Sunday, 11 November 2018

Has anyone seen my equilibrium?

I have found it surprisingly difficult to get back on an even keel after the stress of last weekend.  Perhaps in my later middle age I have simply lost my emotional resilience.  Perhaps it is because feeling under siege in your own home is the antithesis of the peaceful sanctuary home should offer.  The gang has not been back in force but there have been a few members hanging out from time to time nearby.  Police advice was to dial 999 if they come back specifically to our house and we feel threatened, and not to confront them again.  But I find myself constantly on the alert for any noises from the front of the house, and feeling like I have to look out the window just in case.  So my day off was not a relaxing day as I happened to be on my own and I felt vulnerable and anxious.  The insurance will cover the broken window but the deductible is almost as much as the quote to replace the window so not worth claiming.  The glaziers are coming in a few days to replace the window.  M-i-l's birthday card turned up a week late but actually had the gift card in it, which is something.  Don't know where it went for several days when it had a first class stamp on it, perhaps via Scotland or something...

Yesterday I attended the Oakley Lace and Needlecraft Day, down near Bedford, and took along my Bucks Point hexagonal bobbin lace edging to work on. I sat with some friendly ladies I've met at past lace days, and it felt good to be doing something normal after all the stress.  This was the first outing for my bodged-up pillow stand and it worked brilliantly.  My back wasn't sore at all because I could sit up straight all day.  You can see in the pic below how much higher up the pillow is from table level, so I'm not having to stoop over it.  It was also the first outing for my tool bag that I sewed a few weeks ago, which also worked brilliantly keeping everything to hand and easy to get at. I got a fair bit of lace done and worked all the way down to the point of the next corner, ready to turn the pillow to work in the next direction.  I think I'm about 5/6th of the way around now so the end is in sight even though still lots to do.

This week on the Japanese dollshouse, I've been preparing the many pieces for the next balcony/porch/opening door for the right hand bedroom.  This is the third door/porch I've done.  The first one was a nightmare because a lot of pieces didn't fit together and you are just juggling too many pieces at once, wet glue getting everywhere, the assembly twisting out of true, I had to hammer some of the pieces to force them together, it was like wrestling a wet gluey octopus.  The second one went better because I did a dry test fit first and corrected all the problems ahead of time, plus did some pre-assembly.  This third one for some reason didn't want to go together very well: there were a number of small discrepancies like pieces a little too short, or a little too thick, and a slot not routed deeply enough.  This part-work must have gone on for a long time with 120 weeks, that's over two years, so perhaps the quality control started to slip in the later stages?  I managed in the end with the help of a lot of clamps, although one window opening is a bit crooked and there are some odd gaps that I had to fill retrospectively. I'm also working on another 50s-style television although I haven't done the aerial for it yet.

I haven't done any sewing this week although I selected some fabrics for the next block in the 30s Sampler quilt.  I've started trying to mark quilting lines on my applique quilt, 3/4s of an inch apart but it is taking forever and it seems impossible to get them parallel.  I should have marked the top before I sandwiched it, but I sandwiched it on the quilting frame almost a year ago before I took the frame down.  And at that point I didn't know how I wanted to quilt this top.  I want the lines to be parallel to the diagonal running through each block, but because the blocks are no longer square now that they are sandwiched, it just won't work and I'm having to bodge and erase a lot. The tentative plan is to machine quilt along the lines in white thread, and to free motion around the applique with invisible thread.  I'm a much better appliquer than I am a machine quilter, so it seems a shame to do poor quilting on a not-bad applique top, but on the other hand it will be more of a shame if it never gets quilted or used. I'll do my best.

I went out and did some gardening this morning but things are only just starting to die back, even things that should be long over like begonias are still going strong.  I cut back a few things but most of the things I would normally be cutting back are still green and some even still flowering.  I'll wait a few more weeks.

I ran out of yarn as expected on my Batik Swirl Itineris Shawl, quite near the top of the extension strip.  For the last little corner I have pulled two sock yarns from my stash which are similar to the colours in the shawl, and I'm holding them together to knit the final triangle.  Hopefully it will look alright, and holding two yarns together mimics the heather effect of the yarn.  The shawl is too big to be a good commuter project any longer so I need to find something else to work on when I'm out.  I'm thinking perhaps some socks using the Christmas sock yarn I bought last year.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Why is life so cr*p sometimes?

It's a bit sad to  re-read last week's post when I was feeling happy after a nice weekend.  This week has been a bit cr*p to be honest.

I found out this week that I've got a bit more skin cancer on my face and back that will have to be removed, a reoccurrence of the issues I had ten years ago.  The back isn't a problem and the spot can be cut/burned away fairly easily.  But the nose is a problem.  Last time I had to have surgery and a skin graft taken from my hip to cover the nose area where the cancer was removed..  When they do my back in early December, they are going to do a couple of biopsies to determine how big the new nose site is, but it may mean more surgery and another graft. And more weeks looking like Frankenstein's cousin afterwards. 

We posted a birthday card to m-i-l on Wednesday with a gift card in it, sent first class so it should have been there Friday at the latest.  It still hasn't turned up so may have been stolen. I don't think there is anything we can do about it, the card was already loaded and activated and the post office will probably just tell us off for sending valuables in the mail.

