Saturday, 28 January 2017

Diseased

I've spent the entire week being sick so crafting time has been pretty lacklustre.

This is where I've been living since I tottered in from work on Tuesday afternoon, after two days of bravely soldiering on /infecting my colleagues.


As you can see, surrounded by a tidemark of warm blankets, medicine, tissues, knitting, sewing and rugmaking.  It's just been a particularly nasty cold virus and I do feel like I am finally on the mend, although I'm not sure I'll be fit by Monday. All's I can say is thank god for Netflix and for the Amazon Fire Stick I bought earlier in the year when they had a deal on, which has kept me entertained for endless hours slumped in the living room this week.

Wednesday and Thursday were the worst days, and all that I could manage was some applique, which involves minimal movement or thinking, and some plain knitting in the round.  The knitting was to add some more length on to the Leaf yoke top down sweater so I can fine tune the fit.  I did take the stitches off onto waste yarn last weekend, when I still thought I just had a little head cold, to try it on.


It's a lot roomier than I thought it would be, and I love the rich red colour. I'm also glad I moved the button band to the front.

The applique was the next block in my 25 block applique quilt. Under the circumstances, I finished it in a couple of days. It's not entirely symmetrical but I'm going to live with that. The background block is seamed because when I originally cut out the 25 background blocks using specially chosen fabric from America, I ran out. So I ended up having to seam some of the leftovers into the last few blocks. The seam won't be so obvious when the project is quilted. (ha ha ha like that's ever going to happen...)



After I finished the applique block, I needed something else to do which involved minimal thought or movement, and remembered my ancient hooked rug project - which is probably about 20 years old now.  I clamped it to my Lapman cross stitch frame so I can do it on my lap while I watch TV, and I've managed several rows.  It would be nice to finally finish this.


Yesterday afternoon I started feeling a little less comatose and also quite fed up with my cluttered throne in the living room.  So I dressed up warmly with extra layers and wobbled down to the sewing room and sewed up a pair of pyjama trousers that I had cut out last weekend. These are very quick to sew as there are only two pieces (two legs) and I do the seams on my serger.  This is using the altered pattern which I had slashed to add more tummy room.  These are fine but I decided I had overdone the alteration so I reduced the amount of ease and cut out a second pair.

Today I sewed up the second pair. I think the fit on these is about right now, or as right as it is going to get with a simple one piece pattern.  So now I have a pattern that fits, and I can make more pairs in future with just 2m of cotton.  It would be nice to learn how to make a matching soft t-shirt top to go with them.



Also yesterday I finally felt up to doing some bobbin lace. There was only about an inch to go before I finished the outer circle.  So I moved the pillow into the dining room and made the final stitches, and connected the threads back to the starting point.  Remember that when you look at lace on a pillow, you are looking at the back of the lace. So the front is facing down out of sight.  The ends will all need to be darned in but first I need to do the little star thing in the middle.


Our cat has kept me company in a way this week, spending most afternoons snoozing on the sofa next to me as she is not a lap cat. I was amused to see her climbing a little tree in the garden one morning, despite the branches sagging under her weight. She eventually made the leap onto the brick wall.  She also woke me up from a nap on the sofa one morning by making a lot of noise and banging in the basement, but I felt too rubbish to go and see what she was doing. When I eventually made my way down there to feed her supper, I discovered a dismembered small bird and a lot of feathers at the foot of the stairs. She's not much of a hunter but obviously succeeded this time and decided to drag it inside through her cat flap. So that was something for DH to clean up when he got home. The feathers reached halfway up the stairs as if she was trying to bring it up to show me, so I should be grateful for small mercies I guess.



Saturday, 21 January 2017

Some finishes

I finished a few things this week which felt good.

I finished the Japanese zipped pouch and I'm quite pleased with how it turned out. Very typically Japanese in the fabrics and design, and a nice clean finish inside and out.




I also finished knittin the Fishtail Lace Cowl, which was a pattern from Simply Knitting magazine that took 1.5 balls of a Debbie Bliss aran yarn.  I've wet blocked it and it's still drying, but I look forward to wearing it. We have an older home with quite a few cold spots and drafts so I do like to have a neckwarmer of some description on even when I'm indoors.



I finished the Japanese Scroll wallhanging  that I made with the panel and fabrics I bought in Tokyo.  I didn't put any wadding inside so it hangs nice and flat like a scroll. I stitched 1/4" away from all seams and in the ditch around the panel, and added a little hanging sleeve. It's displayed on a little side wall in the study, a bit reminiscent of the alcoves displaying hanging scrolls that we saw in Japan.



I finished Block 21 of my long term 25-block applique quilt project.  I felt very inspired by only having four more blocks to do, so I actually put in a morning on my day off to choose the four block patterns, make the templates, and trace out the layout details onto the four background squares. So now I have four block kits which hopefully will speed things up because it's all that prep work that I find tedious. I like doing the hand applique.  So I've started the 22nd block now.


