Sunday, 25 June 2017

Cool breezes

The heatwave is over, for now, and we are back to overcast cooler weather which is currently spitting rain. Hurrah, and long may it continue. We had a very pleasant visit today to some open gardens in Weedon Lois and Weston, which felt lush and green as opposed to arid and baked like the gardens we went to last weekend. We quite enjoy poking around other people's gardens in pretty villages which are open for charity under the National Gardens Scheme, especially when they include very posh places or in today's case, the lovely country mansion of a genuine Lady. And there is usually tea and cake on offer somewhere, today it was in a pretty little Baptist chapel. It's also a way to get ideas for our own garden - we were lusting after a pretty little pond today with surrounding planting.

On the way there I was knitting on my Rose Window hat , which is a free pattern on  I couldn't get the yarn they used here in the UK so I am using an Opal sock yarn (Fresh & Juicy 9365) with a black Cascade 220 fingering (which feels thin and I don't really like it).  The colours are coming out more citrusy than I would like, but DH is expressing interest so it may end up being for him. Luckily I have a big head so it will likely fit him as well. It's quite fun seeing the colourway unfolding and of course comes out differently on a hat circumference rather than a sock.

When we went to the boot sale last week I picked up a little shelf quite cheaply.

I gave it a lick of paint and inserted a backdrop of a picture of patchwork cut from a magazine cover.  This is going to be a little display shelf to house the needlework tools that have been passed on to me by older stitching friends who have passed or who are destashing.  I've cut a little piece of plexiglass to go on the front when I've stocked the shelves.

I've spent some time this week working on preparations for my next Bucks Point lace project.  I bought a pricking for a hexagonal edging from Irene Tomlinson of Shireburn Lace but to make it useable I have to prick every single hole first and there are hundreds ( possibly thousands).  So there are a few hours into it already this week carefully pricking each hole using a needle held in a pin vice and a magnifying visor for accuracy, and I am just over halfway.  I also need to wind 39 pairs of bobbins very full, which will also take quite a while.  I think this is one of the reasons I prefer knitting, you just pull out some yarn from the ball and cast on and you are away.

On the sewing front, I finally got my ancient Indigo Bear's Paw quilt to the top stage.  It's come out bigger than I thought, a generous double and I think could even be used on a queen size bed.

There was a bit of a debacle with one of the side white borders and I'm currently feeling not very happy with the whole quilt due to some puckers and distortion that still remain despite much remedial action. What happened was that I cut the final borders to size and pinned on the first one. I was aware that the multiple sawtooth patches were a bit fluttery even though they are on the straight of grain, but I foolishly thought my feed dogs would ease any excess in.  What actually happened on the first border was that the feed dogs stretched the patches and made even more excess, and no matter how much I tried re-sewing the worst segments, I couldn't ease it all in.  I had to unpick the whole border, which stressed the fabric even more and caused many of the sawtooth seams to start coming apart plus the white fabric started fraying as it is not a very close weave.  So I had to resew a lot of those seams, and then re-pin the border doing what I should have done in the first place:  smooth and pin the outer white border to the inner white border as they are both straight/flat, then pin in the fluttering saw tooths with a multitude of pins in the same way that you would ease in a sleeve cap in dressmaking.  This subsequently worked well on the other three borders, but by this time the first border was so abused and stretched that I still had to take in some of the sawtooth seams to reduce the excess and there are still some small pleats. And this is all before even worrying about whether or not I was chopping points off the indigo triangles.  Nightmare.  It looks good from a distance  :(   It's probably one of those things that I will forget over time and in a few years I will be happy again. Before I put it away, I need to cut some binding strips and decide whether to bind it in blue or in white.  I think probably in white because the indigo African fabric is fairly coarse and I would have to piece many short pieces to get enough length for binding so I think it would be difficult to achieve a smooth result.

Monday, 19 June 2017

I'm melting...

...and not from a bucket of water either - the UK is in the middle of a heatwave. It's been in the low 30s since Friday (around 90 degrees F) and very sunny. I can't cope with heat at all, so I am feeling  stressed and uncomfortable.  My part of the office is not air conditioned either so it was not fun today at work. And I haven't been sleeping well  even with a fan going.  At least with this old house, there are some rooms that stay cool (unlike our previous super-insulated new build which turned into an oven) so I may camp in one of the downstairs rooms until the weather breaks. My sewing room isn't too bad either so I've put in some hours working down there over the weekend. Apparently we are going to have an unusually hot summer which I feel depressed about but I expect some people are skipping around with glee at the prospect of a 'real' summer.

Last weekend I made another Pumpkin Basket, this one in Japanese fabrics as a gift for my m-i-l for her birthday in the autumn.

