Sunday, 26 February 2017

Why do I make useless things?

I have a long history of making relatively useless things just because I like them or think that they are pretty, or cute .  Not because I need them. Not necessarily because I want them in my house /or because they fit in with my decor. Not because I have a specific recipient in mind. Not because I have everything to make them with so don't need to spend more money (usually the opposite applies). Not because they are quick so won't take much time away from my 'real' projects (usually not quick at all). And certainly not because I think other people will applaud them (my DH frequently questions my taste).

I seem to be irresistibly drawn to particular patterns and designs despite all of the above.  To a certain extent I blame my childhood in the early 70s oppressed by my parents' minimalist tastes: surrounded by overpowering amounts of natural wood grain, uncomfortable wooden Danish-style furniture, pumpkin orange and hunter green upholstery matched with terracotta low-pile carpet, and virtually no clutter nor decorative objects. So perhaps as a reaction,  I seem to have grown up with a magpie-eye for colourful, embellished objects, period or vintage style bric a brac, finely detailed or delicately decorated items, and above all items that were/are made just because they are pleasing to look upon, and not necessarily for practical use. Perhaps in a former life I was a Victorian matron churning out an endless supply of busywork items from the pages of Weldon's needlework publications?  Do you find yourself making things you don't need, or is it just me?

I caved  on the toadstool kit I was pondering last week and have embarked on the project, which is a prime example of what I am talking about.  The pattern is called '3 Fairy Crescent' by Gail Penberthy of Endless Thread designs, and I bought the kit to go with it because of all the specialist buttons and beads on the finished samples at the quilt show.

Do I need a pincushion shaped like a toadstool??  I do not.  And yet here we are, underway. And inside my brain there is a constant battle going on between "Ah, isn't it cute!!?" vs."This is a completely useless object which you do not need and will probably not use".

Disappointingly, the kit had nowhere near the amount of little flower buttons shown in the picture or on the finished samples, and also omits to provide any design for the detailing around the windows and doors, nor any pictures of the rear of the items.  I wish I had taken some photos now of the samples.  I ordered some more flower-shaped buttons from Amazon (more money) and am getting on well with the pincushion.  I'm undecided about making the companion thread holder, which looks awkward to carry around, plus the pincushion won't fit into it.  I probably will make it as well since I have the materials in the kit.  Sigh...

Of more practical use, I finished my Frisee Shawl knit in five gradient colours of a Sweet Georgia Party of Five yarn pack. This is the smaller size of the pattern and mine has come out with a 52" wingspan.

I'm pleased that I re-did the mesh section, I think it looks good. And I like how the gradients fade into each other. And blue is my favourite colour so it's a win win win.

I finished sample 5 of my Bucks Point Lace crash course, and have made the pricking ready to start sample 6 which is called the peacock's eye pattern.  I made several mistakes on sample 5, although mostly only one time for each mistake which I suppose is better than making the same mistake over and over. I'm planning to take all my samples, with their mistakes, to show the teacher on my course so she can see what level I am at (probably bottom of the class, but hey, someone has to act as a benchmark for the other students :)  ).

I've done a bit more dollshousing this week, and I'm almost finished the third finger of my Selbuvotter replacement glove.  Curiously my tension seems completely different so my new glove is not looking like my old glove.  Or perhaps I wrote down the wrong needle size on my Ravelry page, I don't know.  I think some wet blocking will help to even out stitches and hopefully shrink things slightly, but it's going to be a near sibling rather than an identical twin to the first glove.

Some of the bulbs I planted over the last few years are coming up, and we have a fine display of crocuses blooming away, and various tulips and daffodils poking up through the soil  now.  A couple of early daffodils are blooming.  And of course several clumps of delicate snowdrops.  This weekend we spread more dirt on the front lawn we started last week, to level it out, and I've put down some shady grass seed which I hope will sprout and grow successfully.  It looks so much better already compared to the undulating depressed and severely sloping lawn area we started out with, so now we are planning to spread some dirt on the bit of lawn on the other side of the front path as well.  It's not nearly as bad, so just needs a bit of filling in the sunken hollows which are probably caused by tree roots.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

A lacy weekend

This weekend has been all about bobbin lace.  I mentioned last week that I've been plugging away trying to relearn Bucks Point lace, completing four short samples (in two strips) by Thursday night.