And to top it off, we've had a front house window broken, probably  by a gang of teenagers that has taken to hanging around the neighbourhood.  We've had a few confrontations with them when they trespass into our property, so the window may have been retaliation.  We've got a police officer coming around tonight hopefully with some advice on what to do.  But it's a horrible feeling to feel under siege in your own home.  I've felt really stressed out all weekend which is upsetting my stomach as well.  We're waiting to see if the insurers will cover the broken window and I've left a message for a glazier that we need the window replaced. Fingers crossed that we're insured and that the glaziers can attend promptly. Luckily DH is working from home so will be on hand to deal with things.

So it's been hard to concentrate on crafts because of the stress.  Earlier in the week I did get the Japanese dollshouse glued onto its base.  I stippled around the area where the house sits to look a bit like gravel, before I glued the house on.  The white board in the picture is the piece that lifts away, that will eventually be the garden.  It's a relief to have the house secured on a nice solid base, although it does make it slightly harder to get up close to work on the rooms.  Also this week I put together a kit for another little dressing table mirror (visible at the back of the room with a fabric cover hanging over it) and for two chairs.  I'm going to make cushions for the chairs out of the same fabric as on the mirror drape.

I sewed a basket block on my day off for my 30s Sampler quilt and this weekend I've appliqued some 30s-style flowers onto it.  I took the flowers from another pattern as I didn't like the tulip and birds suggested in the sampler pattern.  I fused the flowers and stitched around them with machine blanket stitch, then I hand-appliqued the flower centres (in this picture the centres are just pinned on).

Hopefully I'll have some better news to report next week!

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Shopping opportunities

DH kindly drove me over to the Duxford quilt show yesterday, always a nice show for shopping opportunities. It was a cold day and not a lot warmer inside the show, but luckily, as I had been before, I knew to keep my legwarmers and winter coat on while I was shopping. I had a fun couple of hours looking around and seeing what was on offer. There are also some exhibits of quilts to look at (not competitive, but collections by artisans or by groups on display).

I was looking for border fabric for my 30s sampler quilt but despite carefully perusing every fabric vendor, I didn't see any 30s fabrics at all.  Apparently they are completely out of style and I have become a dinosaur clinging to decades-old fabric trends.  Oh well. I eventually found, on the very last stall I came to, some retro-feeling fabrics from Moda and settled for those.  Not exactly what I had in mind but they will be fine I think. The dotted solid will be an inner border and the stripe will be the outer.  Once I got them home I kind of wished I had reversed the quantities so I could do it the other way around, but too late now.

Earlier in the week I hand-appliqued the handles for four little basket blocks while watching TV, and today stitched them together to create block number six.

While at the show I also picked up a few colours of solid greens for this same project as my stash was a bit skimpy on those, some more machine needles and some more Bosal interfacing to replace what I used on the bagmaking, and a few little gifts and stocking stuffers.  On the way home we stopped at Maple Street Dollshouses to see their new quarters in a smaller building along the courtyard from their former home.  They had a nice box of 50p and £1 kits to dig around in, lots of Phoenix kits and bits and bobs.  I was looking for anything that might fit in the Japanese dollshouse but it's such a funny scale (1:20) that there wasn't much.  I got a cheap set of 'copper' bowls that be dirtied up for the kitchen, and a small metal grille that looked kitchen-y.  Also a bag of broken thin flagstones to use for a crazy stone path in the Japanese garden I will eventually make.  DH picked up a bit of terrain material for his hobby of making military scenes with miniature soldiers.

I've done a bit more bobbin lace than usual this week because I've been enjoying using my finished Ansel Camera Bag.  It's turned out really well and I love having everything to hand in a designated place, no more rooting around in a bag trying to find things.  Plus I used to have two smaller bags and what I was looking for never seemed to be in the bag I was looking in.  Now everything is in one place.  I added an inner clasp to keep the sides pulled in under the lid. The strap is adjustable so it can be a shoulder bag if I am also carrying a lace pillow bag, or it can be shortened more like a handbag.

This week on the Japanese dollshouse I stopped procrastinating and made the tatami mats for the final tatami room.  I think there are a couple more mats coming up for one of the balconies but this is the last room with a full tatami floor.  Ironically I am finally getting better at making the ruddy things.

Now I'm going to sweep up some of the furniture kits I skipped over, like this low table.

And I spent some time working out what kind of base I wanted to put the house on, so yesterday DH took me to B&Q where I bought some half sheets of MDF and had them cut to size.   The house will sit on the rear half (where the unpainted bit is), while the front half will lift away to allow the house to open up.  The front half is going to have a small Japanese garden on it (hopefully).  I've put two coats of primer on the MDF and two coats of a neutral grey satin paint. Once that dries I will glue the house on and heave a sigh of relief.  I've been paranoid that the increasing weight would make the decidedly shaky modular structure fracture apart when I am lifting it or moving it around. And the secondhand £5 table is so warped that the house isn't sitting on a flat surface.  Now the house will have a nice stable base to protect it and prevent any flexing. I am probably going to retain the warped table after the build as additional display space, so I sized the base to the width of the table which makes it just a bit wider than the house.  I decided I am not going to put anything to the rear of the house, but I will put a small porch over the side kitchen door so I left some extra room on that side.

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Adventures in bagmaking

I've always felt a bit fascinated with bagmaking, and handmade bags, despite the fact that I can't actually carry one myself - partly because of back issues that demand a balanced load in a knapsack with two straps, and partly because I feel insecure unless I head out the door with a huge amount of 'just in case' items (like knitting and a book) that don't tend to fit into a smaller handbag.  But I like the idea of making bags and indeed have made several in the past as an amateur even though I seldom use them.