Then I made one more so that I could use the Tilly brooches I made a few weeks ago.  This is still the Pumpkin Basket pattern but I omitted the darts in the top to make it more of a bucket shape.

After the basket production line was tidied away, I got out my Indigo Bear's Paw UFO quilt.  According to the date on the project bag, I started this in 1998 so it's coming up to its 20th anniversary which apparently is either China or Platinum, lol.  After doing some arithmetic (shudder) and a fair bit of measuring, I added inner spacer borders then applied the sawtooth edging (in progress picture).  So now I just need to sew on the plain white outer borders and it's ready to join the waiting-for-quilting queue. I love this crisp white and blue. But I would like to quilt it with a hanging diamond grid which I can't do on my home machine frame, so it would have to be a walking foot job which will just be incredibly tedious to execute.

This week I also finished what I think is the 25th and final block of my 25 block hand applique quilt so after I finish the Bear's Paw top, then I can start trimming my 25 blocks to size. I appliqued the lattice with the 'freezer paper on top' method which I have to say I didn't like at all, it felt like the paper was really in the way and made it hard to get smooth curves.  Usually I draw around templates for needleturn applique but for such an intricate shape I thought I would try a different method. I gave up on it after I'd done the outer and inner edges and went back to my usual mark and turn process for the insides of the ovals.

Today I finished my Portsmouth Beanie hat from the Spring 2017 issue of Interweave knits, I just need to weave in the ends.  It fits really well but obviously in this weather is not something I will be wearing for a while!

I've done a bit more work in my second bobbin lace snowflake ornament, and I've ordered some hexagonal edging patterns from Irene Tomlinson for my next Bucks Point lace project.

And that's about it for crafting this week.  Hope you are managing to stay cool!

Sunday, 11 June 2017

I'll huff and I'll puff

It's been a week of very strong winds which have wreaked some minor havoc in the garden but the important thing is that our pergola did not fall down!  The trellis acts as a bit of a sail so I have always been a bit worried because our garden is generally a windy site, which is why we did our best to make the pergola quite strong with diagonal bracing and lots of rafters.  This week I've been watching our apple tree tossing back and forth, our pear tree shed some pear sprigs, the delphiniums have mostly bitten the dust because they weren't adequately supported, I've had to support the hollyhocks and some alliums and irises, and tie back in some wayward roses.  The clematis at the front which was just coming in to bloom has basically had those blooms shredded.  But the pergola is still standing which is a relief.  I've done some more digging out underneath to level the patio area but there is still lots more earth to shift.

As you will have gathered, housework is never high on my agenda, but I've spent some evenings this week doing some major tidying and cleaning to lay the foundations for some visitors over the next month including the dollshouse club and my in-laws.  So less crafting took place this week.

I did finish the Bucks Point bookmark. Mainly because I just got sick of lacing and un-lacing trying to get the tapered point to work out.  I just couldn't and still ended up with about 10 pairs at the point when I should only have had half that, but I  decided that life was too short, it's only a bookmark, I don't even use bookmarks, so I just did a different finish where you roll the pairs to one side or the other and fasten them in place out of sight.  It means the reverse isn't as neat as it should be but it's finished.  It was a bit discouraging but I guess this is where actually having a teacher to show you how to do things would help, you can't always work things out from a book. The main part of the bookmark turned out rather well and I'm pleased with it.  I took it along to the Saturday lace group yesterday to show people and it was complimented by some of the experienced lacemakers which was nice.

Now I need to decide what to work next. I think it's time to go large and actually make something I can use. It's a bit intimidating because anything larger is going to take many more pairs of bobbins which equals many more hours of work, and it could easily turn into a project which takes me a couple of years to finish. However, I have many such projects :) so that shouldn't be an issue.

One example would be my 25-block applique quilt which has been going on for about 10 years now.  I've finally started what I think is the 25th and final block (that's if I've counted properly, never a certainty) so I may soon be able to move onto the next step which will be attempting to trim all the blocks to the same size.  I think they were all meant to be 17 inches square but I'm pretty sure there is an assortment of sizes in reality. Which reminds me of my 20-block GAAA Afghan  which is currently hibernating waiting for me to join all the knitted squares together.  We're going on a short holiday in the summer so joining the blanket squares might be my takealong project.

A fun thing I did this week was to make this basket:

This is made from the Pumpkin Basket pattern by Beth Studley which is the pattern I bought on sale last weekend.  She is also the designer of the Honeycomb Basket which I made a few months ago, and this pattern is quite similar so I was already familiar with the principles and how to make it more efficiently than how the instructions tell you to do it. The William Morris print is a teatowel I bought in the V&A gift shop, and the lining is leftover quilt fabric from my William Morris grid quilt. I enjoyed making it so much that I am now making a second one out of Japanese prints which will be a birthday present for m-i-l.  I might make a third one out of fabric to match the Tilly fabric brooches that I made last week, then I can sew the brooches on for decoration.