Friday night I spent a couple of hours setting up for sample five, which has a shaped headside, honeycomb rings, and uses two gimps. The Jean Leader book calls it the Plum Pudding pattern.

On Saturday I attended the Fenny Fiddlers Lace Day down in Bletchley, which was quite enjoyable. The ladies on my table were really friendly, and there was lots of chatting during the day while we worked our lace. There was a tombola, some suppliers, a secondhand table (I picked up a box of pins and several reels of thread including some quilting threads), and a raffle where amazingly mine was the first number called and I won a pretty vintage bobbin.  And there was cake.  One of the ladies on my table gave me a lift home, and we stopped in at IKEA in Milton Keynes which was a treat. DH doesn't like IKEA so I don't get to go there very often.

I wore my new Raindrops shawl to the lace day and several people admired it.

Then today was my own lace group meeting, so I worked some more lace in the afternoon. I'm still making mistakes but it is going a lot better.  I want to complete at least a few more samples before I go on the course in late March.

As well as doing some dollshousing this week, I started a new commuter knitting project now that the shawl is finished.  A couple of years ago I lost one of my Selbuvotter gloves and I've been procrastinating about knitting a replacement because I had modded the pattern quite a bit. But I sat down and worked it out and started knitting a new glove this week. I've been really enjoying it. I'd forgotten how much fun it is to knit in two colours, plus it feels good to stop procrastinating.

I also worked out the mesh pattern for the Frisee shawl so after pulling out my failed first attempt at mesh, I'm getting on well with the new section.  It won't look much like mesh until it's blocked. This is a bottom-up shawl - I started with the lightest gradient (of five) and I am now on the third colour.

No sewing this week although I did cut out a bunch more 10.5 inch squares last week and I have quite a stack of them now.  I've also been reading the instructions for the toadstool pincushion kit I bought a while back and trying to decide if I really want to make it.  It's cute but I'm not sure I would actually use it.

It was a nice day today so we took down the Christmas lights from the trees in the morning, and I have a nice scratch on my arm from the pyracantha bush to prove it. We also built a little drystone retaining wall in the front and started wheelbarrowing dirt dug up from our future patio around to the front garden to level outside the very wavy and sloping strip of lawn on that side. Once it's more level then I will re-seed with shade tolerant grass seed and hopefully it won't look so rubbish in future.

I hope you've had a nice week too.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

It's very chilly outside

We're having a wave of Siberian cold air so it was actually snowing yesterday most of the day, although not settling at all.  It's very cold and damp outside today, hovering about 1 degree celsius. So inside in our old house it really isn't that warm either. I'm sitting here with a heavy handknit sweater over my fleece over a long-sleeve tee shirt, and I've got legwarmers on under my trousers, and I can still feel cold drafts swirling around my legs.  The plan was to go outside and take down the Christmas lights from the trees but I think I will stay inside in the semi-warm, thank you very much.

So I'm pottering around today.  I've knit the front of my machine knit denim t-shirt but there are still two sleeves to go.  I've made a couple of templates to trace around for the flowers on my Hawaiian applique quilt, because last night I finally finished stitching down the stems and leaves (which has only taken me about five years, lol). Ignore the red patches, they were just markers to show me which stems I have finished. One day when I finish appliquing all of this, there is a border to add around the edge as well.

I promised pictures of my 20-year-old hooked rug now finished.  It doesn't look very big, does it?  How could that take 20 years? ...Because there are a kazillion strands, it's tedious to work, and it hurt my hands to do, that's why. But it's finally done, hurrah. I'm enjoying walking on it every morning on the way into the ensuite.