But I feel like I have moved up into the semi-professional bagmaking leagues with this Ansel camera pattern that I linked last week.  Unlike my previous homemade bags which were stiffened with quilted wadding and/or whatever interfacing I had lying around, the Sew Sweetness bags are highly structured with both the lining and the outer fabric concealing much internal scaffolding.  The result is a bag that not only stands up by itself but also has a very polished look with no drooping or wrinkles.  The outer shell (of lightweight home dec fabric with sewing motifs) is stiffened with single-sided fusible Bosal foam, which I fused to a layer of Vilene medium woven interfacing already applied to the wrong side of the external fabric to prevent any wrinkles happening from the Bosal (a problem that I had read about online).  The bottom panel of the external bag is further stiffened with an insert of Vilene 71F pelmet fusible interfacing. The lining fabrics (quiltweight cotton) are also stiffened with the Vilene and are sandwiched with cheap fabric to create pockets in which are inserted half-inch thick foam pieces for padding (because it is intended as a camera bag).  The straps are four layers folded into themselves of quilt weight cotton stiffened with the Vilene.

I was a bit concerned about my sewing machine (a Janome 6500P workhorse that must be at least 15 years old) sewing through all the layers, especially where two exterior panels were sandwiching a double-folded strap, but using a 90/14 quilting needle and stitching slowly, it didn't hesitate.  The only problem I did have was that the stitch tension through the thick layers wasn't always great, resulting in a sort of 'ladder' effect on the right side in some cases, but some re-stitching in certain areas improved that. I had read online that the Bosal manufacturers do not recommend steam or any moisture when using their fusible products which I feel restricted me from getting a really crisp press, but it's looking pretty good so far.

This is the inner liner structure, with several custom pockets I added to hold lacemaking items like my lace glasses in their case, and my folding portable lamp. I ran out of the blue fabric so used some pink Tilda fabric from my stash for the remaining pockets. The foam padding will protect the lamp and glasses and other items from any knocks.

And this is the outer shell so far (it's not finished yet) which has turned out fairly well. I've decorated my straps with some ribbon featuring buttons, which I bought online from Wool Warehouse. You can see the side straps with the metal rectangle rings that will take the shoulder strap later on.

You can see how the sides are gaping a little which I also noticed in the pictures of the pattern sample.  I don't want my smaller-than-camera-parts lace items falling out so I need to come up with some arrangement to close the gap - perhaps a velcro flap or an inner tie?

So I'm fairly pleased with how it's going, although it is taking a fair while to put together and isn't a cheap project.  On top of the fabric required, Bosal goes for about £10-£12 a packet over here and I used almost all of one packet plus I had to buy 2m of the Vilene (which I've used a lot of), and the metal brackets and a slider buckle, and I bought a 60" piece of the half-inch upholstery foam online (the smallest amount it came in).  I already had the plastic snap buckle things in my stash, cut off from an old knapsack. But the finished bag should be something I will use for years and will  be great for taking my stuff to lace days and courses.

Earlier in the week I did some work on my Japanese dollshouse.  I've now added the little internal roofs above each sliding door, and the shoe stones in front of them, and the sliding shoji window on the back wall. For some reason the sand supplied to go around the shoe stones was not only a completely different colour from the sand they supplied for the first floor shoe stones, but was also a white glitter which looked completely unrealistic.  So I mixed up some of my own sand using some bird sand and some white sand I had in my stash.  It still doesn't match the first floor but at least they are a matching pair and aren't reflective.

I'm still knitting on both shawls.  On the Itineris Shawl, I realised that I was going to run out of yarn if I kept blindly following the pattern.  So I stopped short on the increases and am now knitting up a side strip with only 20 stitches cast on instead of the pattern's 30 stitches.  I'm now down to a tennis-ball of yarn so it is still possible I will run out.  I don't want to have to buy an entire new cake just to finish up so if the worst happens I may need to unravel some of the side strip and start with 10 or 15 stitches, or perhaps dig around in my stash to see if I have something else that would tone in.

Today we did the garden tidy up that the rain prevented last weekend.  Although the plants don't seem to have read the gardening book.  So while the book is recommending things like 'cut off the faded lavender stalks', the lavender appears to think it is still summer and is flowering away with a second flush of flowers. I'm mulching around plants that still have loads of flowers on them  and even the strawberries are still cropping. Perhaps everything is making up for the time lost during the long hot drought over the summer.  I'll have to have a secondary tidy up in another month when perhaps things will have finally died back.  I'd already planted up some tulip pots a few weeks ago and now I've put some winter flowering pansies into another pot.  There are a few more pots with begonias still flowering in them that I haven't the heart to empty, I guess they will keep going until we have the first really heavy frost.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Disasters in baking

Inspired by a free Craftsy video on gluten-free baking that I dipped into last week, I tried out an American recipe for gluten free oatmeal chocolate chip cookies last night.  I'm not much of a baker and the whole experience reminded me why that is.  I had to buy a range of esoteric 'flours' to make up the recommended gluten free mix.  The estimated preparation time of 25 minutes stretched to almost an hour and trashed the kitchen.  My carefully arranged dough balls all melted in the oven and merged into one giant chocolate chip pancake that was falling off the edges of the tray and burning in the bottom of the oven. At the given cooking time of 10 minutes my pizza was still molten, but five minutes later it was overcooked.  Sigh.  The result is a tupperware full of toffee-coloured chocolate chip flavoured granola.  So not a success.  Investigating online, it appears that I should have had the oven hotter, have chilled the dough, have used extra baking powder as UK powder is apparently weaker than US powder, and possibly cut down the butter.  I'm not a chemist, I just wanted some cookies :(

I was going to do some garden tidying today but luckily it's raining so I don't have to.  Instead I did some work on my Japanese dollshouse this morning.  This week I have put together some kits which make up a little toilet room in the corner of the second landing, containing a tiny sink and a Japanese squat toilet which you can barely see now it's installed. I added a towel hanging from a jump ring.

