Saturday, 30 December 2017

Down the rabbit hole

My post title is a bit of a pun, because I've spent the last two days putting together a miniatures kit with a rabbit theme :)

In early December a random Facebook theme led me on to a whole new world of miniatures that I had never come across before.  The manufacturers are in China and/or Japan and the first series I stumbled across was called 'Theatre in a Box' consisting of incredibly detailed scenes that fit into small decorated tins.  The more I looked, the more I found, as it seems they have been churning out entire series of these for years, and it really was a rabbit hole.  The kits are readily available on Amazon and other online English sites, but also from Chinese sites that ship internationally.  There is obviously a big collector's market and there are many Youtube videos showing unboxing and assembly of the  kits.

I was intrigued but also sceptical as the prices are low, about £8.50 for one kit/one tin and the photos were generally too small to make out much detail.  I took a punt and ordered a trio of tins from Amazon (this one) which turned up before Christmas. Yesterday I felt like a change from quilting and lacing and decided to start making up one of the kits called 'Roaming around in Winter'. Inside the box were many bags full of a daunting number of components, and the pictorial instructions accompanied by a version of English required much study.  I was amazed at the detail in this kit and I have no idea how they are doing these so cheaply.  Everything you need apart from glue and tools is provided, including the lights and battery pack, and even a wooden display stand.  There is a lot of clip art to cut out and glue onto laser cut components, various terrain materials, and various findings and squares of material for making up the contents.  Although some of the components are a bit primitive, the final effect is quite good and when you turn the lights on, it's magical. I got sucked right in and ended up spending 12 hours over two days (including glue drying time) and quite enjoyed myself. Although you are assembling a kit, there is scope for personalisation and a fair bit of dexterity needed for the tiny components.

the tin

The Inn partway through the build, showing some of the internal detail including 3D fireplace
with decorated shelf inside the archway.

The finished tin on the display stand.  The switch controls the lights,
the battery pack is hidden behind the sign plaque. The little book is 3-D and
you can turn the pages.

the finished effect with the lights on. The kit includes the
pendant light and the LEDs around the rim.

 So not much quilting got done the last few days!  I have two more tins to do as well but I think I'll leave those for a while.  This one was very seasonal with its wintry theme and all the snow.

I did finish knitting the Parlour Cat,  it isn't fantastic but it is recognisably cat shaped.  The real cat doesn't think much of it.

I've worked on my two Bucks Points lace projects on several days, read through a book about Bucks Point by Alexandra Stillwell which was quite interesting, and quilted on both my frame and at my sit down machine.  I've progressed on my Latvian mitten as far as creating the thumb opening, and knit several more inches of twisted rope border onto my GAA Afghan.

On Thursday we had a family outing to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour Harry Potter exhibition.  DH and I had been before but it was the first time for DS.  A lot of the sets were themed for the season which was nice, plus there was a new exhibit about the Forbidden Forest featuring Aragog and Buckbeak. It was a fun thing to do as a family and since we all build models, we were all quite interested in the behind the scenes information about the modelmaking and artwork.

A recreation of the Yule Ball centrepiece in the
Great Hall at Hogwarts

Also this week I have finally built the hanging rack for displaying quilts that I've been planning for some time.  I've re-used the pulley and rope system that I had in the stairwell at the last house, but this time have mounted them underneath a wooden shelf.  The display area is only 146cm between two door frames, but it's enough for large wall quilts and I can display bed-size quilts folded in half.  We had the usual problems with drilling into the masonry walls, it seems inevitable to hit something that you can't drill through in an old house and we had to buy a new sharper drill and resort to the gigantic hammer drill which I originally bought many years ago to drill a cat flap with and is so heavy I can barely lift it. But we got there in the end and the brackets are pretty secure.  As the first quilt, I unearthed my doublesided bookcase row exchange quilt which hasn't been on display since 2012.  It's been folded up since we moved in three and half years ago so the creases need to hang out, which makes me realise I should get all the quilts out of my storage cupboard and give them an airing before refolding them on different lines. It will be nice to see some of the old favourites back on display now that I have a place to hang them.

Two more days off then back to work.  Hope you've had a good week of holiday and have a happy new year.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Merry Christmas and home for the holidays

I'm on holiday!  Not back at work until the new year, it's so nice to be home.  Especially since DH was off all last week so I was the only one heading out into the cold early each morning.  So there has been a fair bit of this:


And baking: I've made a batch of gluten free lebkuchen, a batch of christmas cookies, and today we made a gingerbread house.  This meant that we could have a Christmas tea tray for our Harry Potter moviethon.

We've made it up to film six of eight, two more to go.  I'm getting lots of knitting done on my GAA Afghan and Latvian Mitten.

