Saturday, 29 April 2017


I'm writing this post while I wait for a patio/landscaping guy who may or may not arrive tonight. He was supposed to come yesterday evening, but as usual it seems with any tradespeople I try to engage, he never showed up. I waited three hours before giving up on him, couldn't reach him by phone, he didn't reply to the text I sent until later in the evening when he apologised and said he'd had a day.  They always seem to be so busy that they can't let you know that they won't make it. He asked if he could re-arrange for today, I texted back that we could do that if he could let us know a definite time window.  Didn't hear from him all day until mid-afternoon when he said he would come at 6-6:30pm.  Then he texted at 5:45pm to say he's going to have dinner first so will supposedly get to us at 7pm which is when I was planning to have our dinner.  Sigh...

I've ordered components to build a pergola and I think we are going to have a go at doing it ourselves.  Think Leaning Tower of Pisa made out of treated softwood  :)   Hopefully the delivery will match up with my day off.

Today we spent most of the afternoon emptying our chaotic and overstuffed shed, sorting out better storage, and being very selective about what we put back.  It was in a terrible mess and most of the time I either couldn't find something or couldn't actually reach it over all the things in the way. We built a sort of potting table out of a dining table frame with plywood on top, and a shelf made out of scrap wood, and hung a lot more stuff on the wall. All the things I use regularly are within easy reach now. I forgot to take a Before picture but here is an After picture and a picture of all the stuff that is going to the dump.  Mostly bits of chipboard left over from when the kitchen was put in almost three years ago that we kept in case they would be useful - they weren't.

Thursday night I triumphantly finished my Outlander Socks at long last, they were such a pain to knit because the yarn was fine and I found the colouration made it hard to distinguish the stitches so I often knit two together by mistake.  I wet blocked them and it wasn't until I was putting them on the sock blockers that I realised one sock had a cuff that split on the side, and the other sock had a cuff that split at the back.  Grrr.  I will have to unpick the cuff on the one split at the back (the second one) and re-knit.  The pattern actually tells you to skip some stitches on the right sock but I didn't even read that, I thought I knew what I was doing.

I finished all the 'whole' blocks for my William Morris Grid Quilt.  The burgundy print is what I am considering using for the border.  It's not matchy-matchy but it is part of the fabric range and I am wavering between enjoying the contrast and wanting it to match better.  I was debating what to use for the setting triangles to fill in around the edges, but I think I can just about manage to make them out of the scraps I've got left over from cutting the main blocks. I haven't arranged the blocks yet, I've just bunged them up on the design wall to get a general idea.

On my day off I decided to investigate the lights on my Rik Pearce dollshouse which hadn't been turned on in several years.  One of them had even fallen off the wall and was just hanging by its wire.

I couldn't remember anything about the installation because I did it so long ago, but looking underneath the base (tricky to do without tilting the house too much which would knock everything inside over), I found that I had taken the wires from all five lights into a central circuit board which was wired to an earphone type jack - I must have bought the circuit board at a show. Unfortunately the jack was smashed in half and hanging partly loose, presumably a casualty of the several moves during the house buying process.  I improvised a metal bracket which I screwed on to hold the jack back up against the circuit board, and plugged in the transformer with fingers crossed.  To my relief all five lights still work. There are two downstairs and a glowing fireplace, one out on the dock, and one upstairs in the bedroom. I glued the downstairs casualty back onto the wall with silicon adhesive.

I had made a little wooden stand for my model yacht but then found out the boat was too tall to display on top of the dresser.  I had been planning to use a little metal set of coathooks to make a coat rack by the door, so I added a shelf to that so I still display the boat.

You can see the light and the fireplace glowing in this picture.

This house is almost done enough now for the club visit, I've just got to do a bit of dusting and I am painting a swan to go out on the river in front of the house.  

During TV watching I've mainly been working on my next block for my 25 block applique quilt.

