Sunday, 30 December 2018

And so quickly, it's over

It's Sunday night so I have to go back to work tomorrow, bleah.  DS and DH planned ahead much better than I did, and they don't go back until Wednesday (Tuesday is a holiday).  I tried getting up earlier this morning in preparation for getting up tomorrow, and the only result was that I felt half wrecked all morning until I gave in and took an hour-long nap. Which doesn't bode well for tomorrow.

We survived the holiday.  Operation 'Pretend the House is Always this Clean' went off very well and the in-laws really enjoyed themselves apart from arriving with colds and feeling a bit ill for the whole visit. We bought them a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle so that kept them busy in between meals and cups of tea.  I did a lot of knitting while keeping them company.  I've turned the heel on my second Christmas barf yarn sock and knit most of my Secret Garden Shawl which is turning out to be quite big. Mine isn't looking like the picture on the kit because my variegated yarn is shading in a different way. So mine is more yellow (the picture had more pink instead of yellow) but I still like it - and I really like this yarn (Scheepjes Secret Garden).

Before the guests arrived, I finished the two Christmas baubles I posted about last week, I'm pleased with how they turned out.  I think they look a bit luxurious.  Tobias and The Angel sell their baubles for £35 each, mine cost nothing apart from buying the polystyrene ball as I had everything else in my stash.

By the time DH took the in-laws home, I'd been inside the house for almost four days.  I tottered out to the mall like some kind of convalescent with rubbery legs to see what was on sale.  Nothing much of interest in our small shopping area, apart from Wilko have some useful Curver storage baskets on sale which are a good size for fat quarters. 

Although I couldn't do much craft apart from knitting while we had guests, I did escape to the sewing room several times for bouts of cleaning and tidying.  I've given the whole room an overhaul - starting with installing a longer blind cord so I can actually open the blind now and admit daylight. Sadly the daylight revealed a lot of cobwebs and filth so there was a fair amount of hoovering and cleaning to do.  I've gone through all the glory holes where I'd shoved back project leftovers over the years, pressed and re-folded a tonne of fabric, sorted through my fat quarters, and thrown out some upholstery fabric and hand-me-downs that I have never used and will never use.  The whole room feels so much better now to me.  The only downside is the depressing amount of fabric I have discovered.  I could probably make 25 bed-sized quilts before making a significant dent in the stash.  I feel guilty about all the money tied up in the fabric and also a bit sad about the unrealised dreams.  Some of the projects have been waiting so long that I don't think I want to make them any longer as my tastes have changed.  Hopefully I will get to some of the others - if not now then perhaps when I retire.

I also have to decide what to do about this elephant in the room:

Yes, this is an entire crate of leftover scraps.  A couple of years ago I spent hours and hours cutting up the previous crate of scraps into sized pieces as per the Bonnie Hunter scrap system - and I've never used any of it.  Do I want to spend hours more cutting up this lot?  Or just throw it out?  Or spend money to post it (and it's heavy) to a charity such as Project Linus?  For the moment I am trying to ignore it.

Re-energised by the cleaner, brighter sewing room, I've actually managed to sew four blocks for my 30s Sampler Quilt since the guests left!

I checked my seam allowance accuracy and it was indeed out.  I tested it a few times on scraps to work out where I need to set the needle position for an accurate allowance.  Although that didn't help with the Spools block above which required set-in Y-seams.  I couldn't use my quarter-inch foot for those as I needed to stop and start on an exact point, and I couldn't see the point using the quarter-inch foot so had to switch to a clear foot.  Now that the seam allowance is more accurate, the rest of the blocks have come out much better.  The bottom one is still a bit wonky but I think that was cutting error.  I think my sewing machine needs a service: the thread cutter barely works now and there are various other issues. I've had it serviced since we moved but it's probably a few years ago now.

Also since the in-laws left, I've built and installed the little shingled roofs for the most recent porch on my Japanese dollshouse.

And I've stained/painted the pieces for the final porch and assembled its inner wall (aka the gluey octopus). Once again I had some gaps but I've managed to fill them either with glue (for the small gaps) or an inserted filler board for wider gaps. I feel heartily glad this is the last of the four porch walls, three of which were a nightmare and only one of which went together easily.