I've also been trying a pattern called 'Parlor Cat' by Sarah E Kellner.  It's been a bit of a tough knit because the pattern calls for worsted weight yarn, a rare commodity in the UK.  I didn't have anything suitable so I am using two strands of DK acrylic held together, which resulted in a very board-like fabric at the pattern tension and thus difficult to knit. Also the pattern is a bit mysterious as the cat is knit all in one piece by holding stitches, increasing/decreasing and knitting in two directions. But I've persevered and have something vaguely cat like. I took it to the in-laws when we paid our Christmas visit on my day off, and was being mocked by my family for how odd it was looking at that point, f-i-l really didn't think it was going to be a cat.

I've been enjoying the time to do some crafts this weekend:  I've been working on both my Bucks Point lace projects, I've done more quilting on the Star Sampler quilt on the quilting frame, some sit-down quilting on the Snowman Quilt, some cross-stitch and I made up the 'Santa letter' Christmas ornament kit by Trim-its that I bought a while ago at a lace fair I think.  I was impressed with this kit, only £2.75 but it had everything in it including stuffing.

I couldn't resist taking a picture of my improvised Christmas village along the top of our coat bench, some of the houses have lights inside.

And I'm still enjoying my sock yarn calendar.  Since I didn't start it until the 13th, I've now reached the 24th and will have a pause before starting again on 1 January with 12 more doors to open.  Something to look forward to in the new year.

Tonight we are going to a carol service in a local church, and then tomorrow is the main event.  We'll be doing the traditional turkey and accoutrements for supper, with a brunch of  hot bacon and egg sandwiches to top up the high-sugar diet in the meantime. And not forgetting the Queen at 3pm. 

I hope you have a lovely Christmas (if you celebrate it) and happy holidays.  Merry Christmas!!!

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Seasonal interest

Well in the end we had about four inches of snow at my house in Northamptonshire last Sunday.  It felt really Christmas-y and we went out for a family walk in the snow in the afternoon.  So unusual for the south, DS had never seen so much snow.The roads were a disaster so DH worked from home Monday and Tuesday but as the trains kept running, I had to make the arduous trek from home to station/station to work (two miles) on untreated pavements, and then do the reverse in the evenings, trying not to fall.  When I finally arrived at work on Monday I felt like I should be walking in to a resounding cheer and applause for my achievement, but of course nobody cared - they all live locally and had just driven in without much problem because Leicestershire seems to clear its roads more thoroughly.

After some rain on Wednesday the snow has almost disappeared, although we were in Oxford this weekend and there were still some traces plus some large lumpy remnants of snowmen on many lawns.  This year DH and I decided to have a weekend in Oxford instead of giving each other gifts.  We booked B&B in Wadham college, a picturesque medieval college centrally located, which lets out student rooms out of term time.  This was the view of the front quad from our window.

Wadham was founded in 1609 and we had breakfast today in the wonderful great hall with its hammer-beam ceiling, and also visited the impressive chapel and strolled around the grounds.  So much fun to feel like an insider, we'd driven past Wadham many times but this is the first time we'd been inside.

We had a lovely time in Oxford despite some cold rainy weather.  The Christmas market was on and we enjoyed a gourmet marshmallow and bought some more Christmas decorations.  I also fell in love with this handbag shaped like a dollshouse and treated myself, merry christmas to me  :)

On the drive there we stopped in to the big antiques centre in Brackley for a wander around.  We didn't buy any antiques but I did find a whole shelf of lace books, probably someone's former library.  I bought four as they were only a few pounds each.  The foreign book is particularly interesting because I was given a lace picture some years ago by an older friend before she passed, it was made by her cousin in Australia. And there is the picture on the cover of this book! So the cousin must have somehow acquired this middle-european book in Australia and made a picture which then travelled to England and ended up with me. Small world. I always get the picture out at Christmas and it makes me think of my friend.

Today we took the tour of the Bodleian Library, primarily because it also visited the Radcliffe Camera.  We've been walking and driving past the Radcliffe for years because it's near DS's college but never got to go inside because it's restricted to students. So we were excited to finally see the interior with the magnificent domed ceiling above the upper reading room.  We also enjoyed Duke Humphrey's library which was filmed as the Hogwarts library in the Harry Potter films, I think perhaps we might watch those again over Christmas.

After a flurry of decorating early in the week, we are now ready for Christmas.  Due to the quilt frame in the dining room, the tree has had to in the hall this year so the size was restricted otherwise we wouldn't get the front door open.  The cat is enjoying having it there tremendously and I generally find a bauble on the floor every morning.