On the sewing front, I assembled block 5 of the 30s Sampler quilt that I showed cut out last week.  I'm planning to sew a padded storage bag for carrying my lace making supplies in, so I have purchased the Ansel camera bag pattern from Sew Sweetness bags.  I've cut out most of the pieces for the medium size but I'm waiting for some interfacing that I ordered online to arrive in the post.  I'm going to use Bosal foam for stiffening so I was researching tips online for working with it.  There seems to be a wide spectrum of opinion between "this stuff is a miracle that's transformed my bagmaking" right through to "this stuff is awful and it ruined my bag with wrinkles".  I think I might play it safe and not fuse the Bosal to my outer fabric directly which is where the wrinkles seem to be a risk.  I'm going to add some extra pockets inside to hold my lacemaking supplies like my light and my glasses case.

I've moved on to the next room on my Christmas cross stitch now.  We've invited the in-laws for Christmas so I'm going to be having a working Christmas rather than a relaxing one, but it's our turn to have them.  Our favourite Christmas holidays are the ones where we can just chill out for several days of crafting and hobbies, relaxing, watching films and eating/drinking lots.  Having guests means having to wear proper clothes instead of pyjamas, constantly planning/cooking meals and cleaning up, not being able to watch any TV we like, having to all sit in one room and make polite chitchat for most of each day (the in-laws think it is peculiar to have people vanishing off to sit by themselves in another room alone) and not really being able to go anywhere much as they have mobility issues and the weather's not great. My m-i-l loves 'having all the family together' like that but I just find it exhausting after a few days. It makes me realise how much my life depends on my regular craftmaking for relaxation and mindfulness. At least I can knit while I'm sitting with them.

I've left my bobbin lace pillow set up on its stand all week and have done some lacemaking while watching YouTube videos a few evenings.  Yesterday I went out to a local group for a few hours and today my lace friends are coming over so I'm getting more done on bobbin lace this week than usual.  I haven't gone back to the Floral sample I started on the course yet, I'm working to progress the previous hexagonal edging with a view to finishing it before I move on.  I don't want too many outstanding lace projects because a) I forget how to do them and b) it ties up all my 'good' bobbins so subsequent projects have to use the less desirable ones  (my teacher on the course picked up one of my secondhand bobbins and the spangle of beads fell off in her hand because the ancient wire had deteriorated).

Evening knitting this week, as well as working on the ongoing edging and on the commuter shawl, was also knitting up a free kit for a Raccoon key ring charm that came with a knitting magazine recently.  I thought it was cute although I'm not sure what I will do with it. Perhaps DS's girlfriend might like it.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Winter is coming

We spent some time winterising the garden today, although the afternoon sunshine seemed to mock us later on.  But there have already been a few light frosts so it won't be too much longer before we will be glad we tidied up.  So we've scrubbed out the various bird baths and fountains and moved the smaller ones into the shed, added the smaller garden ornaments, and carried in the garden furniture as well.  The shed is now very full.  I haven't done much to the plants yet, I'll wait until the frost starts killing off the bedding, but I did earth up the fuschias for protection just in case. We also moved the hibiscus off the patio and tucked it next to a southwest-facing wall for winter protection. In a strange seasonal time parallel, I'm looking at booking a cottage for a week next summer before all the good ones get booked up.  DH is a bit boggled, he can't think that far ahead.

It feels like I got more done this week on crafts, mainly because I have lightened up on the time commitment I'm putting into learning Japanese.  I'm still trying to do a bit of Japanese every day but I'm no longer trying to churn through the chapters in a couple of weeks each. I've also paused the Skype lessons since they were stressing me out because I am so rubbish at speaking.

So I worked on the staircase for the Japanese dollshouse and managed to get it painted, varnished, assembled and installed this week.  It just needs the bannister rail added around the landing, which I am currently working on.

During TV knitting, I am still working on the lace edging for the 10-stitch triangle shawl, after some early problems and a lot of reversing, I have now got into the rhythm of it.  I think it is going to ruffle slightly, probably because the book says the edging naturally wants to be a shallow curve, but blocking may help flatten it.

I've also been working on my Christmas House cross-stitch in the evenings.  The whole piece  certainly won't be done for this christmas, but I'm almost finished the christmas kitchen (the room on the right in the picture).

I haven't done any more bobbin lace since the course last weekend, partly because I was waiting for a secondhand pillow stand to arrive.   I wanted a stand because it was doing my back in to hunch over a big pillow resting on a table. Not many people make these stands anymore, so when I saw one on Preloved for £5, I snapped it up.  I also wanted one that would take my existing pillows, because some of them are designed to only fit a specific pillow that is fitted with a bracket underneath.  However, when the stand arrived, it quickly became clear why it was sold.  It was nicely made but extremely wobbly, perhaps a home effort by a skilled handyman?  I spent some time analysing why it was wobbling, and then applied a variety of solutions which have improved it quite a lot. 