Did you receive any crafty gifts for Christmas?  M-i-l gave me a nice half yard of red flowery fabric with a reproduction feel which will fit nicely with my stash.  And the in-laws paid for a book I bought myself on Floral Bucks Point Lace by Alexandra Stillwell which was recommended by my teacher at Knuston.  I've had a few more lacemaking sessions on my Bucks Point hexagonal edging as I am still trying to get it finished but I've still got another corner and a few more inches to go. And my dollshousing friend in France sent me some cute little house models (one china and one resin) and some laser-cut 1/12th scale paper doilies.  I hope you got some nice things too.

I've made a few more bookings for our trip to Japan in the spring:  I've booked the rental car; we went and got our international driving permits at the post office and I've got the exchange vouchers for the Japan rail passes.  I'm sort of looking forward to the trip but at the same time a bit terrified at the scale of the venture. I've booked the whole trip myself so I just hope it all works the way it's meant to.  A long time ago I read some good travel advice which went something like this:  The only essentials are your passport and credit card, the rest is gravy.  I always tell myself that on the way to the airport when I am obsessing about what I've forgotten.  Are you looking forward to a special holiday in 2019?

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Feeling a bit like christmas

We're halfway through our weekend cleaning blitz and things are starting to look pretty good.  Tomorrow we will evict DS from his room and sterilise that to turn it into a guest bedroom, and put the final polish on the dining room, bathroom and kitchen.  It's a bit like spring cleaning, having guests is the impetus to finally tackle things we've been ignoring or not had time to deal with, like de-scaling the kettle and mopping the basement floor..

It's a good thing I had my stitches out last week because at the beginning of this week I came down with another cold.  I wouldn't have been able to blow my nose last week and probably would have suffocated.  I soldiered on until Wednesday when I had to stay home from work and just sleep all day.  Thursday was my day off and by Friday I had improved enough to go in for my last day of work before Christmas. Turns out several other people on my team are sick with a cold as well so I guess it's doing the rounds.  Now DS and DH are both claiming I've infected them. I hope not, I don't want them to be ill over Christmas.

Before I got sick, I finished the touch up staining on the Japanese dollshouse 2nd floor porch.  It's not hinged yet but looks good sitting in place.  It doesn't have its little roofs yet, they're in a later chapter. I've opened a few more chapters which are basically a repeat to build the left hand porch.  It's a bit tedious to contemplate doing it all again for a fourth time but that will be the final porch before moving on to the roof. Something to tackle over the Christmas holiday.

I did a lot of knitting while I was sick because I could do that without having to move, so I managed to finish the edging on my ten-stitch triangle shawl.  Once I felt better, I wet blocked it.  I was amazed at how much it relaxed and stretched out - it's huge now.  Considering it's knit from about 16 or so little skeins of variegated sock yarn, I think it looks pretty good.  I'm glad I knit the solid colour edging which helps tie it all together.  I finished it with a little 3-stitch i-cord along the top edge. It feels appropriate that I've finished this just before Christmas because all the little sock skeins came out of last year Opal sock yarn Advent Calendar.

Once I finished that, I needed a new project so tottered upstairs to grab the kit I bought a while back to knit the Shawl of Secrets in Scheepjes Secret Garden yarn.  This is an unusual yarn which reminds me of Noro Silk Garden but without the scratchiness.  It's 20% silk, 20% cotton, and 60% polyester and each skein is a different variegated colourway.  The shawl pattern is a simple triangle alternating stocking stitch and garter stripes, letting the yarn be the star.  I'm enjoying the knit.

I hadn't been down in the sewing room all week and I've come to realise that I don't really like going in there any more.  I was trying to analyse why.  It can be quite cold in there, and it feels dark since the window blind is really hard to open as the cord is too short for me to reach easily with the sewing table in the way.  It's also extremely cluttered and not very clean because it's a very long time since I had a proper sort out and put things away properly. I feel cut off when I'm down there as I can't hear the door bell, and the phone is so far away that I have to run like a maniac to answer in time. And I don't have a TV any more like I used to have in the old house before they got rid of the analogue signal.  I've turned up the radiator in there to warm it up and I've ordered a longer replacement blind cord.  Hopefully some time over the holiday I can do some tidying up. 

Anyway, I made myself go in and tackle another block in the 30s sampler quilt series.  This is a small block (9inches finished) with a lot of pieces.  I am not the world's most accurate sewer, and even though I was trying to be careful, the cumulative error over so many seams has resulted in a rather wonky block which is both bigger and smaller than it is supposed to be depending on where you measure.    I'm leaving it for now, if I really can't get it to fit into the finished top then I might need to try again.  I think I should probably check my seam allowance for accuracy but it's probably errors in cutting as well.