I've done some dollshousing, and knit some more on my Frisee shawl which I had to pull partly out because I went wrong on the mesh section. I don't really understand the mesh pattern, I think I will need to graph it out to work out what is supposed to be happening.

I finished my second Raindrops Shawl that I worked on in Japan, and it's blocking now. The wingspan is about 52". I like this pattern, it looks nice but it's simple enough to be a commuter project.

On the bobbin lace front, I've embarked on a crash course to learn Bucks Point lace before I go on a workshop at the end of March. I'm working through samples from the Jean Leader book she wrote for the Lace Guild.  I tried unsuccessfully to learn Bucks Point a few years ago and found it too hard to learn from a book, but at the time I produced some decent enough samples. This time round, after having been doing a relatively coarse tape lace for the last eight months, I am finding it really difficult to pick up the Bucks. For one thing, it seems impossibly fine and the multitude of pins ends up hiding what is going on with the pattern. I'm making loads of mistakes which is discouraging but I suppose it's better to get through this stage at home and not waste time on the actual course.  I'm trying to do some almost every day and it's going a bit better now.

This week's dabbling: upholstery

Last week it was scrapbooking, this week it is upholstery.  A couple of years ago I bought an antique needlework table on eBay for the living room so I would have somewhere to stash my stuff. (That's the theory anyway, normally it is too full and my stuff ends up on the floor around my chair anyway).  I always meant to recover the hanging storage box because it was in poor shape and only bare cardboard on the inside. I even bought some lining fabric and braid a year or so ago, from the Mill Shop in Northampton.

So I decided to finally tackle this on my day off this week.  I pulled out all the staples that were crudely holding on the red damask cover and looked at how my predecessors had attached it.  Once the modern repair staples were removed, I could see that originally the cover had been stapled at the top from the inside, so that the staples were hidden when the cover folded down over them.  As it happened I had a remnant of our living room blind fabric which was just the right size to recover the box.

It was a bit fiddly but I managed to staple all around underneath the rim of the box, then pull the fabric taut to fold it over and staple it onto the bottom of the box (where the staples will be hidden).  However, as the box is tapered, I ran into trouble with pleats and had to re-work the final seam a few times to try to pull as much excess fabric as I could towards the back panel.  Eventually I managed to achieve a fairly smooth result.

Then I covered up the staples on the final seam with a bit of braid (you can see the bias  created some folds here at the back where they won't be seen.)

I used the lining fabric I had bought to sew a tapered liner  for the inside. I stapled the seam allowance to the base of the box to hold the liner in place, before pulling the fabric upwards and folding it over to staple it at the top.

Then I covered up the staples with some braid, carefully hot gluing it on. Carefully because I find hot glue very hard to manage and keep tidy, and I have also burnt myself many times in the past.  It went ok this time and the braid looks good.

The finished result, in place in the living room.  It looks a lot better.  I wonder who used my table in the past and what needlework they were making? The eBay page described it as Sheraton but I doubt that because that would make it well over 200 years old and it seems in too good shape for that (plus it wasn't ridiculously expensive).  Victorian in the style of Sheraton perhaps? Anyway, it's in a good home now and is being used for its original purpose. The top hinges upwards as well so you can reach in the drawer from the top, but I never do that because I've always got stuff on top of the table.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Back at work

I went back to work on Tuesday and have been completing my convalescence at my desk. I'm still coughing and blowing my nose, but so are several other people on my floor. Previous victims say it takes about four weeks to completely get over the virus so I've still got to put some time in.  Stupid sinuses.

I persevered with my 20-year-old hooked rug kit and finally finished it Thursday night, which felt like a momentous moment until I turned it over and spotted several places where I had gone wrong on the chart.  So I fixed the worst of those last night and sewed some tape onto the raw edges of the rug canvas so that I can start stitching down the edges to finish them. I'll take a picture when it's finally done.