  • The legs weren't quite even so I've padded a few with adhesive felt to level it.
  • the central post had no sideways bracing. I've duct-taped on a couple of shelf brackets, also with adhesive felt on their bottoms to protect the floor.
  •  the extendable support wasn't clamping tightly into the lower part of the post. I've drilled a second hole higher up and added a second fixing which has made it more stable.
  • the bolts holding the stand together couldn't be sufficiently tightened. I've replaced all but one with proper bolts that can be tightened securely with a spanner.
  • the thinner extendable part of the post was twisting under the weight of the lace pillow and bobbins.  I've braced it on either side with a batten held on with two more bolts.
So it's not pretty, but it's a lot more useable now.  It only wobbles slightly now at the top, which is mostly mitigated by sitting up to the pillow with it butting against my chest. I think if I could replace the final bolt on the pivoting head to one that could be tightened more securely, it would help as well.  But it's a wing nut so that you can adjust the pivot, so I would have to look for a bolt that fits a wingnut.  It's fine for now.

So now hopefully I will get a bit more lace made!

I pieced together block 4 of the 30s Sampler Quilt and cut out block 5. I can't remember if I blogged that I had covered a large scrap of cardboard with some flannel for laying out each block as I cut it?  Then I can just carry it to the sewing machine without disarranging anything.  I really need to choose a border fabric to ensure that the fabrics I am picking for blocks will all go with the border.  I don't have anything suitable in my stash so will need to go shopping.  It's fun to work with such scrappy blocks and use up some of my 30s bits and pieces.

It's Halloween at the end of the month so some of my quilted hangings and dollshouse bits are having their moment in the sun.  I also got out my Lego haunted house and put it on display in the hallway. is having a week where you can watch all their videos for free, through until next Friday 12th October.  I watched a good class with Sara Lawson on interfacing for structure in bags, but couldn't really find anything else I wanted to watch.  There's something about the Craftsy format I find really tedious. I know they've got to reach the common denominator, but I often find the pace really slow and the content repetitious.  Especially when they tell you that you need to sew the seam from A to B, then you've got to sit there while they actually do it on camera even when it's a really long seam.  In fact I find some classes improved if set to double speed, particularly the really slow speakers.  When you eliminate all of that, and the constant reminders about how to use Craftsy, and the chapter headings etc., some of the classes probably boil down to about 90 minutes tops of actual useful information which isn't much for £30 or £35 at the normal price.  I started to watch another bag making class about sewing storage caddies but had to turn it off when the teacher recommended you to use your rotary cutter to cut foamcore board with !!!  She should know better if she works with fabric and shouldn't be recommending anything so damaging to students.  

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Trying new kinds of bobbin lace

The last few years I've mainly been making Bucks Point bobbin lace, and not very much of it since I don't actually fit it into my craft time often enough.  The past few weeks I went back to Torchon lace to make the pincushion square I posted about last week, which was hard because I couldn't really remember how to do Torchon.

I finished the square, with some mistakes which I was able to camouflage when I sewed it onto the pincushion.

Here is the finished pincushion which is a 'biscornu' shape.  I took it to my lace course this weekend and used it. Nice to make something in lace which I can actually use.  I think that's one of the bigger inhibitors from bobbin lace becoming more popular: there is very little to make that modern people actually use.  Nobody wants to launder handmade lace edgings, few people need bookmarks or use cloth hankies, and there are only so many cards you can make (plus people throw them out after all that work you put in).

So I spent the weekend on a Bucks Lace course where I tried floral bucks (Floral Buckinghamshire Point Ground Lace, to give it the full name) for the first time.  After spending approximately 14 hours, I managed to produce one inch of lace:  Ta Da!!  You can't even see it because there are too many pins in the way, lol.

It's an edging, done in relatively fine thread (Madeira Cotona 80) and although it doesn't look like much, it was actually fairly tricky for a first timer.  The challenge now will be to keep going without having a teacher at hand to bail me when I run into a problem.  I found it quite a challenging and tiring weekend but it was good to learn something new.  I have a couple of other normal bucks point projects on the go but I get a bit bored with them because I already know how to do them.  I'm going to get a secondhand pillow stand then perhaps I can leave a pillow set up downstairs and work on it more often than I do now.  Also it will save my back, which gets quite sore hunching over a big pillow on a normal table.

And that's it this week apart from a bit of knitting.  Finishing up the pincushion and getting bobbins and pricking reach for the weekend took up all the craft time this week.  Plus I've had to do some gardening now that it's turned into autumn:  I planted up some pots of bulbs for the spring and started cutting stuff back.  And I'm still picking apples, tonight I made some apple sauce which we had for pudding plus I froze some for later.  There are still apples on the tree which are getting really big, but they don't seem to want to come off when I try lifting and twisting (the technique recommended by Monty Don on Gardener's World!).

Sunday, 23 September 2018

apple time

I've just finished eating an apple fresh picked from our tree in the garden.  It's a funny little dwarf tree that wants to sag to the ground, but the apples are lovely: big and juicy, crisp and just the right balance between tart and sweet.  It was here when we bought the house but we did move it from one side of the garden to the other.  I thought it was young and would grow taller but it only seems to want to spread horizontally so now I'm thinking it's not a tall variety after all. I've also made a few pies from it and there will be more to come.

I sewed another New Look t-shirt last weekend using the leftover whale jersey fabric from the dress I made, and wore that to work once, but it's already getting a bit on the cool side for short sleeved t-shirts.  My sewing room was then tied up for a while because I was using my cutting mat to cut out cardboard panels to make homemade shoe organisers from this prosaic YouTube video. When I re-organised my walk-in closet alcove, I put in a 40cm wide Ikea shelf unit to hold shoes, but they were all piled on top of each other in each shelf opening.  Now I have rough but serviceable cardboard pigeonholes so each pair has its home.