Yesterday we went to a church fete and I snapped up this handcrafted tote bag from the jumble table.  Somebody has cut squares out of vintage and new embroidered linens and sewn them together in a patchwork onto a calico backing, quite a clever idea which I thought was worth sharing with you.

TV knitting this week has mainly been the purple lace shawl from Victorian Lace Today, which I started quite a while ago and then it got pushed to the bottom of my workbasket and I forgot about it.  I found it a few weeks ago when I was having a tidy up.  I've also picked up for the sleeves of my top-down leaf yoke jumper so I can knit a few inches on each of them then I can test the fit before going any further.  In commuter knitting I have started the Portsmouth Beanie hat from the Spring 2017 issue of Interweave knits, which is a solid colour beanie hat featuring a wave pattern created from twisted rib and moss stitch.

I had an email from a Canadian friend this week which started out with "Craziness in the world these days" which is certainly feeling true.  Some awful events here in the UK, but equally so many tales of heroism and compassion.  And now of course the election chaos with looming Brexit.  It all makes the future seem very uncertain but I suppose all's we can do is keep carrying on with our daily lives and hope for the best.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Pergola finished

We finished off the pergola today.  We are pretty pleased with how it's turned out, given our limited technical abilities.  It's a bit wonky here and there but it's pretty sturdy, and the inside feels shaded and private.  I would love to have the patio done so we could sit in there, and so I could get the planting in.  But I have to be patient.

There will be a path through this arch leading around into the pergola.

The inside. Still more digging to do, to level out the floor.
Shady inside. I want to put a water feature where the pots are. The round topped bench isn't staying there, it's only temporary.  There should be room for a dining table and a couple of small sofas inside the pergola.  I'd like to grow a rose and a clematis up the trellis.


While there has been some attention this week to main projects, I have to confess to getting distracted onto a couple of frivolous sidetracks. 

I was sorting my knitting patterns in an attempt to tidy up my craft room when I came across this little watermelon purse, which was a fun little knit out of scrap yarn.  I lined it with watermelon fabric. Unfortunately the zip tends to get stuck on the knitting so it isn't the most functional purse in the world. But it looks cute  :)

And currently I am playing with a Tilly kit which makes three fabric brooches, which was an impulse buy very cheaply on sale.  Not sure what I will do with them, I can't see wearing them on my person in public. I shall likely pin them onto a storage basket in my sewing room as a pretty decoration.  Maybe on the cute pattern for a storage basket that I picked up at the Poppy Patch sale, along with six half metres of assorted fabrics which were 50% off.

I finished the first bobbin lace snowflake.  On the one hand I've done a terrible job, this wiry DMC metallic embroidery thread is almost impossible to tension properly so the lace is really untidy.  On the other hand, I'm pleased with the overall wrought metal effect and I think it makes a nice ornament.  By the end I was getting better at wrangling the wiry thread.  I'm going to make a second one for m-i-l and hopefully will do a better job on that one.

I'm still trying to untangle the failed attempt at tapering the end of my Bucks Point lace bookmark.  I've sorted out one side of the taper and am currently reverse-lacing on the other side.

I've also finished my William Morris grid quilt and I'm quite pleased with it.  I loved working with these rich fabrics and the intricate border print.. I wasn't working to any particular size but it's turned out to be a really good sized double and looks good on DS's bed (which is also the guest room).  This summer, once the DH club visit is over, I'm going to dig out the machine quilting frame and see if I can get it set up somewhere, probably in the dining room.  Then it can stay up for a few months while I re-learn how to use it and then quilt my way through a couple of year's worth of quilt tops.

The photos I took of the quilt don't get the colour balance right, in person it is more blue-grey and the values are not as evident because the prints merge more in a kind of watercolour effect.  But I couldn't get the camera to cooperate, it kept reading everything as lighter in colour. I tried a few different settings but no good.  It's nice to finish something, I'll have to think what to do next.  I should probably go back to my indigo Bear's Paw and get the borders on to it.

The garden is looking lush thanks to a nice mixture of sun and rain.  The delphinums, which are supposed to be under the apple tree, have grown so tall this year that they have grown right up through the tree.  I'm a bit worried that they will suffocate the tree but I suppose the tree roots should be a lot deeper than the delphiniums. And eventually the tree may grow bigger.

yes, there is an apple tree in there somewhere.

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