Well it's 10 past 7 and the patio guy is still a no show but he has texted to say he is 10 minutes away.  Meanwhile my dinner has come out of the oven and is sitting there cooling down while I wait for him.  Grrrrr.  He had better be like the world's greatest patio layer.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Enjoying the outdoors

When we drove south for the funeral a few weeks ago, we really noticed how much more built up the area where we used to live is, on the west side of London, with fewer green spaces and so much more traffic. When we lived there I guess we just accepted it because it seemed normal. It made us appreciate even more where we live now, in a much quieter town which has a defined edge beyond which is so much lovely Northamptonshire countryside.  In a very short drive we can visit so many lovely places in a 360 degree direction, without London sitting like a massive blockage over an entire eastern quadrant. I suppose the flip side is loss of easy access to one of the most amazing cities in the world but we can still visit on the train.

Yesterday we went back to Coton Manor to see their acclaimed bluebell wood.  Their nursery manager told us that it is 'patchy' this year and not as good as they are usually, but the effect was still pretty amazing.

The blue haze floating in the dappled sunshine was hard to capture in photographs although lots of people were trying.  There were other signs of spring in the garden, with this swarm of 13 baby ducklings attracting much attention and cooing.

From Coton Manor we drove on to Oxford to take DS back to uni.  We took him for dinner then said goodbye and went off for a leisurely walk in the early evening sunshine. It's such a lovely place. This is his last year and we are almost as sad as he is to be anticipating his time there coming to an end.  Looking back from Christchurch Meadows I snapped this unexpectedly bucolic scene with a herd of longhorn cattle grazing.


I finished up the new bed for the Gamekeeper's Cottage dollshouse. I prepared the coverlet part ahead of time, then cut the bedframe in half and reassembled it in the room. Once that was dry, I added the prepared top part.  The coverlet is a authentically woven cloth that my aunt sent me decades ago, she bought it at an American colonial village but I can't remember which one. I had never used it because it was too big and too glaring white, but now that I am older I felt comfortable with cutting it down in size and tea-dying it to mute the contrast in colour.  I like it in here.  This room is difficult to photograph as it is a mezzanine tucked under the roof.

My gamekeeper spent the last year or so standing stiffly to attention at the back of the main room, so I took pity on him and made him more comfortable in the leather armchair in front of the fire, and gave him a beer. I think he looks a lot happier now.

I've done a few more hours on my Bucks Point lace bookmark and I'm about 2/3rds done now.

I've sewn several more blocks for my William Morris grid quilt, I'm just starting the heel on my second Fair isle sock, and I've just joined in the round under the arms on my second attempt at the top down leaf yoke sweater.  I've also cut out the penultimate applique block for my 25-block applique quilt and have made a start on it.

On my day off I knit the V-neck trim for my denim machine knit tee, then sewed it down in the evening in front of the telly.  I didn't do a great job on this. I forgot to mitre for the 'v' on one side but thought I would be able to fix it by sewing the other mitred side on top, but it doesn't look very tidy. Also I discovered far too late that I had somehow knit two stitches together (much harder to do accidentally on a knitting machine) and it really shows. I suppose/hope that non-knitters won't notice.

Today I linked on the sleeves and closed the side seams on my Hague linker, so I just need to handsew the seams of the hems and rib.  I've given it a quick try on, it fits although with slightly less ease than I prefer, so I may have to steam it a bit bigger. Also I think it would have benefited from being knit on a looser tension, the fabric is a bit stiff.  This is Yeoman Panama which I knit on a Brother 881 machine on T7dot. Being a cotton/acrylic mix, it may relax a bit more with wear.

I happened to look out the window to see a very odd bird sitting on our bird feeder.

Yes, that's our cat, and I'm not even sure how she jumped up there without knocking the whole thing over.

Our new bamboo arrived and has been planted in its little playpen.  Eventually it will grow into a clump which will fill the area up but hopefully staying corralled.