I got my biopsy results a few days ago and unfortunately I am going to have to have surgery on my nose to remove a superficial tumour.  That will probably be sometime later in January.  I'll be off work for about a week, I'll have to have some good craft projects lined up to occupy myself.

I've started a last minute Christmas make, which is decorating a couple of polystyrene balls with fabric, ribbon and beads along the lines of some that I saw featured on Kirsty's Handmade Christmas last year.  I made notes at the time and bought a couple of plain balls at Hobbycraft.  So far I've glued on the fabric and some ribbon and braid, but I will be adding more embellishments and hanging loops.

I hope you are all ready for Christmas and are looking forward to a happy holiday!

Sunday, 16 December 2018

The most time-consuming time of the year?

I was trying to figure out why I have no craft photos this week, then I realised it's because pretty much every spare minute has been either spent on putting up christmas decorations or cleaning the house to get ready for guests.  So if you are only visiting for the crafting eye-candy, there's nothing to see here - sorry!

On my day off, I did spend a few hours dollshousing and I glued the ceiling onto the upper hallway of the Japanese house and constructed the handrail for the balcony.  When I stood the almost-completed porch in place on the house though, I realised it's a completely different colour than the rest of the house.  I obviously didn't stir the wood stain enough because everything I stained recently has come out a light brown, whereas the rest of the house is dark oak.  I'm going to try re-staining some of the pieces on the new porch to help it blend in more but I think I already sealed some of the timbers with matt varnish, oops.

I haven't done any sewing.  I did a bit more lacing on my Bucks Point hexagonal edging and I'm now knitting I-cord along the top edge of my triangular shawl, having finished the lace edging on the two triangular sides.

Meanwhile the decorations are now all up and the house looks reasonably nice.  I think I've struck more of a balance this year between my own tendency to over decorate, and the quiet elegance I admire in christmas magazines.   Both trees look nice, and I used some real holly we trimmed off our holly tree when we were putting up the trellis to decorate some ledges and windowsills.  The cleaning is still a work in progress and the big blitz will be this coming weekend as the in-laws arrive on Monday.

Meanwhile this week was my office christmas lunch with my team.  This year we were in a gorgeous old half-timbered house called Wygston's House, one of the oldest houses still standing in Leicester, dating  from 1490. We had to pay for our own lunch but the food was very nice and my manager did buy us a round of drinks. Definitely hugely better than the last time I went to the team lunch which was in a crowded cramped place with sticky tables. This year felt very christmassy and elegant.

And then this weekend we enjoyed a family Christmas treat with a weekend break in Oxford, our favourite city.  DS rode in with us then went off to join his girlfriend while we spent the day ambling from cafe to cafe, with intermittent christmas shopping in the Covered Market, at the Christmas market and visits to bookstores.  All very relaxing apart from the driving rain and gusting winds which caused me to break not one but two umbrellas as they both blew inside out multiple times.  We met back up with DS and girlfriend and treated them to supper at a Chinese.  They went off again and we stopped in at a lovely quiet pub called The Three Goat's Heads, for cocktails and in my case a spot of knitting on my christmas sock.  We stayed overnight very centrally at historic Oriel College, booked through University Rooms, who hire out college rooms on a bed and breakfast basis out of term time.  We had breakfast this morning in the college's impressive hall with a hammerbeam ceiling and a gorgeous christmas tree in the bay window. As you can see from the sun coming in the windows, it's a much nicer day today thankfully.

After breakfast we strolled along the misty Christchurch Meadows and watched some thatchers at work putting a new thatched roof on some buildings near Christchurch college. After more tea in yet another cafe, it was along to the newly revamped Westgate shopping mall which now looks like something worthy of London, and a bit more christmas shopping.  A sushi lunch where DS joined us and it was back home we went, all feeling very full and very relaxed.  The cat was glad to see us as of course she had long since eaten the extra food we had left out for her yesterday.

I hope your christmas prep is well in hand and that you are getting some time to relax as well!

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Once again dollshouse knowhow applies to the real world!