After tidying up all the leftover cardboard scraps and debris, then I cut out the pieces for block 3 of my 30s Sampler Quilt and sewed it together.  I've pulled fabrics for block 4 but haven't cut it out yet.

On my day off I did some work on my Japanese dollshouse, finishing off the join between the new floor and the base units and retrieving all the various sub-kits that I had skipped over while pressing on with the structural components.  I'm going to sweep all those up now so I've started with the stairs from chapters 56 and 57. I've done a preliminary assembly and a dry fit inside the house. Surprisingly the stairs fit fairly well, I just needed to shorten the upper stairs by about 3/16th of an inch so that they will finish level with the upper floor.  Next job is to paint and varnish all the components.  Then I can glue in the main stairs and landing, and assemble the railings. 

I've continued to work on the Torchon Lace Square which I started on the holiday.  It's intended to decorate a pincushion so I'm hoping to get it finished in time to use on my next lace course.  It's been a few years since I did any Torchon lace so I don't really remember how and I'm sort of making it up as I go along (and making mistakes) but once it's on the pincushion hopefully noone will notice :)

TV knitting is still the lace edging on the 10 Stitch Triangle Shawl plus I did a bit more on the wallpaper sweater.  Commuter knitting is still the Itineris Shawl using the Batik Swirl yarn. I went down to London to a small concert Friday night and I knit my way through the warm-up act, waiting for the main performance. It was very pleasant to listen to nice music while knitting away. It was a  late night though, I didn't get to bed until about 12:40pm which is really late for me, so I was quite tired yesterday.  I spent a lot of the day quietly watching YouTube videos while I wound 66 pairs of bobbins for the lace course.  To save my wrist, I took apart my bobbin winder and attached the bobbin holder to an electric power drill, essentially electrifying the winding process which made it a lot easier and quicker.

Hope you've had a crafty week!

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Well we survived our holiday

You know it hasn't been the best holiday when you wake up excited on your last day because you finally get to go home!  We had six nights down in Gloucestershire in a rented cottage and although we did do some nice things, overall it wasn't great.  The weather was poor at the beginning of the week, although it improved later on.  The cottage, while charming and ancient (built 1620 as a part of an estate of Tudor buildings nestled in a valley) was cramped, awkward and gloomy. The only access between the three small floors was via a tightly narrow spiral staircase which had to be negotiated with constant caution - particularly in the night when attempting to reach the ground floor loo.  Several enormous spiders made their home inside (or perhaps the same two spiders just getting back in again after DH threw them outside) so you also had to watch out for those.

 The owners were lovely and very prompt in helping with problems, but unfortunately we were heartily sick of each other by the end of the week after a succession of issues requiring attention or assistance.  Starting with some overlooked cleaning (a roast pan full of our predecessor's meat debris and a sticky orange liquid all over the inside of the freezer), we progressed to a broken fridge (not broken by us) which they replaced with a new one. Then they replaced the oven because you couldn't read any of the markings and apparently they had been meaning to replace it for a while.  The broadband went out mid-week and as there was no mobile phone signal in the valley that had been our only way of communicating. The boiler had an intermittent fault so we had no hot water or heat one day and the handyman had to come out three times to do something to the pressure. Thursday morning just as I boiled the kettle, there was a loud bang and all the power went out, immediately followed by a knock on the door because the BT engineer had arrived to look at the broadband.  I was still in my pyjamas, and poor DH didn't get any tea or breakfast because of no power and he had to show the BT engineer around to look for where the line came into the house because nobody from the estate was available to meet the engineer.  Turns out the armoured cable on the line had perished so we had no broadband for the rest of our stay until it gets dug up and replaced. The shower cut out in mid-go (after I had shampoo in my hair of course) but I managed to get it back on and I didn't even tell them about that one because I didn't want the handyman back yet again. 

The constant gloom, the damp, some unfortunate traffic jams and some unsuccessful day trips earlier in the week were getting us down. It also seemed like every knitting shop I found was either closed or, in the case of Marmalade Yarns in Frome, gutted and being completely repainted.  Luckily things picked up on the day trip front with a sunny and relaxing visit to Westonbirt Arboretum, where we saw some amazing trees and the start of autumn colour.

We also checked out Poldark's Trenwith which is actually Chavenage House near Tetbury. We were on part of an entertaining tour by a family member with interesting stories about the Poldark cast filming there, before being passed off to a much less entertaining staff member who insisted on recounting a garbled version of the history of the Civil War while we were all crowded into a small 17C bedroom for 15 minutes.  Luckily I had my knitting and a seat on a 17thC chair (they had invited us to sit so it wasn't wrong) so I knitted several rows on my shawl and let it pass over my head.

We visited a few other ancient estates and gardens in the area, and also had a couple of relaxing walks in the countryside. Then on Friday we drove down to Shepton Mallet (more traffic jams) to attend a big antiques fair that we've been to before.  We had an enjoyable stroll around but I only bought one bronze figurine until I found a stall of vintage linens.  Here I cleaned up on embroidered tray cloths for £1 each, as part of my collecting for my future vintage linen quilt.  In fact I'm wondering if I might combine these with the 30s Sampler Quilt that I've already started, will have to think about that.