I'm not much further ahead on procuring a pergola. I tried a local company who didn't acknowledge the web contact form I submitted, so I called and they took my details for a custom quote but still haven't called me back over a week later. I think we are going to have to do it ourselves.  We are not great at DIY but I suppose a pergola doesn't have to be 100% right angles and vertical like a building would need to be, it will just add to the rustic quality if it's a bit wonky.

Monday, 17 April 2017

less haste, fewer piles of sticks

We're just coming to the end of the four-day Easter weekend here in the UK, and as usual for a bank holiday weekend the weather has been overcast, cool, windy, and even managed to rain yesterday. We had our guests all weekend so didn't get much time to relax, because we were either taking them out places, or cooking for them then washing up afterwards.  I find guests stressful for any length of time as I am the kind of person that needs quiet down time to regroup and re-energise, and of course when they are staying in your home they are always there. The evenings were the most difficult, because as well as not liking any of the same TV programmes we do, they both wear hearing aids.  We tried watching Gardener's World but after an hour of  "what did he say?" or having the TV talked over with anecdotes about how some old neighbour used to grow loganberries, I had to give up before I was driven to violence.  DH tried to hide in the other room with a book but I made him come back.  DS is home as well and put in stalwart service last night explaining to them how to operate Skype on their tablet and helping them with their new secondhand iphone which they find very mysterious.

Meanwhile I was occasionally sneaking downstairs in stolen moments trying to glue together a replacement bed for my gamekeeper's cottage dollshouse.  I've never been happy with the commercial bed I had in there, so on my day off I had mocked up a design for an Edwardian-type bed and cut out lots of wood segments and stained them. On the weekend I tried gluing together the headboard and footboard quite unsuccessfully. As all the joins are just butt joints, and the stain slightly repels the glue, the construction was extremely fragile. I was in a hurry when I tried to remove them from the glue jig as I only had a few minutes while the guests were doing something else, and unfortunately the headboard stuck down a bit then disintegrated into its component sticks.  I glued it again and over the next few furtive visits, I got the bed glued together. Unfortunately when I tried to quickly see what it looked like in the house, I discovered that it wouldn't fit in under the rafters as it is slightly taller than the commercial bed. In attempting to 'twist' it in, the bed once again disintegrated into a pile of sticks.  Aaaaarghghghggh!

The guests left at lunchtime today, hurrah, so I was able to spend the afternoon blissfully crafting.  I glued the bed back together (AGAIN) and this time braced it with a cardboard internal frame so it's a bit stronger. I've realised the only way I will get it into place under the rafters will be to cut it in half, then re-glue it once it's in position, so I left a gap in the cardboard.  Meanwhile I've started assembling the mattress and coverlet which will go onto the bed once it's in place.

Earlier in the week I sprayed four metal miniatures with black primer ready for painting.  I had a horseshoe, a wagon wheel, and a brace of pheasants.

The horseshoe was easy to paint, with a little metal paint and a touch of 'rust', and it is now over the door in the Gamekeeper's cottage.
The wagon wheel I painted to look like wood, with a metal spoke and rim, some more rust, and then added some 'moss' with green flock so it looks like it has been abandoned in the garden for a while.

The pheasants were a lot more difficult. I painted them this afternoon when I could have a couple of hours of quiet time, using an RSPB portrait as a painting reference.  The metal miniatures were not well modelled at all, resembling flamingos more than pheasants, so to a certain extent I had to ignore the metal detailing and just paint features on top.  I'm not much of an artist but you can see what they are meant to represent. I hung them outside the gamekeeper's cottage on a nail.

Two crafts I could do while the guests were here was to knit or to work on my hand applique.  I finished the next block in my 25-block hand applique quilt including embroidering the stems with stem stitch. Only two more blocks to go!

I knit some more on my Fair Isle sock, some more on my Outlander sock, and picked up stitches and knit a lot on my leaf yoke sweater.  Before the weekend I had done a rough block of the replacement yoke, and it fits a lot better in this smaller size. I've now finished the leaf motifs and have done an inch of short rowing at the back of the yoke for a better fit.