I'm enjoying opening a door on my Opal Sock Wool Advent calendar every morning and revealing another cute little ball of yarny goodness. Not sure what I'll make with them but there are lots of projects on Ravelry.

On my day off, I took a break from quilting and sewed a Christmas scene using the foundation piecing technique and a pattern from a long-ago issue of Quilter's Newsletter magazine.  I was going to make it into a card for the m-i-l but I came across one of the mini easels I bought from The Works earlier in the year. These come complete with canvas so I stapled the fabric over the canvas then glued the greeting onto the back. It makes an unusual 'card' which she will be able to display as a decoration!

I've been persevering with my Latvian mitten.  This is the third attempt.  The second attempt had to be ripped out again because I just find stranding with four colours in a row so difficult, and it once again became very tight and lumpy.  This time I am really making an effort to keep the strands loose and it's going better.  The downside is uneven stitching but at least the mitten isn't drawing in too much.

I'm hoping to do lots of crafts over Christmas.  I've got to work this week but I'm off between Christmas and New Year so looking forward to lots of stitching in various forms.  Hope you are also looking forward to some craft time, and have completed any Christmas makes.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

The great blizzard of 2017?

The weather predictions for tomorrow are that we are going to get a big load of snow dumped on us. DH is pooh-poohing this but there's a lot of concern and fuss being created as England doesn't cope well with snow.  My office cancelled two big meetings that were planned for Monday and Tuesday for managers from all around England at short notice over concern that they might get marooned in Leicester. So I wonder what we will wake up to tomorrow?  I just hope it doesn't affect the trains and I can get to work on Monday, I can't afford to lose any more flexi-time.

SUNDAY MORNING WEATHER UPDATE: Well, the forecasters were right and DH was wrong because this is what we woke up to this morning and it's still snowing.


(back to the normal blog)

It's turned quite cold the last few days, so I've been walking to the station in zero degree Celsius temperatures.  I've broken out the heavy knitwear including the windproof hat I knit a few years ago out of stranded chunky wool, both sets of knitted legwarmers, knitted fingerless gloves inside my fleece gloves etc. so I've been staying quite warm.

The fingerless sock wool gloves are the ones I was knitting on the train which are now finished - they're comfy.  I need to come up with a new commuter project tomorrow because it feels a bit naked to be getting on a train with no knitting - what if we stopped in the middle of nowhere and I had no knitting????? It doesn't bear thinking about.

I also finished the second Rainy Day mitt but they're not warm enough for the current weather.  The yarn was DK wool from the Doulton Flock of Border Leicester sheep, which apparently is an endangered breed in the UK.  It's proper woolly wool, quite robust and while it's fine on gloves for me, it would be too scratchy to wear against my neck or face. I even found it a bit abrasive to knit with. The resulting gloves are warm and almost windproof and will last a long time I think as they're very sturdy.

I've finished off a few Christmas projects this week.  While I was looking for something else in my sewing room, I came across the Christmas cross stitch parcel tags I was working on during our Isle of Wight holiday this summer.  I had run out of the red thread that came with the kit but I was able to find a close match in my stash and finish off the second tag.  Apart from m-i-l, I'm not giving gifts to anyone who would appreciate all the work in these so I decided to turn them into a tree ornament by gluing two tags back to back and I think it looks nice. These were a free kit that came with Cross Stitcher magazine a few years ago.

I also finished off the bobbin lace angel that I started on my Alison Winn day course.  She is stiffened with hair spray and I dried her around a drinking glass to make her and her wings a bit 3-D. Even with the hairspray, she is still very delicate so I don't think she will go on the tree, I will have to find a special place to hang her.

The quilting continues.  I've made a start on the Star Sampler which is loaded on the quilt frame.  I'm trying continuous curve quilting around two-inch blocks, which requires a lot of precise steering.  My first few rows look like a five-year-old stitched them, so I might unpick those and try again at the end.  I've improved to the point where it looks like perhaps a ten-year-old is in charge, so that's something at least.

I'm quilting the Snowman quilt on the sit-down machine in my sewing room.  As you can see in the photo, I've created a sort of dam by clamping on a thick bit of wood, which stops the quilt from falling off the side of my sewing table when I'm stitching.  I've got a useful extension table on my left to support the quilt, made by my f-i-l to my direction many years ago.  So far I'm just using the walking foot to stitch in the ditch around blocks to stabilise the quilt.

I finished sewing on the binding on my Japanese fabric wallhanging and both it and the Hawaiian wallhanging are on my design wall until such time as I can build a quilt hanging place upstairs. The texture on the Japanese quilt from the pantograph stitching really shows up from the overhead light and looks good.