The evenings in our cramped and not very comfortable sitting room were enlivened by attempting only partially successfully to get the satellite TV to work while I tackled several craft projects I had brought with me:  my 10-stitch shawl edging, my leaf-yoke sweater, my new bobbin lace project and my Christmas cross-stitch.

So you can see why I am so pleased to be home!  Showers and broadband that work, spacious sunny rooms, a garden to sit in, and all my stuff around me.  Bliss.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Time to put the woollies on again

I've been wearing some hand-knitted hats and fingerless gloves in the mornings for my walks to the station as it's been quite chilly.  I gave all my hats, gloves and knitted socks a wash back when the weather was warm so they are all nice and fresh now to put on. It's definitely feeling autumnal.

Somehow I don't seem to have got much done this week, not sure why.  No dollshouse work, no quilting.  Knitting went a bit backwards as I decided the join between the knitted on edging on my Ten-stitch triangle shawl was just too untidy so I pulled it out and started again.  Now I am doing a slip 1, knit 1 from the shawl edge, and ssk. It makes a chain edge on one side which looks better.  I've also done a few inches on an older knitting UFO, the Leaf Yoke sweater.  It's knitted top down so the interesting bit was all at the beginning, now that I'm knitting the body  it is quite tedious, like knitting wallpaper.  I've reached about the bottom of my rib cage so far, so still a fair bit to go then I'll have to do the sleeves.

The only completed item this week is a simple t-shirt sewn from  New Look pattern 6217.  I saw some finished t-shirts online from this pattern and it was being praised for being a simple quick wardrobe basic. So I thought I would have a go, even though my track record with dressmaking is quite poor.  I looked at a few blogs to see what modifications were being made, and I cut out and sewed a throw-away toile using a drop cloth from Poundland (another tip garnered online).  That was too tight, so I cut out a larger size and tried again.  That still didn't fit quite right so I ended up taking a pleat in the back and slashing the front to let in more room (I carry my weight at the front).  That seemed to do the trick so I cut it out in a silky drapey jersey and overlocked the seams, stitching the hems with a twin needle and walking foot on the normal machine.  The result fits quite nicely, it's soft and drapey and looks smart (it looks better on me than it does on the dummy).  I wore it to work yesterday and felt good in it.  So  I might make a few more now that I have a pattern that fits me.

I've started a new little bobbin lace item which is a three inch square of simple Torchon lace, designed to cover a pincushion.  It should be a relatively quick project, although bobbin lace is never particularly quick really. It's a project that was handed out at my lace group so several people have made it/are making it.

I'm still plugging away at Japanese language study albeit with intermittent depressive periods where I question why I am wasting my time.  The vocabulary I am able to recognise has grown a lot.  The vocabulary I am able to write is less but still impressive considering I started from scratch and I'm writing in Japanese scripts.  Unfortunately my ability to speak remains at almost zero.  I had this same problem when I was learning French in school many decades ago.  My brain seems to consider that foreign languages are something that may need to be understood but are never going to actually be spoken by me.  I even went on a French immersion course for six weeks after uni and still managed almost zero speaking. DH says I shouldn't feel like a failure because I'm only learning Japanese to make our future holiday experience better and he points out that I have learned a lot already.  It's just really hard to find an hour every day where I can concentrate and don't have to stop to make dinner or because I'm too tired. わたしは にほんごを べんきょしていません、ブログをかいていますから。

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Another week passes

How did it get to be September so soon?  I feel like I lost a lot of the summer just keeping my head down trying to survive the hot weather.  But it is lovely outside this weekend, mid-20s and a nice breeze, more what I prefer as proper summer weather. We had a BBQ last night and ate outside on the patio which was nice.

I've glued the next floor onto my Japanese dollshouse.  Unlike the first two floors, I didn't glue all the components together into a separate unit and then try to make the unit fit onto the house. There was too much variation in measurements and levels to accommodate from the existing construction.  Instead I cut the hallway floor and wall down a little in width to fit, and then glued on each room separately with the hall wall going on last. I'm a bit concerned about how strong the bond is but I've added some hidden staples at the back of the house to hold the gap between floors closed and as extra bracing for when the weight of the front balconies gets added on eventually.

I think it's getting to the point where I really need to put the house onto a rigid base to protect it from collapsing under its own weight when it's moved. I need to think about what I might put on the base as external decoration because that will dictate how big it needs to be.  The fronts need to swing open so anything near the house will have to be removable.  It would be nice to have a Japanese-style garden.

I had jumped ahead to complete this second floor structure, skipping over quite a few kits for stairs, sliding window screens, internal decoration and furniture.  So I think now I need to go back and work through all those to clear the decks before I start in on the next set of balconies.

In quilting, I finished block 2 of my 30s Sampler quilt.  I've picked the fabrics for block 3 but not cut anything out yet. The yellow print is what I am considering using as the border although it's more 50s than 30s so I might buy something else once all the blocks are done.

I spent a few hours yesterday working on my Bucks Point hexagonal edging and then a few more tidying up the area where I keep my lace stuff.  It was chaos because I had just been dumping things out when I got back from lace days and from the Nottingham weekend, and hadn't put anything away for quite a while. Loads of books, bobbins, loose paper patterns, threads etc.  It's more organised now.  I need to prepare the pricking and wind 60 pairs of bobbins for a lace weekend I'm attending at the end of the month now.