On my day off  (while I was waiting for a delivery which never turned up, grrrr), I re-sized my William Morris quilt block to 1.25" grid bars and made a third sample block. I decided I like the proportions now, so I took apart the first two sample blocks and re-cut them to the new measurements and re-stitched them.  Then I cut out 30 block kits and today I have started sewing blocks.  I tried the grid on point and I like it a lot better that way. I'm aiming for a double-bed size quilt. The blocks are around 11" square but of course wider on point so there will be a certain amount of trial and error to arrive at a layout.

I've done a few hours on my Bucks Point bookmark this week but not very much. I did receive a couple of deliveries in the post:  I won a pair of painted bobbins on eBay (on the right) and also ordered a turned pair from resin-laminated wood on etsy (on the left).  Having pretty bobbins is fun.

I hope you had an enjoyable and relaxing long weekend if you are in the UK, and a happy Easter.  I have to confess that I did eat some chocolate on Sunday, but a fairly restrained amount as I was worried about repercussions from a massive sugar high after being low-sugar for over a month now.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Itinerary for a first visit to Japan - extra Japan post number five

As mentioned in my initial post in this series, I did a lot of research before our trip to plan out the itinerary. This was our first and possibly only visit to Japan and it is a long way to go from the UK (flights c 11.5 hours) so I wanted to do as much as possible.  My starting point was reviewing the locations visited by a number of commercial tours and also specialist quilting tours, then reading through three guidebooks: Lonely Planet, the Japan by Rail guide, and the DK Eyewitness Guide to Japan. After that I did a lot of online research as there are tons of sites out there about Japan, and blogs and YouTube videos on everything from fabric shopping in Tokyo to the etiquette for using a Japanese onsen (communal hot baths).

One of the challenges as a first-timer is figuring out where things are within a city to try to put together a logical progression for visits. Guides tend to name the top sights and perhaps group them by neighbourhoods, but don't give you much clue on how to get from one to another, or how long you will need to visit them. Not to mention crucial factors such as many museums being closed on a Monday or what time the fabric shop closes.

My eventual itinerary was based on our middle aged preference to spend a bit more money on comfort, my wish to visit craft related stores, our mutual interest in heritage and period buildings, my liking for Japanese gardens, and my attempt to see a bit more of Japan than just Tokyo and Kyoto.

We took three weeks off work in total, and had the weekends before and after the trip to prepare/recover, so we were away for 18 days in total.  After framing out my initial itinerary, I decided to use InsideJapan to make hotel bookings, book the JapanRail passes and IC cards for local transport, airport transfers by bus, and to book the bus travel from Kanazawa and our Geisha Dance tickets. I probably could have done most of this myself online but it would have taken a long time and I don't speak Japanese, and I might not have got as good rates on accommodation. The agent suggested a few tweaks to my itinerary order. I booked my own flights online with British Airways, flying direct in and out of Narita airport (for Tokyo). I also booked online a guide for our first full day in Tokyo because I expected to be jet lagged and needing help to get the hang of transport options etc. I booked a pocket Wifi online through PuPuRu which was delivered to our first hotel and worked brilliantly throughout our holiday so that I could always get online with my tablet to look things up, skype, email and find out where we were on GoogleMaps if we got lost. Since we would be arriving back in the UK in the wee hours by Japan time, I booked a Heathrow hotel for the first night back so that we could get some sleep before driving home.  We left the car at Heathrow while we were gone because the cost was similar to what it would have been for us to travel by train and it meant we didn't have to fight our way across London in either direction.

We travelled in late October/early November. The first day in Tokyo it was 23 degrees C and felt quite hot.  Hakone was cooler and in Kyoto we were wearing light fleeces in the morning and evening. By the end in Takayama, it was quite cold, down to single digits, and it actually snowed lightly on the day we headed back to Tokyo. So we had to pack a range of layers, and took sunhats as well as woolly hats.