For TV knitting I've made a fresh start on an old project which is a kit to make Latvian mittens which I bought a couple of years ago.  I had completely stalled on this project because there isn't a pattern as such with the kit, just a recipe and a chart, and I was having trouble stranding up to four colours in a row. The result was lumpy and too tight, and I gave up and hid it in my knitting room for a time out.  But at the Nottingham Yarn Fest I spotted a beautifully knit example on the stand of The Loveliest Yarn Company run by Michelle, who helpfully pointed me towards her blog post giving tips and pointers on how to knit this type of mitten. One of her tips is to use circular needles instead of dpns.  So I pulled out the couple of inches I had knit, unsnarled the yarn and re-wound it into colour balls, and cast on again with a 2.25 circular needle.  I've knit the cuff as per her blog and I'm heading into the cuff.  So far the knitting looks a lot smoother and better, although I'm concerned that it seems a bit big.  But then I tend to make mittens too snug to fit like gloves, when really they want to be a bit roomy to hold in warm air. We'll see how it goes, it would be good to get this project off my guilt list.  Michelle also sells these kits for about half the price I paid on Etsy for mine.

I've ordered myself a Christmas knitting treat which is the Opal Sock Yarn Advent Calendar, full of 24 mini skeins of yarn.  The last couple of years I've been envious of those who ordered this on time in August/September, because by the time I start seeing them on Ravelry in November/December, they are long sold out in the UK.  The same thing happened this year, only I had a brainwave and started googling German sites as Opal is a German company (I think).  Sure enough some of them still had calendars in stock, then I stumbled across a site selling the 2015 version for 30% off!  Well there are still 24 days in December whether you are in 2015 or 2017 so I happily ordered the cheaper version and I'm just waiting for it to turn up.  I will have to decide whether I open up all the doors at once up to the current date, or whether I stay with opening one a day which will take me into January.  Merry Christmas to me!

Hope you've got some crafty Christmas treats and craft time planned over the holidays as well.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Christmas is looming

Suddenly it's December and Christmas is looming on the horizon.  I've been ignoring the increasing Christmas presence in the shops through October and November, and averting my eyes from the pop-up Christmas shop in the mall. But then we did some Christmas shopping in Oxford last weekend, the Christmas lights were turned on in our town and suddenly the season seems to have rushed upon me.   It does feel a bit like collective madness - I was in the mall on my day off and the pop up Christmas shop was thronged, and women were pushing trolleys around Wilko overflowing with artificial tree boxes and toys while consulting lists and looking harassed.  We're going to try to put up our lights in the front garden tomorrow if it isn't raining.  We don't normally get properly Christmassy until the second week of December but I guess I had better start thinking about writing Christmas cards soon.

I've moved my bobbin lace angel project down to the dining room in the hopes that it will get more attention and get finished in time to go on the tree.  The quilting frame is definitely staying in the dining room through the holiday so the tree is going to go in the hallway this year.  DS and DH are being very supportive and assuring me they are perfectly happy with that and that they know I will be doing a lot of quilting over the holiday.  Friends have suggested I decorate the frame with some tinsel to make it festive.

Instead of quilting the Star Sampler quilt that I loaded on to the quilting frame last weekend, I've had to do some surgery on my frame.  It turned out that my new metal rods must be slightly shorter than the previous plastic tracks, because my sewing machine carriage was hitting the back of the lower travelling carriage.  It was the brackets that support the handlebar superstructure that were hitting, so I took them off, used my Dremel multitool to turn the bolt holes into slots, and bolted them back on a bit higher to solve the problem.  Although in order to do that, I had to dismantle the frame that I had just loaded my quilt onto.  I unpinned the takeup roller to take it out but left the other rollers as they were.  Since I baste down my top to my backing as part of the loading process, I was able to re-pin to the takeup roller after the surgery and be back in business.

On my day off I spent a lot of time waiting for the flooring fitter to turn up to fit the floor in the ensuite, and I used some of the time to pin up my Snowman quilt.  This has jumped the queue as I realised I should be working on it over the Christmas season as it is a Christmassy quilt.  It couldn't be basted on the frame as the snowmen are made from bulky wool felt, so I pinned it up on the dining table instead. It will be quilted on the sit down machine downstairs.

I finished quilting the diamond borders on my stack and whack hexagon quilt and ran it through the washing machine so it's ready to have binding sewn on.  While it was drying, I sewed binding onto my Japanese fabric wallhanging and stitched that down in the evenings although I still need to make a hanging sleeve.