On the knitting front, I ripped out the Batik Swirl shawl because it was just such an ugly shape: a long thin triangle that was only gradually widening.  I think part of that may have been my fault for missing out some decrease/increases accidentally but overall it wasn't going to be something I'd wear.  Instead, I'm using the yarn to knit a second Itineris Shawl which is a pattern I knit about four years ago. It will look different in these long colour runs but hopefully still nice, and that's a shawl I have worn more often, I like the shape of it.

I'm slowly adding the knit-on garter lace edging to my 10-stitch triangle shawl.  It's not difficult but it is easy to get confused so sometimes I have to pull back when I realise I've done a section of the repeat twice by accident (usually because I'm distracted from watching TV).  

Film4 was running a Studio Ghibli event all through August so we've taped about a dozen of their animations which we are gradually watching.  I had previously seen Spirited Away and Howl's Castle and liked them although they were a bit odd.  Some of the others are very odd, and I question whether they were aimed at children as an audience.  We didn't like Princess Kaguya which bounced all over the place and couldn't decide what it was trying to tell, and When Marnie was Here was both tragic and creepy (although very pretty). Then we watched The Cat Returns which was more straightforward, we both enjoyed that one.  Apparently it is a spin-off from Whisper of the Heart which we haven't watched yet. It's quite interesting to see animated versions of Japanese neighbourhoods, or alternately a Japanese vision of what western cities/houses look like.

Monday, 27 August 2018

Bank holiday weekend

It's a long weekend here in the UK, and as is traditional the weather has been cold and rainy.  I know I moaned a lot about the heat but it seems to have gone completely the other way now.  We went over to the Lamport Hall antiques fair yesterday and I felt sorry for the outdoor traders who had to keep their stock concealed under opaque tarps.  We enjoyed wandering around (most of the fair is inside the old stables), there seemed to be some new dealers this time and familiar dealers had new stock.  I came home with a vintage Royal Winton cake platter and a much repaired but still pretty balloon-backed Victorian chair.  It just kills me that something like this lovely carved chair  with tapestry upholstery is going for less than the price of a meal out for the three of us, I had to rescue it.  Brown furniture is so out of fashion here in the UK.  Hopefully it will come back in with a bang around the time we need to downsize in 15 years or so, he he he.

Over the past week I finished the second bedroom of the Japanese dollshouse including carving the traditional hanging fish pot suspension system over the fire pit (when I took this picture, I didn't realise the stewpot was hanging crooked!).

Carving the fish was challenging, it was a flat fish-shaped blank about 3/4 of an inch long, and the picture directions showed you needed to carve it into a 3D fish, preferably without slicing into your own fingers.  I roughed out the initial fish shape with my Dremel multi-tool but after that it was carefully cutting with a scalpel. It doesn't look too bad, not the same as the picture but I still have all my fingers!

On my day off I put together the stretcher frame for my ancient cross-stitch and carefully stretched the stitching while trying to keep it even.  I like it and it is hanging in the hallway near the kitchen where I can see it often. I still can't believe it is actually finished, it's been hanging around for most of my adult son's lifetime.

I also sewed the buttons onto the Purple rose cardigan.  Unfortunately it turns out that the cardi is too small for my friend's daughter after all, I should have knit the bigger size.  But it is quite cute, and will go in the stash waiting for another baby to come along.

Also on my day off, I felt like a quick sewing project so I pulled out the little packs of cigar-rolled Japanese fabrics that I bought in Nippori fabric town in Tokyo.  It was a shame to unwrap them, they looked so enticing in their neat rolls, but I wanted to use all the fabric I had bought on the last trip (so I can buy more on the next trip!!).  I used a 5-inch tumbler template ruler from Missouri Star to cut a few tumblers out of each of the fabrics, and stitched those into a table runner.  The edging and binding are also from Japan, left over from the handbag and wallhanging I made after we got back.  I chose to channel quilt because the resulting texture reminds me of how the fabric was packaged when I bought it.

Having surveyed my queue of quilting projects, I have now chosen to start another quilt.  This is from a pattern called Ode to the 1930s: A sampler quilt, by From my heart to your hands studio.  I bought the pattern a few years ago with the aim of using up some of my large-ish stash of 1930s fabrics, some of which date back to the early 90s. It has 42 different blocks both pieced and appliqued.

So I pulled out all my 30s/40s fabrics and piled them near my cutting table where I can easily get at them to pull fabrics for various blocks.  As you can see, I've pieced the first block.  I've cut the pieces for a second block but not stitched it yet.  This project should keep me busy for a while and use up a small part of my stash.  I like scrappy quilts and I like that every block will be different, I get really bored stitching repeating block patterns.

I've finished the stripes on my 10-stitch triangle shawl and I've started knitting on the edging in a solid blue yarn I bought in Cumbria.  I charted out a couple of edgings from the book of knitted lace edgings by Tessa Lorant that I found in Penrith. The first one was too complicated to repeat along an entire shawl (I got confused several times in the first 12 row repeat as it is lace in both directions).  The second one which she calls 'Wheel edging' is a simpler garter stitch edging so I'm trying that along the edge of the shawl to see what it looks like.  She says it curves a little, hopefully it won't distort the shawl if I block it straight.  I'm still knitting the Batik Swirl shawl on my commutes, it's widening out now but is still very pointy.  I don't really like shallow crescent shaped shawls, I don't find they sit well on my shoulders, and I'm starting to wonder if this shawl is that shape (you can't tell from the photo). There's only one photo on Ravelry and it looks like it might be crescent shaped.  We'll see. I could always adapt the pattern to make it deeper, or pull it out and try something else.

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