And I'm on my last curlywhirl of the outer ring of my Idrija bobbin lace doiley so the end is in sight as I will soon be back to where I started and can do the final joins.  Then I will just have a little flowery thing (these are technical bobbin lace terms you understand) to do in the centre, which I think is just plaiting and picots but I haven't really looked up how to do it yet.

Having parked my dollshouse shed project, I've moved on to renovating a big dollshouse, the Willowcrest,  that I built about 10 years ago but never completely finished.  It was a long term build so had its own blog here, which I will be updating to record my finishing touches.

It's lovely and cold here right now, going down to a few degrees below freezing at night with dry sunny days. I like this weather which reminds me of the years I lived in Ottawa in Canada. It got a heck of a lot colder there (minus 40 celsius) but was generally very sunny. I've been out digging in the garden lately, loosening the soil and pulling out perennial weeds before the bulbs (hopefully) come up.  There is already one little clump of snowdrops blooming in the sunniest spot, and lots of green tips starting to poke up through the frosty soil. Several hellebores (Christmas roses) are blooming as well under our hazel tree, while the sun-starved winter flowering jasmine is putting on a good but stunted show next to it. Our little ornamental cherry is blooming as well. It did that last year and I thought it was just confused because we had such a warm winter, but now I am thinking it is actually a winter-flowering variety. And the Viburnum Tinis in front is also blooming, it seems to like its spot and has gotten a lot bigger in just a few years. But generally the garden looks pretty bleak and bare. I planted a bunch of new tulips and daffodils in the autumn, I hope they will come up in Spring but I never seem to have much luck with bulbs.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Memories of Japan

There have been several pleasant reminders of our Japan holiday this week.  The 2017 calendar arrived that I ordered online using twelve chosen photographs from our holiday, and it's now gracing my desk area where I can look at it every day.

I also made a bag. I had bought a metre of home dec weight Japanese fabric for myself at Okadaya in Tokyo, thinking it would make a nice bag (I also bought a similar metre for the m-i-l so she can make a bag as well).  A colleague at work passed on a copy of LoveSewing magazine this week which I enjoyed reading, and it included this pattern by Melissa Wastney for a Hold Everything Tote.  Apparently it's taken from her book 'Sweet & Simple Handmade'.  I liked the vintage vibe of the bag and thought it would be a great project for my Japanese fabric.



I cut it out on my day off and made a start on it, then I finished it off today. I made a few modifications: I interfaced the lining and the upper panel of the outer bag because my fabric doesn't have a lot of body, I cut the handles in one wide piece each and also interfaced them, and I added a magnetic closure.  The lining is the dragon Japanese fabric I bought to go with the geisha panel, and I added a contrast top to the pocket out of the red sashiko fabric. It was a satisfying make as it wasn't very difficult but the end result looks relatively sophisticated.





I've also been working on the Japanese zipped pouch. I finished the quilting on all three pieces and the last few evenings I've hand-stitched in the zipper and am now hand-stitching the seams to join the three pieces into a pouch.  It's nice to work on something with fine hand sewing. The construction of the pouch is fairly different from how I would normally make a bag here in the UK. Normally you would finish the outside pieces, then seam on the lining so that the raw edges are all hidden inside, and of course you would do most of the sewing by machine including the zip. This kit is designed to be completely sewn by hand, with a lot of patience and detail work. So all three pieces are completely finished before you add the zip and join them together with a whipstitch done from the inside. It's a fun project. I also liked the subtlety of the fabrics.


I finished the Fairwinds hat this week as well, and I wore it out today in about 5 degrees Celsius and found it surprisingly warm.  The double band over the ears is lovely, and this Debbie Bliss Blue-Faced Leicester that I got in the sale at Thread and Patches is silky and soft.  With that off the needles I've started a cowl pattern now using some stash yarn.



On my day off I had ambitions to do hours of dollshousing but in the end I had to force myself to do one hour because I was having so much fun sewing the tote bag (not to mention I was procrastinating).  I hung all five hanging baskets I made a while back onto the Victorian Gazebo porch and touched up the green paint on the bottle tops I used. The plastic they are made out of doesn't take paint very well so it flakes off very easily. I think this project is pretty much finished now apart from fixing down the porch furniture with tacky wax, and we even tidied up all the mess in the workshop left behind from the build.


I bought a fun new patchwork pattern.  I was looking on the website of Poppy Patch over in Great Doddington for something else when I came across this pattern. It's by an Australian designer Hatched and Patched and it's a charming, whimsical mixture of pieced blocks, applique and embroidery.  DH looked at the thick packet of pattern pages and said he looks forward to seeing the finished product in 2025. Cheek.