Day 1/2 (Monday/Tuesday) - fly from Heathrow to Narita, arriving the next morning. Transfer to hotel in Shinjuku (we stayed at the Sunroute Plaza which we liked), check in c 2pm.  Headed out to explore Shinjuku - there is a Tokyu Hands store on the other side of Shinjuku station, a Kinokuniya  bookstore in the same building, the Okadaya fabric store within walking distance, a small Yuzawaya fabric department in the Takashimaya department store,  Lots of options for dinner if you are still awake.

Day 3 (Wednesday) - Tokyo. We used this day to take a six hour guided tour around the Shinjuku area, with a sushi lunch in Shibuya, then on to the Meji-jingu Shrine in Harajuku followed by a stroll down trendy Takeshita-dori. We also went up the free Tokyo Metropolitan Government building both on the tour in the morning (when we were fortunate to see Mount Fuji in the distance) and in the late evening to see Tokyo lit up from the 45th floor.  After the tour we headed over to the brilliant Edo-Tokyo museum which took about 35 minutes by subway but we still go there in time to have about 80 minutes which was enough time to see most things. We found another good bookstore in the walkway from Shinjuku west exit to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building.

Day 4 (Thursday) - Tokyo - an early start to be at the Tsukiji outer market for around 7:30am, to stroll around the stalls of fresh seafood and many other items. Easily reached from Shinjuku on the Oedo line to Tsukiji Shijo station. Then we hopped back on the subway to head up to Ueno park which contains several interesting shrines and some museums as well as cafes and restaurants.  We visited the Tokyo National Museum which was labelled a 'must-see' by guidebooks but honestly we didn't find it very engaging. We enjoyed much more the smaller Shitamachi Museum where we recommend the free English volunteer guide who will point out many things we wouldn't have noticed otherwise about the recreated shops and houses. Afterwards we visited the huge covered Ameyoko market under the train tracks before getting back on the subway to Nippori station where we grabbed some lunch. Then it was on to Nippori Fabric Town for a few hours of shopping, before heading into the scenic neighbourhood of Yanaka on the other side of Nippori station.  We headed back to Shinjuku to walk around some of the neon craziness east of the station, then chose a restaurant for supper.

Day 5 (Friday) - Tokyo - Back on the Oedo line to the Shiodome stop to be at Hama Rikyu Garden for its 9am opening time. After exploring the pleasant gardens and having a traditional tea and sweet in the central tea pavilion, we got the 10:30 water bus from Hinode Pier (booking opens at 10:15) to Asakusa. In Asakusa we shopped our way up the Nakamise-dori Arcade which is an odd mixture of tourist tat and high class galleries to visit the Senso-ji Temple.  After lunch in a nearby arcade, we visited the Amuse Museum of traditional clothing, which also has a roof terrace with a great view back at Senso-ji. Two stops on the subway to Asakusa-Bashi took us to the doll shop area where we visited the prestigious Kyugetsu doll shop, and the great Sakura Horikiri craft shop as well as some other doll and bead shops.

Day 6 (Saturday) - Odawara/Hakone - we sent our luggage on to our Kyoto hotel, and caught the shinkansen to Odawara, where we left our overnight bags in a locker and walked to see the impressive castle.  Then it was a crowded train ride up to Hakone Miyanoshita to the faded but still impressive glories of the Fujiya Hotel.   After walking around town, we enjoyed the Fujiya gardens and went for a swim in the pool and tried their onsen.

Day 7 (Sunday) - the Hakone Loop - you can look this up, basically it is an enjoyable day looping around the volcano on a variety of transport. In Hakone-machi, we enjoyed the historic Hakone checkpoint, and walked through the Detached Palace Garden and on into MotoHakone, before getting the bus back into Hakone Yumoto for supper.  After supper we tried out another Japanese onsen.