It's been a bit of a lace weekend so far, because Friday night was the Nene Lacemakers christmas meeting and today I went on their coach trip to attend the Makit lace fair in Solihull.  I was trying to work on my Bucks Point edging at the Christmas party but they kept us so busy with party games that I lost my concentration and went wrong, and had to unpick everything I'd done. But I did win the Bingo. I enjoyed the Makit fair, it was similar to their Peterborough fair in that it was a mix of lace, knitting and fabric.  But a bit bigger than the Peterborough fair I think.  I met up with a couple of my friends there so it was nice to see them, and I picked up a number of things on my mental shopping list.  I got some duplicate tools because my tool bag always seems to be on a different floor to me, some beads for spangling bobbins, a length of pretty vintage crochet lace, four divider pins, a lovely Margaret Wall bobbin painted with an orchid (on the left)  and a gorgeous Sarah Jones bobbin  (right). Lace equipment is so pretty, much more attractive than the tools of my other hobbies.

Tomorrow I'm going do to what will hopefully be the final paint job on the ensuite, and then the DIY tools can finally be put back in the basement.  We just need the plumber to come back to install the cosmetic panel around the shower now and it will be finally finished.  No more DIY or renovations for a while I hope!  It's been a busy year with building the pergola, having the patio installed, digging new flower beds, and the two bathrooms done. (also very expensive). Time to rest on our laurels I think.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Happy St Catherine's Day!

Today, the 25th of November, is St Catherine's Day, the patron saint of lacemaking. The Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford marked this with an event including historical talks about lacemaking around a display case full of antique lacemaking equipment, and a display and demonstration by the Isis Lacemakers.  There were also slices of Cattern Cake available, which was traditionally baked by lacemakers on this day.  It had an interesting taste, sort of like honey cake flavoured with caraway seeds. I found a recipe here on another blogger's page if you want to try it out.

Historical talk around the antique lacemaking equipment

After visiting the event, we had a pleasant day out in Oxford, which included several secondhand bookstores, dropping into the wonderful Oxford Yarn Store on North Parade, having lunch from the Vietnamese stall at the North Parade Saturday market, enjoying a hot drink and treats at the new Bodleian cafe, and some Christmas shopping at Marks and Spencers.  It's such a beautiful city.

I've continued to work on the ensuite decoration this week.  The green paint is all done and I've cut and screwed on the dado rail, and I'll do the final coat of paint tomorrow.  I've put back up all the hardware now (towel rail etc.) and purchased a bathroom cabinet which DH has put together for me. The floor is being installed next Thursday so I'll wait until that's down before doing the final coat on the white portion, in case the flooring guy unavoidably makes marks on the wall while he is wrestling with vinyl flooring in a confined space. Even though it's not finished, it looks so much better than it used to.

On the quilt frame, I finished pin-basting the 25 block applique quilt and now I'm getting ready to load on the Star Sampler quilt.  I'm a bit intimidated since the plan was to up-skill on the simpler quilts before tackling this more complicated quilt, but what's actually happened is I didn't use the frame for weeks because of holidays, the electrician, illness and replacing the tracks.  So not too sure about the skill level however we'll see how it goes.

On the knitting front, I have finished the first Raindrop Mitt.  I knit it a bit longer than the pattern as I don't like having cold fingers.  I've started the next one now.

In commuter knitting, I'm on the second finger of the second sock yarn glove and I was knitting a bit on that on the way to Oxford today before the roundabouts starting making me feel car-sick.

Now that the bathroom renovations aren't taking up quite as much time, I've actually done some sewing this week.  I sewed up an oilcloth apron for DS as a Christmas present.  And I made six fabric storage boxes from this free tutorial: one for me and five as Christmas gifts for my lace ladies.  These are quite straightforward to make but I'm pleased with how they turned out and they are a useful size, about four inches square.  I made mine out of 10-inch Moda Layer cake pieces left over from a previous project (I think probably the Star Sampler above) and wadding scraps, so it was a 'free' project. They are made completely by machine including sewing on the buttons. I hope the recipients like them.

I've been pulling out the heavy duty woolies this week as we've had a cold snap, down to about 1 or 2 degrees Celsius in the mornings. So enjoyable to wear handknit hats, gloves, jumpers and indoors some of my felted slippers in the colder weather!

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Decorating instead of crafting

At long last, three weeks later than the original estimate and almost two months since starting the whole job, the plumber has finished in the ensuite as far as he can go without a new floor being laid. We had a celebratory dinner out on Tuesday night in appreciation at getting the house back.  This was after I had done 90 minutes of hoovering up dust in the hallway from every horizontal surface including the cornice, and retrieving all the furniture and pictures from where they had been squirreled away.  Wednesday night I repeated the process for the bedroom. It's so nice having all our things back and reclaiming the space. Then it was the turn of the ensuite and the decorating could commence. 