Last year I figured out how to build our pergola out in the garden by planning out how I would build one in dollshouse scale.  This year, dollshouse logic has solved the troublesome issue of what to do with the wires from four CCTV cameras sprawling around our front rooms.  I spent ages trying to think where we could conceal the ugly CCTV hard drive and monitor  on the main floor and still have the camera wires reach to connect.  Bolt of lightning moment when I suddenly thought that, if it were a dollshouse, I would just drop them down through the floor to the basement out of sight. So that's what we did.  I knew there were sections of floorboards pre-cut from previous owner's renovations in both the dining room and living room.  So with a bit of measuring I was able to drill up through the dollshouse room ceiling in the basement, coming up underneath the removable floorboard in the dining room.  We bought two boxes of cable clips from B&Q and clipped the porch camera wire and the two camera wires  coming into the dining room, down and along the skirting and dropped all three wires down through the hole into the dollshouse room.  We peeled back the living room carpet, lifted the board there, and drilled up from the basement workroom to do the same with the camera wire coming into the living room.  All four wires now lead into the basement hallway where we've installed a £7 cabinet from the junk shop to hold the drive and monitor.  I still need to clip the wires up out of the way at basement level, but at least the main living floor is clear and tidy and the CCTV is functional.

It's been a DIY-filled weekend as we also installed the trellis at the side of the house today, to raise the level of the side wall to make it harder to climb over (I hope - I'm a bit concerned the trellis is so sturdy that we've actually made it easier... but it looks higher at least).  That pretty much concludes our defensive measures, let's hope it's sufficient and things improve. Our last exhausted act was to trim off the trunks of our two christmas trees (one medium-sized for the hall, one small for the dining room) and get them into their stands.  It was really time for a cup of tea after all that lot!  We'll start decorating them after work this week.

I was glad to be feeling up to all of the above, because Tuesday I had my two punch biopsies on my nose, fastened with a stitch each, and felt pretty cr*p the rest of the day and Wednesday when I went back to work.  It was done under a local anaesthetic (sp?) but was still fairly unpleasant, particularly putting the stitches in.  The doctor also removed the BCC on my back which didn't hurt at all, no nerves there?  But the wounds are healing well and I'm getting the stitches out on Tuesday.  Today I had the fun job of figuring out how to wash my hair without getting the stitches wet, managed to do it very carefully in the shower and with a towel handy for blotting.

So I spent a lot of time Tuesday and Wednesday sitting fairly motionless in my armchair trying not to move my nose much - it's surprising how much you need to do that for smiling, laughing, yawning, sneezing etc.  I kept busy with stitching up a couple of little kits from my personal advent calendar.

I made a little tree ornament from a Trimits kit - these are such good value at only £2.50 each.

And I stitched a magnetised needleminder from Sue Hawkins Needleworks - you can see it holding my needle on my Christmas House cross stitch here.  You can also see the room scene I finally finished last week and forgot to blog

I also forgot to blog last week that I made some pattern weights.  I've been wanting to make some for a while but the tutorials  I saw were either stuffed with rice (bad idea in a basement sewing room where they might attract vermin or moisture) or sand (too messy).  Then I saw a brilliant idea online of filling them with aquarium gravel.  I used the general construction shape from this video, but cut my rectangle 8.5 inches by 4.5 inches.  I filled each one with 200g of gravel (2kilo bag only £3 from Wilko) and just stitched them shut on my sewing machine.  I didn't bother with a ribbon handle as it seemed unnecessary. Voila! 10 pattern weights made from scrap fabric.  I just hope I remember I've got them next time I am using a paper pattern with fabric.

Once I started feeling better, I did some dollshousing this week on my Japanese dollshouse.  I put together a kit for a 'bamboo' made out of cut-out paper leaves, wire and kebab stick.  After I took this picture, I decided it looked too much like green paper so I dry brushed the leaves with some ochre which breaks them up a bit more realistically.  I'm preparing the ceiling for this room so once that's glued on, the bamboo will be at the back of the room and not highly visible.

I finished the rest of the sliding windows for the balcony and installed them, and now I'm working on the balcony structural supports.