Day 8 (Monday) - Kyoto - travelling via Odawara.  We left our overnight bags in a locker in the station and went up the Kyoto Tower for great views over Kyoto to get our bearings, then walked over to the impressive Toji temple with its pagoda.  Collecting our bags, we visited the pretty Shoseien Garden on the way to our hotel. In the evening we took another private tour through the back streets of Gion but I didn't feel this short tour was value for money after how good the Tokyo tour had been.

Day 9 (Tuesday) - Kyoto - we got an early bus to Kiyomizu temple to beat the crowds, then walked down through the cobbled streets of Zannen-zaka and Ninenzaka to visit the Kodai-ji temple and its beautiful garden. After lunch we visited more temples including Chion-in, Shoren-in (another lovely garden) then into Maruyama park. I had planned the trip to coincide with the Gion Odori Geisha dances and we had tickets to the afternoon performance at the Gion Kaikan Theatre which we really enjoyed. It included a traditional tea ceremony conducted by a geisha and maiko (apprentice) beforehad.  We spent the evening wandering the covered shopping arcades of Teramachi-dori and surrounding areas.

Day 10 (Wednesday) - Kyoto - travelled by subway to Nijo Castle (more nice gardens) then back to visit the Nishiki food market.  We visited the Nishijin Textile Centre (very touristy) to see the kimono show, then went to a pre-booked lunch and tour of the historic Tondaya Merchant's house where we got to wear kimono ourselves.  Afterwards we got the bus to the Ginkakuji temple (the silver pavilion) then strolled along the Philosopher's Walk (which must be so much more stunning when the cherry blossom is out in the spring). Finished off with dinner on Pontocho alley.

Day 11 (Thursday) - Kyoto - got the train out to Arashiyama and visited the famous bamboo grove, then into lovely Okochi Sanso garden which was one of our favourites. We saw some lovely autumn colour here. There are more temples to visit including the Tenryu-ji temple with its stroll garden.  We took the tram and a longish walk to see the spectacular Kinkaku-ji temple (Golden Pavilion) which presented perfectly with a shaft of sunlight illuminating the jaw-dropping scene.

Day 12 (Friday) - Nara - Day trip to Nara, stopping on the way to visit the striking but hilly Fushimi-Inari-Tasha shrine.  We walked quite a way up the mountain but not all the way to the top.  In Nara the day-pass for the buses is a good buy as sites are quite spread out.  We enjoyed the Nara-machi old town and visited some of the historic homes there, before heading over to the lovely Yoshikien garden, and the larger Isuien garden where we benefited from a free volunteer guide in English. After admiring the tame deer, we headed into Todai-ji temple to see the immense Daibutsu statue, before getting the bus to the Kasuga Taisha shrine which features hundreds of stone lanterns.  After tea in an owl cafe where we both got to hold a bird on our arm, we headed back to Kyoto.

Day 13 (Saturday) - Kanazawa.  We travelled by shinkansen 2.5 hours to Kanazawa, another historic town. We visited Omi-cho food market, then after lunch got the bus to the Nagamachi former samurai quarter where we visited the Nomura house and a few others which are open.  We enjoyed the higashi district of former geisha tea houses, and visited the former Ochaya or tea house of Shima.  The Gold Leaf museum isn't very big but worth a visit if you are in the neighbourhood.

Day 14 ( Sunday) - Kanazawa - we started the day with a leisurely stroll in the Kenrokuen landscape garden, which is so big it feels more like a public park. The pretty villa of Seison-kaku is a nice visit within the garden.  We crossed over the large bridge to visit the impressive reconstruction of the  Kanazawa castle walls.  I had made a reservation at the tourist information office to visit the Ninja-dera (ninja temple) which was quite good fun. Afterwards we wandered around some of the shopping streets before heading back to the hotel to ship our main suitcases back to Tokyo.

Day 15 (Monday) - Shirakawa-go/Takayama - we travelled by pre-booked highway bus up into the mountains to the remote world heritage village of Shirakawa-go to see the famous gassho thatched houses.  There is a lot to see here, we started up at the look out point then walked down into the village and over to the open air museum.  Then by bus to Takayama where we stayed at a traditional ryokan - which I have to say we didn't really enjoy but at least we tried it. Takayama has many wonderful historic streets for strolling around and interesting shops to visit.

