of the yarn, the mottled colour, or just the morning light on a train, but I can't see the stitches clearly enough to knit with 2.0mm needles accurately.  So I've started a new shawl in some heavier fingering that I got through my KnitCrate membership a few years ago, in a tonal pink colourway. The pattern is Rainwater Mint by Sally Oakley Designs and I chose it with commuter knitting in mind, so it's not too hard but not too boring either. And it starts from the back neck which I prefer.

Other stuff

I'm getting along fine on my Idrija bobbin lace mat and it seems to be working using a photograph instead of a pricking.  I had a brainwave and started using a soft plastic sheet protector with a hole cut out of it to cover up the pin heads, instead of the three cover cloths that the Lace Guild instructor told us to use.  It's much quicker to reposition the plastic sheet and I can see the pattern which helps with 'steering'. You  need the cover because you are constantly rotating the work and the threads will catch on the pinheads if they aren't covered.

I played around with the practice machine knitted tee which had come out too large. I decided that the sleeves and shoulders fit me fine, I just needed to take two inches of width out of the front and back. That was easily done by moving the centre line of my Knitleader pattern over by one inch (it's a half-pattern). So I've knit a tension swatch in the Yeoman Panama yarn that I bought, using T7 which is what I used to knit Panama on back in the day. I've washed it and it's drying, then I will measure it. Hopefully I might even get the summer tee knitted while it is still summer ... :)

I picked a handful of cherries off our baby cherry tree today, and our apple tree is laden down with toddler apples.  However all the pears that were growing on the pear tree have vanished, apart from four around the back of the tree.  I google'd a bit and apparently it might be due to all the cold and wet weather, the tree decides it won't be able to nurture the fruit so it drops it. We've had three lots of strawberries out of the strawberry patch but picking them is killing my back. I'm considering installing a raised bed to make it easier to pick them next year.  And the rhubarb has done very well, I was picking about a kilo every weekend through June but I'm giving it a rest this weekend and will stop altogether soon so it can build its strength up for next year. I never thought I liked rhubarb but I think it's probably because my mother didn't use much sugar with hers as she doesn't have a sweet tooth. I make a nice recipe for Rhubarb Crumble out of the baking book 'Saved by Cake' by Marian Keyes, she adds some ginger to bring out the flavour, and a decent amount of sugar (and I add a bit more as well, hee hee).

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Autumn in July

Ever since we got back from Yorkshire it has been raining. And also quite windy, and on some days, quite chilly. I've even gone back to wearing a light woolly hat and fingerless gloves for my walk to the station in the morning, which is ridiculous in late June. We all joke about how rubbish the British summers are but it seems to be outdoing itself this year.  If this was a Shakespeare play, the bad weather would be seen as a physical sign of the political turmoil going on since the EU referendum. Every day the news gets more incredible. Today there was a protest of thousands in London against leaving the EU on such a slim majority vote.

Thankfully we have hobbies to focus on. Thursday on my day off I got the train to Market Harborough then joined a friend for a 2.5 hour drive over to Mablethorpe on the east coast where the local dollshouse club had organised a workshop with teacher Jane Harrop. I had chosen to do a work-in-progress table for a dollshouse builder, while my friend was doing an artist's table.  A few other people were doing a potting bench, so there was lots going on. The hosting club was extremely friendly, which was good because due to limited tables we were having to work very closely together like eating dinner on an economy airline.  I had taken everything I thought I might need but had to leave my box on a chair behind me and work on my lap part of the time. Jane is a very dedicated teacher and absolutely determined that everyone learns how to do every aspect of their kit so they can achieve a good result. So the day was very teacher-led and we had to do things at the same time, and I felt pressured to work fast all day to keep up. So I was knackered by the end of it, thankfully my friend had more stamina as she was driving us all the way back again afterwards.  I did get the majority of the tools and accessories made on the day, and the table and house built, and then today I finished up the remaining details and assembled the project with some additions from my own stash. Here's a pic of what I made on the course. Jane's kits come with instructions and materials to make all these accessories.
Below: a close up of the paintbrushes and pencils we made

Here is my finished table set up. The only thing missing is the front of the dollshouse which is still drying.  I used Glue 'n Glaze to make 'glass' for the window panes so those still have to dry.


I'm quite pleased with it. I don't know where it will go yet but I'm sure I'll find a home for it. DH looked at it and said 'yes, that looks like exactly the kind of mess you work in'.

When I got home Thursday night I felt like a palate cleanser from miniatures so I pulled out my two-inch scrap squares that I cut a while back, and laid out 70 of them to sew together into a little bag for my travel iron. Up until now it's been living in a basic black bag but I realised last time I was out at the sit and sew day that I should be ashamed as a quilter to be using such an ugly covering. So today I sewed the squares together and turned them into a pretty little drawstring bag. Much better.





TV knitting this week has been the Multiway Wrap and also on the drive to Mablethorpe I started a free kit to knit several farmyard toys because everything else I'm knitting requires me to look at a chart and I would get travel sick. I like knitting toys.  Commuter knitting is now and feels like it shall forever be the Lallybroch sock.  I'm doing the Moss Stitch folded cuff, only I realised after I had knit about an inch of it that although the pattern says moss stitch, the written directions (which I hadn't bothered to read) are for Double Moss Stitch. So I pulled the cuff back and started over.  I think part of the problem is that the gauge is that little bit finer and my eyesight is that little bit worse now so it doesn't make great commuter knitting.

Today we took delivery of, and then I later installed, a little garden water feature to go in the new garden corner area that I posted about last week.  I haven't taken a picture of ours yet but this is what it looks like on Amazon. It's about 30 inches high and makes a lovely trickling noise now that I've wired it in. I've put it just to one side of the new metal arch so we can watch it from the bench and enjoy the sound.


Tomorrow my bobbin lace ladies are coming over so I will be doing more work on the Idrija lace mat that I've started.  I'm working directly from a photograph I found online instead of a pricking so I don't know how it's going to turn out but I'm giving it a go.

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