On my day off, when I was still feeling a bit grotty, I made a push to finish my Torchon Lace bauble wrap and then spent a couple of hours making a pig's ear of the join that connects the beginning to the end of the lace to form a tube.  Joining lace is hard to do neatly, and as it isn't something that I do very often since I mostly work samples, I'm really bad at it.  In my own defense, I stupidly followed the instructions in the pattern book to knot off every pair with a reef knot. All's that did was to create a ridge of knots which interrupts the pattern, especially for the thick gold thread. I managed to bodge the join in the end to look acceptable from a distance.  Here's the good side, which I'm pleased with:

And here is the horrible join which is distorting the pattern terribly.  The 'spider' at the bottom has morphed from a neat oval into a giant splodge, and  there are several other problems.  I'll just have to hang the bauble so that side faces the tree trunk  :)

I did a bit of sewing this week, more because I felt I should than because I actually felt like it.  This is a smaller block which will finish at 9 inches, for my 30 sampler quilt.  I need to resew the solid purple triangles because I haven't ended up with sufficient seam allowance to avoid cutting off the points. You can see I am partway through stitching machine blanket stitch around the fused applique shapes.

This week will be the office christmas team lunch for both myself and DS at our respective workplaces - DH already had his last week. So two more weeks of work and I'll be on holiday for the holiday!  I've booked off the week of Christmas so I won't be back at work until New Year's Eve. I'm looking forward to the break.  Hope your festive preparations are well in hand!

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Pulling up the drawbridge

It feels like siege mentality this week, with most of my limited free time going on measures to combat the vandals.

On my day off I spent about 2.5 hours setting up the CCTV just on the dining room table.  The instructions that come with it aren't much help but there are several Youtube videos which show other people connecting it up which were much more help.  Then I spent another couple of hours planting out our new hedge at the front that I am hoping will grow up and over the low wall to prevent people sitting on it (eventually).

And today we spent around 5.5 hours installing just two cameras.  That probably sounds totally inept, and I'm not saying it wasn't, but it took us the first 3.5 hours just to drill a hole big enough to accept the camera cable through our foot-thick brick walls.  Our porch wall seems to be a double sandwich of bricks with a middle filling of rubble/more brick/cavity, not sure which.  We had to break out the longest drill which is about 15 inches and it only just went through.  We were attempting to make a hole right at the top of the brick peak where it meets the wood roof, hoping for a weak point.  It worked well on the inside and outside, but we were stymied for about two hours by the middle rubble bit which kept collapsing and blocking the hole.  The middle bit was too deep to be tackled with normal stabby tools like screwdrivers, chisels or crowbars, and the fragments were too big to dislodge and rake out.  It took an exhausting marathon of hammering with various implements and drilling with the big drill before we finally broke through a sufficiently wide hole to pull through the camera connectors which are about the diameter of my ring finger.  I thought we were home and dry then, but it took more than another hour to get the camera adjusted  because once it was screwed to the soffit (the wood bit) then the screws that would let you adjust the camera angle were inaccessible.  We settled in the end for an adequate camera angle, not perfect.  We might try again later (next year...)  It was still light out by that point so we put up a second camera on the corner of the house so the picture overlaps the first camera slightly.  DH is exhausted because he was doing all the heavy work like moving the enormous ladder multiple times and hefting the massively heavy giant hammer drill. We've just brought the cables into the house for now and haven't made any decisions about where the equipment is going to be kept, so there are cables draped everywhere and the equipment is still all over the dining table.  We are eating our meals perched on the far end.  There are two more cameras to install next time we have some free daylight hours, hopefully drilling into the brick to mount those cameras will go alright.  We always have trouble drilling into brick.  Either it's too hard and you can't drill at all, or the drill hits a hard bit and deflects and your hole is in the wrong place.  We'll have to drill as well to install the trellis that will raise the height of our side gate wall. Sigh.

So not a huge amount of crafting this week.  But I did get to have a day out yesterday to the Makit Lacemaking, Quilting & Needlecraft Christmas Fair at Cranmore Park in Solihull, going on a coach trip with the Nene Lacemakers. This was my second time visiting the fair and it's quite an enjoyable day out.  It's a good size and well laid out with lots of room to move about and get up to the stands.  For a multi crafter like myself, it's a good event because there are fabric stalls, yarn stalls, beading stalls, silk ribbon embroidery, cross stitch, a fabulous stall of antique textiles, some craft book stalls and of course lots of lace suppliers.  The only thing on my shopping list was some more fine pins for Bucks Point, and I also picked up some more blue film for covering patterns.    But on my way around I also acquired some pretty bobbins and a couple of useful divider pins:

Some fat quarters - the printed ones were only £1.50 and I liked them.  The Kona Solids were £2 and are for my 30s Sampler Quilt.  I also ordered three more solids from Doughty's this week because I didn't have the right shade of purple for the pattern, plus I ordered a red and a pink.  Funny how I am supposed to be using up scraps to make this quilt but I'm having to buy additional fabric to do so.