Sunday, 8 January 2017

Startitis

Now that Christmas is over and I no longer have to put in long hours planning the Japan trip, I have the pleasing illusion of more time on my hands. Unfortunately this seems to be developing into a bout of Startitis.  My Spinning Pinwheels Tablecloth is still waiting forlornly in a corner to be quilted, my Pyjama trouser pattern is on the design wall waiting for the next two pairs to be cut. But pinned on top of the pyjama pattern are the Japanese fabric strip quilt and the Geisha scroll wallhanging I made last week, still waiting for some finishing. But what I've actually done this week is pursue on impulse a 60-degree equilateral triangle project to make a table runner, using some leftover Moda Portugal fabric from a long ago quilt. So this project was then pinned on the wall on top of the other three projects.  It's turning into archaeological strata.


The table runner came about because I saw a workshop online being offered for a Triangle Frenzy table topper which I realised must be the same design company behind the table topper I had admired a few years ago when we went on holiday to Norfolk, which was this one:

While googling on Triangle Frenzy designs I came across this Youtube video by Electric Quilt which shows how to use 60-degree triangles to make a table runner. It looked cool and I have a 60-degree triangle ruler so I thought I would have a go.

My 60-degree ruler measures 8 1/4" from base to tip, so I put together two strip sets around 40" long that measured 8 1/4" in width.  You need six A triangles for the central hexagon, and four B triangles for each end so eight B triangles altogether.  I was able to cut four B triangles and three A triangles from each strip set and I had sufficient excess to be able to fussy-cut the A triangles to frame a motif. 

 I starched my strip sets before cutting because of the bias edges, and I pressed all seams open to reduce bulk. I laid out the design first so that I would get the correct orientation on the triangles. Then I seamed the two lengthwise rows of triangles together first, then seamed together the two rows together along the central seam after first basting across the junctions of the points to check for accuracy. Then I quilted in the ditch and applied single fold binding.  It was a relatively quick project to complete, so could make a good gift. Nice to actually finish something!



Another thing I've started in the last few weeks is the kit I bought in Japan for an appliqued zipped pouch.  The kit included all the fabric, the zip, the wadding, and some embroidery floss.  The instructions are in Japanese but the layout diagram had some English labels.  So by using the layout diagram as a Rosetta stone, and also using the kanji recognition app on my tablet, I was able to work out the gist of it.  You do the applique and embroidery stage first onto one side of the pouch (pieced from two fabrics). The applique was a bit challenging because the fabrics in the kit are not quilting fabric, they're more loosely-woven with woven patterns rather than printed, and they fray very easily.  Embroidery is not my strong suite but I managed the bee and I substituted the word 'Summer' for the random-English word Happy in the original.


After completing the applique/embroidery, each of the three pieces is turned through with the lining and wadding to create three finished pieces. The next stage is quilting. I've started on the back piece and am partway through in this picture. I am failing to get small even stitches partly because the layers are fairly bulky. I've turned the base over so you can see the lining.



In an effort to get my Idrija bobbin lace doiley finished, I have moved it into the living room and am doing some most nights on my lap in front of the telly, before I work on the quilting of the zip pouch and my usual TV knitting. It is awkward to do bobbin lace on the lap with such a large pillow but at least it is slowly getting done. I've had to join on some more thread as I am running out on some of the bobbins.


TV knitting is still the Fairwinds Hat.  I've had a couple of false starts on it because the pattern says to cast on for 100 stitches but when I tried it on after a few inches, it seemed far too loose. I like a hat to be snug over my ears.  I pulled that out and cast on 90 stitches instead, and knit the folded brim and turned the hem.  But when I carried on with the hat itself, which is supposed to be floppy, it was fitting far too close to my head.  So I had to pull out a few more inches back to the joining row for the brim, increase more stitches, and re-knit.  This is where I am so far and I think it is going to be ok this time. To avoid purling I am wrapping and turning to knit the purple rows in stockinette from the inside, which is creating an unavoidable 'seam' but I've decided to live with that.


As you know, my dollshouse club Shed project has been hanging over my head for some time. I wanted to get it out of the way so that I can move on to renovating/finishing my own houses in time for the club visit this July, so I made a bit of a push on the shed over the holidays.  I've now progressed the inside as far as I can out of my current stash. My theme is a writer's retreat from the 1920s-1940s. It is  still looking fairly bare but I am going to a couple of shows in February and March where perhaps I can pick up more things. 




The mirror is positioned so that you can peek inside the octagonal tower to the windowseat.


So I'm going to put the project to one side for now so I can move on to other things.

I also started this week on machine knitting another machine knitted tee from the denim Panama cone I bought months ago. It will be the same pattern as the duck egg version but I'm doing a ribbed hem instead of a picot hem at the bottom (I might still do a picot hem on the sleeves and neck because it looks nice). I've only done the back so far.

And the last thing for this week was a bit of primitive woodwork on Bank Holiday Monday.  Since changing my PC and monitor several months ago, my monitor had been raised up on some books because it didn't fit on my old stand.  I scrounged some dregs of wood from the shed and managed to cobble together a monitor stand despite my total inability to cut a straight line.  It wobbles but luckily the weight of the monitor holds it down fine.  And painting it white disguised a lot of defects. It's a big improvement on a stack of books.



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