Day 16 (Tuesday) - Takayama- visited the Kusakabe heritage house and walked through the two open air markets, then walked out of town to the brilliant hida Takayama Museum of Art to see the Art Nouveau and Art Deco glass and furniture, which we both really enjoyed.   Then we walked onwards to visit the Hida Folk Village which is a large open air museum of historic Japanese structures, set in pretty forested grounds.  Bus back to town for a late lunch then enjoyed a relaxing stroll through the Higashiyama temple district, which we had to ourselves. We visited the town museum, which had a lot of interesting exhibits.

Day 17 (Wednesday) - Tokyo - train to Nagoya then shinkansen to Tokyo (with nice views of Mount Fuji on the way), arriving mid-afternoon.  We left our small bags in lockers in Tokyo station and walked over to the pretty Imperial Palace East Gardens although we didn't have much time before they closed.  A last delicious dinner in Tokyo. Our bags were waiting in our hotel along with a few other bags of souvenirs I had been shipping back as we travelled, so had fun going through everything and consolidating our baggage for the trip home.

Day 18 (Thursday) - Airport bus back to Narita, and headed for home.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

A one-sided fish

I've spent most of my free time out in the garden this week so not a lot of crafts to show off.  Usually I am very productive on my day off, but this week I had a dentist appointment in the morning and then most of the rest of the day was taken up with driving south  to Surrey to attend the funeral of a former member of the quilting group I used to attend/run.  She lived to be 100 years old, and was sewing until near the end, an inspiration to us all.  I was particularly touched that one of her lovely hexagon quilts was used as the pall over her coffin during the ceremony at the crematorium, and in the eulogies they mentioned all the baby quilts that are treasured by her family members and will be handed down.  A kind of immortality in a way.

It made me feel guilty that I don't give away more of my quilts.  However I've learned from experience to ask first, and preferably show them the quilt, because everyone has such different colour preferences and not everyone likes handmade or even textiles. I know you are supposed to enjoy making the quilt then 'set it free' but I can't help taking it personally if the reception is lukewarm, or the quilt is never seen again (or in one case, when I was informed it was the dog's favourite place to sleep and could I make the dog another one as well?)

Anyway, back to the one-sided fish.  I've done a few more things for my Rik Pearce dollshouse this week, one of which was creating a taxidermy scene for the mantel.  I had purchased a one-sided fish intended for display (or for the kitchen) some time ago, so I mounted it on a painted backdrop and added a few pieces of lichen for underwater plants. I built the box out of some of the wood strips I bought at Miniatura, and cut some 'glass' from a plastic lid.

I also put together a little kit for newspaper spills for lighting the fire.

Otherwise this week, I'm still knitting on the replacement Leaf Yoke sweater in which I am over halfway on the yoke; I'm stitching on the next block of my 25 block hand applique quilt; and I've done a couple of hours on my Bucks Point lace bookmark that I started in Scarborough. We've also spent several hours tidying/cleaning the house because the in-laws are coming to visit for Easter weekend, and there's still more to do. DS is coming home as well for Easter.

Out in the garden I've been combatting the weeds, continuing to tidy up from the winter and bringing out things that were stored such as the water feature and the bird bath. My tubs of tulips are starting to open up and the first one looks lovely. I always admire planted containers like this when we visit other gardens, but this is the first time I've tried it myself.

The weather has been gorgeous but very dry so we've even had to water a couple of times. Our soil is sandy and dries out quickly even with the mulch of compost we've applied. I'm wondering if we should invest in some drip hoses for the beds. The grass we've seeded at the front is coming up patchily and in competition with the weeds which have self-seeded and are growing much faster than the grass is.  The lawn is sporting many dandelions and other weeds, so yesterday I tried watering in a weed killer which is supposed to kill those but leave the grass intact - I hope it works and I haven't just killed the lawn just before the in-laws come...