And I got this wonderfully made 1/12th scale lace pillow stand from Brian Goodwin. for my dollshouse  He makes full size lace pillow stands and other wood items, but randomly had these intricate miniature duplicate stands and also lacemakers candle stands to go with them.  I just need to make a lace pillow to go on it.

I bought a pretty embroidered small linen cloth and an oval crochet mat (top picture under the bobbins) from the antique textile lady as well as some of her antique buttons. And I even found something for DH for Christmas:  some shadowbox frames which were being cleared for only £3.99 each which he can use for his models.

As yesterday was the first of December (how did THAT happen???) I  put up a few decorations when I got home: the garland up the stairs (this year enlivened with some battery-powered twinkly lights) and the door wreath, and a couple of advent calendars.  I've made my own personal advent calendar this year by recycling the clever cube that the sockyarn calendar came in last year.  The little compartments behind the doors are perfect for popping in fat quarters, small craft supplies, sweets etc.  That's where some of the things I bought yesterday have ended up, and will be a surprise later in the month (because for once my erratic memory will be a bonus!).

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Christmas prep

I'm being more organised about Christmas this year than usual.  I've already posted a couple of gifts and today we went and did a pre-emptive shop for the kinds of things that turn scarce in a few more weeks when the supermarket shelves begin to look like they've been ravaged by wolves.  DS and I did a little menu planning for when the inlaws are going to be here and now we've stocked up on treats, crackers, chestnuts, a couple of roasts and some wine.  The roasts have gone in the freezer obviously.  We also popped over to the DIY store to pick up some gutter hangers for christmas lights.  We won't be able to string the lights in the trees this year like usual, due to our ongoing problem with teen vandals, but we think we can string them up higher on our porch guttering out of reach.

I've also started a new bobbin lace project which is a bauble wrap in Torchon Lace.  This is a pattern from a Lace Guild publication I bought last winter called 'Take a Box of Baubles' which has several patterns in various laces for decorating Christmas baubles.  Hopefully it will be a relatively quick project and I'll get it done in time for decorating the Christmas tree this year.  I have a box of red baubles I got in the sales last year so I'm doing the lace in white with gold sparkly gimp to contrast with the red. I got the filling pattern wrong in the first two side triangles but now I know what to do for the rest of the wrap.  The first two triangles will be a design feature.  :)  I'm kind of proud of myself that I sort of remember how to do Torchon spiders (the oval cluster in gold) but I had to look up how to do Torchon ground stitch.

 This is the picture from the book:

I sewed another block for my 30s sampler quilt.  This is a smaller block at 9 inches square, compared with the previous blocks which have been 12 inches square.

You can start to get an impression of what the quilt will look like now that I've done several blocks but there are many more to go.  It will be quite a busy quilt, not everyone's cup of tea but I like scrappy quilts.

I'm still marking diagonal lines on the applique quilt and still struggling to achieve lines that look parallel and evenly spaced.  There are a couple of places where cumulative error is really showing, so I may have to go back and try to do better there.  I'm on the last row of the 25 blocks.

For the Japanese dollshouse, this week I worked more on the balcony/porch room.  I've decorated this one with Japanese prints on the two side walls, taken from a colouring book that was quite cheap from a discount shop.  I'm currently making the sliding windows and doors to finish off the porch.  Then it will be construction of the balcony and railings, always a bit tricky.  This will be my third set then there will be one more set left to make when I build the lefthand porch.  I've opened up to kit 81 now so the big box they came in is much emptier than it used to be, only 39 kits to go.

I also finished the second 50s style TV and made a couple of cushions for the low chairs which match the dressing table mirror cover.  This is Japanese fabric that I bought in Tokyo when we visited a few years ago.