The ensuite was basically a white box beforehand, and after the plumber left it was a scarred, dented and filled-in grubby white box.  So it's been a week of priming and painting woodwork in which DS helped out as well, painting several coats of white over the new lining paper until it matched the original walls, and deciding on a decorating scheme.  I've gone with a two tone effect, I've cut dado rail to fix along the wall and I'm painting the lower panel white for a faux wainscoting effect, and the upper part of the wall in a seafoam green.  Painting is a pain because there are so many items to be cut around, and because the ceilings are so high yet there isn't room to manoeuvre a ladder properly.  It's also surprisingly difficult to paint a smooth line of seafoam green along the top of an old wall which wobbles as it meets the ceiling, especially when you can't reach properly.  However it's all going fine and I've got the first coat of green on in this picture. I'll do the second coat today.  The shower is cool to use, like getting into a teleportation pod in the corner, so much nicer than the old leaky box.

I've chosen a new floor of tile effect vinyl and they're coming to do the estimate this week, but they warned that fitting might be three or four weeks as they are very booked up in the run up to Christmas.  Who knew that November/December was a prime time for a new floor?  Perhaps people feel the need to spruce up before the relations arrive.

So not a lot of crafting this week.  On my day off when I was having a break from decorating, I did load another quilt on to the frame.  This is my 25 block applique quilt which I'm just basting on the frame, and will quilt either at the sit down machine or possibly by hand.

I ordered a cheap £20 flatpack metal rack off Amazon, which arrived yesterday and DH put it together.  This is so that I have somewhere to store my bobbin lace pillows in progress, which need to lie flat so the bobbins don't get all muddled and be out of the way so the pillows don't get damaged.  DH said it was a bit of a pain to put together but the end result is surprisingly sturdy. It's plenty wide enough for my 24" pillows and about a foot deep so I've placed it a little away from the wall to get more depth.

Other than that I've been knitting:  still knitting the twisted rope border on my GAA Afghan, still knitting my second fingerless glove in commuter knitting, and I've started the Raindrop mitt from the pattern and skein I bought at Nottingham. And I've done a bit more cross stitch on my long term UFO.

I have to share a photo of my new beauty, which was an impulse buy yesterday at the antiques mall in Market Harborough.  We'd actually gone into Harborough to visit the secondhand bookstore but spotted the antiques mall on the outskirts and stopped in to see what they had.

This was on display and I instantly fell in love, it's so different than the normal vintage machine, with its leonine curves and fiddlehead base.  The wooden stand has a marquetry inlaid ruler and a little drawer.  The dealer said that it's in working order but I haven't tested it yet.  I loved all the gilt decoration even though it's completely worn off on the arm where one would naturally carry the machine.  With a torch you can see where the word 'Robina' used to be on the arm.  I did some research on the internet and this machine was made in Germany by the Hengstenberg company, probably in the 1880s.  It does a lock stitch and should have a long thin bobbin inside a shuttle case, which can be wound with the mechanism at the lower right. I haven't had time to investigate yet, I can see I have the shuttle so hopefully there is a bobbin inside.  Apparently this machine is similar to the Singer 12/12k model so I've found that manual online and printed it off. It's a beautifully made piece of engineering and I feel so connected to the women who have owned it in the past.  I'm looking forward to playing more with it and cleaning up its case once the decorating is done. I'm not really planning to use it, it will be a display item, but it would be great if it worked as well.

We have a new garden ornament as well, which oddly was found on an antique dealer's stall even though it's not an antique.  It's a windmill in the shape of a large sunflower, constructed in coppery/rusty metal that glints in the sun.  We have a windy garden, so this will be in almost constant motion.  Both the inner and outer petal rings rotate, and the head pivots as the wind hits the fan tail, so it is constantly in motion.  I've positioned it where we can see it from the kitchen, it's a real focal point in this winter season when not much else is growing.  I'm not sure what the cat thinks of it, she spent a long time sitting on the fence staring at it.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

I thought we were done with this

As my son is now a university graduate, I thought the days when germs travelled home from school to infect the family were long over.  It turns out I was wrong.  DS went to a group event in London a few weekends ago and then complained he felt coldish a couple of days later.  After a few days of being ill, he came out in a magnificent crop of spots which we thought was an allergic reaction to giving him sinus medication.This was the weekend of course so on Monday he went off to the doctor who immediately identified it as a contagious childhood complaint called hand, foot and mouth disease. I'd never even heard of it and had to look it up online. To cut the sorry story short, DH and I both caught it and I've been home sick since  Tuesday afternoon.  I started feeling better on Friday which is when the spots starting coming out.  I've been lucky though, my spots are mainly on my hands and feet.  DH had them all over his face and scalp as well and DS had them so badly that they are still healing over a week later.