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Back home again

I was tempted to title this post 'I survived' but that seemed a bit unkind, lol.  It's good to be back home though.  I spent Monday to Friday in Scarborough on a lace course with Jean Leader, who was absolutely lovely and is a world renowned expert and author. I worked on three different samples during the week from her designs, and it was great to have help and advice when I needed it.  There were 12 women in the class, all much more advanced than me. Most of them were working floral Bedfordshire patterns but a couple were working floral Bucks Point designs.  Jean had brought along large portfolios of her own work which were all lovely plus antique examples.  I picked up some secondhand lace book bargains on the sale table and also acquired a painted bobbin commemorating the week. There were two other classes so there were about 40 people altogether plus a few husbands. As usual on these types of events, there were a number of shall we say characters, some of whom were a bit trying, but most people just look on the week as a holiday I think rather than as a school so it was all quite good natured.  The weather was fairly good so on our free afternoons we could enjoy walks to the nearby seaside plus I went into Scarborough for shopping with a friend.
On the beach at Scarborough, looking towards the castle on the hill

The workrooms were open all the time so you could do lace before breakfast and after supper if you wanted. Otherwise there wasn't a lot to do as the venue was fairly isolated and didn't have a bar, so it was a fairly quiet week.  This is a shot of our classroom - as you can see the light wasn't great but the hotel had provided glare-y little lights to help and most of us had also brought our own supplemental lights.

These are two of the samples I started.

I got on fairly well and didn't embarrass myself so all the preparation doing samples definitely paid off.  I doubt I will ever put in enough hours to be as accomplished as the other more advanced students but it was great to see what they were doing.

On one of the afternoons I visited the Sewing Centre on Aberdeen Walk in Scarborough which stocked an impressive amount of quilting fabric. Mostly lower end in terms of quality and price but a huge selection and usefully arranged by colour or by theme.  I came away with six half-metres, five of them in red to use as backgrounds for a Piece of Cake applique pattern I bought years ago that I might make some day, and a sixth that I just liked.

During the week I occasionally knit on my Fair isle Sock and I finished the first one on the train journey back, then cast on for the next one. It's a good fit.

When I got home I went straight out into the garden to see what had changed in my absence. Our pear tree is in bloom now and the magnolia is opening up its magnificent flowers.  Most of the tulips I planted in the autumn have not appeared, apart from the ones in containers which are just starting to open and promising to be very pretty. I underplanted with muscari which are looking very nice already. We put down more compost on the borders this weekend and also did a lot of hard work finishing off the digging on a massive hole where I am planning to plant a bamboo.  DH was traumatised in the past by a clump-forming bamboo which went rogue in our last garden, so has demanded preventative measures this time round. I bought some root barrier and we dug down as deep as we could manage, about 80cm all around, and put down the root barrier before backfilling. I'm going to order a Fargesia Robusta which is supposed to be pretty well behaved, and will grow tall in the corner to block the view from the next street into our new patio (if we ever get a new patio).

This is a picture when the hole was half-filled back in.

Today we went to visit Coton Manor Gardens, which is an absolutely lovely private garden around an old stone manor house. The sun was out and the spring blossom was looking lovely. We've bought season tickets and plan to go back several times over the season to see the garden developing. In a few weeks they will open their bluebell wood which is supposed to be stunning.

The dollshouse exhibition finally took place. I was disappointed that they didn't put all the sheds together so that my cuckoo in the nest would show up more.  So I couldn't get a good shot of the sheds. This is a general picture showing the mix of sheds (about 19 altogether) and decorated plastic bowls. I was the only person to put the bowl on its side (for my seaside scene). Two people put it upside down over their scene, but everyone else used it the right way up.  Attendance was not huge but they managed to make over £250 for charity so that's good. I bought a few small things at the sales tables which contributed to that.  It feels a bit anticlimatic after all my work to finish the shed and fishbowl, and now it's all over, but people liked my work which was nice.

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