Sadly we had more vandalism this week.  We don't know when they did it, probably at night, but they had a go at pushing over one of our brick gate pillars.  They succeeded in cracking off the top couple of feet of the pillar, but it's still being held in place because of the gate post fixed into it.  It looks terrible but I think we might just leave it that way for the winter.  Partly because it's not great weather for mortar setting plus the mortar would be vulnerable to further vandalism, and partly because perhaps if they feel a sense of achievement they might leave us alone for a while.  It's certainly encouraged us to take further measures for home security, some of which we perhaps should have done earlier like we've now installed a door viewer.  I've also ordered some trellis which we will fix at the side of the house to make it harder to climb over our garden gate wall. After some investigation I have additionally ordered a budget CCTV system which looks like it is going to be time consuming to set up and install although it has good reviews on Amazon for being comparatively straightforward as these things go.  Hopefully it will act as a deterrent. Poor old house, it's been standing since the Victorian era.  Bet the Victorians would have had better ways of dealing with ignorant teenage yobs.  Where's a good workhouse when you need one?

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Coach trip

I came across a day trip by coach to the Potteries online, offered by a ceramics studio, so I swapped my days this week and booked it for a day out.  Although feeling little urge to make pots myself, I do quite like some ceramics and have various small collections, plus it's always interesting to see how things are made.  It was quite an enjoyable day.  We went first to the Gladstone Pottery Museum in Stoke on Trent, which is a preserved manufactory with bottle ovens and demonstrations. I had been before many years ago, but quite enjoyed a second visit.  We had a tour guide but you don't need one as all the rooms are well explained. It sounds like it was a horrendous life for the workers in all these factories, and life expectancy was very low in the industry. But the skill levels were amazing.

(below: inside a bottle oven showing the saggars stacked up the way they would be for a firing)

Also on site is a gallery of historical tiles with some gorgeous things, and a museum of sanitary ware.  Why don't we have gorgeous sinks like these Victorian examples any longer?

After lunch we were supposed to have a tour of the Moorcroft factory and visit their pop up Christmas shop. However when we got there, the factory was closed, the pop up shop not running yet, and the staff denied all knowledge of having booked our tour.  So boo to Moorcroft customer service!  Luckily our organiser knew that the Middleport factory museum was nearby and open so we headed over there.  I hadn't heard of Middleport but it turns out they are the home of Burleigh which I have always lusted after.  And there was a large seconds shop with everything 30% off.  So merry christmas to me, hee hee!  This is a pic off their website, I got four of these calico pattern mugs in various colours, and a few other things which I am not going to disclose for fear of looking like I have a problem.

Burgess Blue Calico 50th Anniversary Osbourne Mug
Although there is a working factory, it wasn't open to tours when we were there, but you can self-guide around some of the historic parts of the complex and also they've let some units to other potters and artisans who have open studios there.  So it was quite a nice visit and recommended if you are in the area (and the Gladstone museum as well).  I've often thought it would make quite a nice holiday to stay in the Stoke on Trent area and visit all the remaining factory shops and museums. Unfortunately DH does not share my enthusiasm.

I haven't had any time to work on the Japanese dollhouse this week but I did manage to sew another block for my 30s sampler quilt.  This was a bit involved to construct as you had to do a partial assembly, then the hand applique, then finish the assembly. It looks a bit puckered because I sprayed it with starch afterwards to protect it while it waits for the other blocks to get made. There are 42 blocks and so far I'm getting about one done a week so it is going to take a while.

I also finished my Itineris Shawl this week.  It's turned out to be a good size and the corner that's knit in the sock yarn doesn't obviously stand out as being too different from the main body knit from the Batik Swirl cake. I like it, it's cosy to wear and feels nice.

I needed a new commuter knitting project to take on the coach trip, so I've started knitting a sock in the DK Christmas yarn I bought last year, which some would say looks like Christmas barf but I'm enjoying it.  It's acrylic with a sparkle strand in it and turns out to be knitting up as a candy cane spiral on a red background which is kind of cool. I'm just doing a plain vanilla sock to let the yarn be the centre of attention.

The broken window is all repaired now and we painted around the moulding on the outside yesterday to seal the small gaps against the weather. We also moved some plants and dug the border along the front wall, ready for 15 hedging plants that should be arriving this week.  I realised that if we can grow something up and over our low wall, it will discourage or hopefully even prevent people from sitting on it.  The plants won't be tall enough to do that yet but hopefully will establish and grow next spring.  I went with a Cherry Laurel plant which is supposed to cope with dry shade and grow reasonably quickly. I would rather have had something viciously prickly but none of those plants were assured of coping with the difficult conditions under our big trees next to a wall that casts a rain shadow.  And so life goes on...

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