Knitting has been  adding more rows onto the leaf yoke top-down sweater and I've also cast on for a shawl called Frisee using a Sweet Georgia Party of Five gradient set that I got from Deramores using a coupon.  In commuter knitting I am occasionally on knitting the final edge to my Raindrops Shawl that I knit the body of during the Japan trip.

In the sewing room this week, I tackled the last glory bag of scraps that has been sitting on the floor for a couple of years. I ironed all the big pieces and cut 10.5" squares out of them for use in future quilt backs. The remnants and smaller pieces have gone in a pile waiting to be cut up into smaller pieces for my scrap system. In a fit of housekeeping I have also pulled about 15 fabrics off my stash shelves to also cut up into 10.5" squares - several of them dating back to quilting trips I made to America in the 90s which have never been used, or not completely used up. In those days fabric was so precious that I used to pick up almost anything that was cheap, resulting in a lot of dogs which didn't necessarily make it into quilts.  Plus my tastes have changed over the years.  Interestingly I was recently reading some online articles about the challenges the quilting industry is facing and how expensive quilting cottons have become in America now, up to $16 a yard apparently. I was buying it for $3 a yard at Hancocks of Paducah back in the day.

I also finished the Idrija Lace Doiley. I have to say that I did not do a great job on the flowery thing in the middle. It was so small and the working space quite constricted, so  my plaits are pretty wobbly. One day I might cut it off and re-do it.  I took some time to darn in all the loose ends on the doiley, and it is finally done. There are many flaws, but I am focusing on the 'done' part.

Scrapbooker for a week

This week I got distracted into a new project which I suppose falls more into the scrapbooking field. I am not a scrapbooker, and when scrapbooking started to be a thing in the UK, I think many needlecrafting ladies were a bit sniffy about this newcomer. I know I have thought "how hard can it be?" to cut up paper and reassemble it into things.  Well as it turns out, it is quite hard, lol!

Do you remember when I bought some MDF blanks last year over at Coleman's Warehouse in Rushden?  Then later on I bought some cross-stitch pictures from a woman de-stashing her late mother's hoard. I had it in the back of my mind that I could combine the two, but hadn't got around to it but this week I decided to have a go, and this is the result.

I started out with the MDF blank and mixed a soft green paint colour for the edges.

Then I covered the box inside and out with some scrapbooking paper I had leftover from previous dollshouse projects, which proved quite difficult. Not only to cut the paper to the exact sizes, but to get it glued in without too many scars or marks.

I used Mod Podge for the gluing and then gave the box a final coat of clear sealer to seal the paper. Big mistake! It was an unused spraycan of Krylon which was about five years old, and it turned out that was long enough for the contents to turn into toffee coloured foam with bits in it.  By the time I hurriedly wiped all that disaster off, I was left with crusty brown bits which I thought had ruined all my work.  But when they dried, I was able to gently sand or scrape off almost all of the brown bits and only had to replace the paper on the underside of the lid.

I cut a shaped piece of card for the upper lid and sewed the cross stitch onto the card over several shaped layers of padding to create a domed shape. Then I glued the picture onto the lid with tacky glue and lots of clamps to hold it while it dried.

Then came the fun bit, which was pulling out lots of ribbons and lace and decoration from my stash. I was aiming for a 'more is more' Victorian vibe.  The embellishments are glued on with either tacky glue or superthick tacky glue.

Isn't it pretty?  I had fun doing this, and it is satisfying to turn an unused picture and an MDF blank into something attractive for my mantelpiece in my bedroom.

Today we visited a shop called 'The Range' which I had read about online.  It was like a cross between a Dunelm and a Hobbycraft and I had fun wandering the aisles with DH in tow. I came away with some silicon adhesive for dollshousing and a driftwood wreath which I am going to take apart for a sea themed dollshouse scene, some wooden letters to make a dollshouse sign and DH got a reel of craft wire for his modelling. Tomorrow I am having a day out to London to visit the City of London dollshouse festival where I hope to find some accessories for my various projects, and also heading to the V&A for the last day of the Treasures of medieval English Embroidery exhibition.

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