I had little to no energy while I wasn't well, but I could knit.  So when I was awake I worked on this sitting Santa doll from the King Cole Christmas Knits 4 book by Zoe Halstead, and finished him up by Friday night.

He's supposed to be weighted down with plastic pellet toy stuffing but our local craft shop didn't have that and neither did Hobbycraft. However I did find a jar of crushed mica at Hobbycraft which worked just as well to give him some stability.

Since we were both home, DH drove me over to a steel stockholder and we picked up the 1/4-inch stainless steel rod to replace the plastic tracks on my Grace Next Generation quilting frame.  I got two 3m lengths for the main bed and they kindly cut two shorter lengths for the carriage rails.  This is what the stuff looks like:
It was way cheaper than replacing the crappy plastic tracks (and by the way I found my carriage tracks were cracked as well when I took them off, which explains the occasional hitch in movement on that) and hopefully is a permanent solution.  The metal rods sit on top of the channels where the plastic track used to snap in, and the carriage wheels roll along the top of the metal track.  I've only had a trial push around but it feels so much smoother.  Strangely heavier as well, I suppose because the machine now has momentum to keep going whereas before the friction would immediately drag at it. I didn't have any energy when I wasn't well but hopefully I can get my next quilt on soon.

Update: I subsequently discovered that the metal rod must be slightly shorter 
than the plastic track because the brackets bolted on either side of
the sewing machine carriage (the brackets that support the handlebar
superstructure) were hitting the back of the lower travelling carriage and stopping
the machine from travelling fully backwards.  My fix was to use my Dremel
handheld tool with a round cutting burr to turn the bolt holes in the
sewing machine carriage into slots. That meant I could bolt the brackets
back on but higher up by a good 1/8", enough so that they clear the 
end stops on the lower travelling carriage.

Earlier in the week before I fell ill, I did some work on the new Bucks Point lace edging that I was stuck on last weekend.  I think I've worked out how to do it now. I'll have to see what more knowledgeable lacemakers in my club think when they see it, but I think it's ok.  The plan is to make a long length that I can sew around a mat. It will be a more straightforward project to take to lace days than my more complex hexagonal edging.

I finished knitting the first of my fingerless gloves and started the second one, which was my knitting project over the weekend.

I was glad to feel better by Friday because I had tickets booked to attend the inaugural Nottingham Yarn Expo over the weekend.  I went up by train yesterday morning after a bit of painting in the ensuite.  The venue was the Nottingham Conference Centre, quite a new and light-filled building, and the large amount of traders were spread out over two floors in what would normally be atriums and public spaces. There seemed to be a good buzz and lots of attendees.  There was live entertainment - on Saturday a string quartet and on Sunday a harpist, both playing clever covers of modern pop music as well as classics, and both of very high standard.  There were a couple of free talks - I went to a talk by Marie Greene of Olive Knits, a charming and perky American designer who talked about slow fashion and its importance to both the maker and the wider community. The traders seemed to be mostly small independents.  There was a fabulous array of fibres and hand-dyes, in fact if anything there was too much yarn (gasp, I can't believe I just wrote that sentence) as opposed to other goodies.  I was looking more for kits and patterns but I enjoyed fondling some of the beauty on offer.  I bought a kit from Marie Wallin to make the gorgeous Scalloway Fair Isle Tam, which came in its own tote bag of yarn, with needles and the pattern, and I also succumbed to her book 'Shetland' because the fair isle patterns are so beautiful.  And I bought a pattern and skein from Border Leicester Yarn to make fingerless mitts. And that was it. I did have a try of the Addi Crazy Trio on one stall that everyone seems to be talking about (a hybrid between circs and dpns with a flexible join) but I found the needle length too short for my big hands.  I get on fine with dpns anyway.

I stayed overnight and this morning I attended a workshop on knitting techniques, also with Marie Greene, which was good fun.  She talked us through picking up stitches smoothly for button bands and necklines and her tricks for those, showed us how to do Russian grafting and a neat buttonhole.  So I had a good show, I hope the traders did as well.  I think there are things that could be improved for next year, like having maps of the floor plan to find exhibitors/toilets/lecture theatres and having a cloakroom to stash heavy coats (it was November), but it was easy to get to and I think possibly bigger than Unravel, maybe a similar size to Fibre East?

Back to work tomorrow although I feel a bit like a typhoid mary as I am possibly still contagious even though I feel fine.  I will have to try to keep my germs to myself and not touch anything/anyone.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Remember remember

Tomorrow is Guy Fawkes day (Remember remember the fifth of November) so there should be a lot of fireworks going off.  It's still legal in the UK to buy and let off fireworks at home so lots of people have a few in their garden once it gets dark.  I saw a brilliant display on Thursday evening which I think was from a local school, who were probably rolling Diwali, Halloween and Guy Fawkes into one celebration.  I heard the bangs going off and went up to the top floor of our house, where I could just see the display over the roof tops. It lasted about 10 more minutes and was quite good.

Halloween was fine. It was fun at work because people brought in sweets  for Diwali.  I wore a Halloween waistcoat I knitted donkey's years ago (it's lasted well as it only gets worn once a year) which was well received and I wore my knitted witch's hat to and from work.  At home we set up shop with the pumpkin lit out front and waited to see if we would get anyone.  It was really quiet until about 7:30pm when suddenly  people started coming.  In the end we had half a dozen groups of visitors, ranging in age from tiny tot up to teenage girls with brilliant face makeup.  So not a lot, but at least it felt worth doing.

I finished quilting the Japanese quilt so it has gone downstairs waiting for binding.  I finished hand sewing the binding onto the William Morris grid quilt so that is completely done now.  I'm not quilting on the frame pending the acquisition of the new tracks, but I did load on my Indigo Bear's Paw quilt and basted the three layers together with a combination of safety pins and my Microstitch gun.  I find the tacks from the gun have too much play in them to be used on their own, so I'm hoping the safety pins will stabilise the layers.  I'll be quilting this in a grid downstairs with my walking foot.

I still need to quilt the border that I left unquilted on the stack and whack hexagon quilt. I've decided on a pattern of diamonds so I traced that onto some Golden Threads tissue paper which I will adhere to the border using 505 spray then stitch through to create the quilted pattern. I traced one complete pattern strip then stapled that to a stack of all the other tissue strips and stitched along the pencil line without thread in the machine, to create a set of duplicates.

On my day off I decided it was time to do something about the jumble of lace pillows and projects.  I've been cannibalising tools and cloths from one project to work on others and it was all getting in a big mess now that I had four pillows on the go.  I organised all four pillows, assigned them all a tool bag and a document folder, then headed to the sewing room to hem three large cover cloths in patterned quilting fabric and four smaller plain blue working cloths.  Now every project has a cover and sufficient working cloths to protect the pillows.  Why is it that hobby equipment seems to mushroom in size from small beginnings to large stash?  It felt good to get it all organised.  Now I just need some kind of rack for storing pillows in progress.

Later in the day I sat down and finished off the second metallic thread snowflake and sewed it onto its bangle ready for gifting at Christmas.  So that reduces projects to three pillows: 1) my large Bucks Point hexagonal edging; 2) the smaller Bucks Point edging I've started, and 3) the Angel decoration I started on Monday on the Alison Winn course.  This is what the angel will look like when it's finished, this is a picture of Alison's sample.  It's made of two pieces of lace: a body and separate wings.

On the day I managed to complete half an angel and half a wing.  Today I worked some more on the wing and it's about two-thirds done. It was fun to spend a day doing lace in company.

The plumber is still with us, I'm beginning to wonder if he will be joining us for Christmas dinner.  He's working on the ensuite shower and is slowly progressing:  the tray is in and he's got tiles on the wall. I'm hoping he might finish up in another week or so.

I spent a lot of time this week repairing the floor in the main bathroom: making the floor good and filling holes, putting a coat of primer on, then several nights cutting vinyl tiles and fake plastic grout strips to size to fill in the holes where the floor was pulled up during the works.  The final piece took me about a full hour to whittle to shape, because it had to fit round the toilet, butt up against the skirting board, and accommodate the water pipe that feeds the toilet.  Once everything was dry fitted, I labelled all the pieces as if they were quilt blocks, removed them, applied the adhesive and let it go tacky, then re-laid all the tiles.  It had to dry 48 hours and today I gave the whole floor a good scrub.  It has turned out pretty well, I feel proud of the result.  Some of the other tiles have been scratched and marked while the plumber was working in there, but it all looks fine from the doorway and will last us out while we are living in this house I think.  The ensuite is going to need a completely new floor because that's where we harvested the replacement tiles from.  That's beyond my skill level so we will probably be going to a local carpet place for a vinyl floor.

I  can hear more fireworks going off up the hill.  Luckily they don't seem to bother our cat, I think she's downstairs guarding her cat flap.  It's got a magnetic catch so other cats can't get in (plus we lock it at night with her inside), but from time to time they seem to try.  We call it 'flap wars' and occasionally there will be a tremendous banging  and crashing from the basement as they head-butt the flap trying to get in, and presumably she head-butts it from her side trying to get at them.  It only lasts 10 seconds or so then detente is resumed.

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