Sunday, 29 April 2018


I obviously jinxed the weather in my last post about imminent summer, because it has been cold and rainy ever since.  I had started to swap over my winter and summer clothes, so have had to reverse that process.  Today we went to visit the village open gardens in Guilsborough, and it was so grey and miserable at 7 degrees C with a chilly wind that I dug out my full winter gear of long coat/leg warmers, warm hat/gloves and even wrapped a scarf around my face and was grateful for all of it.  At least it didn't rain on us. We saw some lovely old houses and grounds but not surprisingly most of the plants weren't out, although there were some lovely spring bulbs, rhododendrons, azaleas, bluebells, and gorgeous blossoming trees including a small cherry orchard.

So I haven't been wearing my newly completed Scalloway Tam because it doesn't cover my ears to keep them warm.  I love the colours in this, and the Jamiesons Spindrift yarn bloomed pleasantly when I blocked it.  Though I think I would have liked a deeper band than the pattern dictates.  I have tons of yarn left over from this kit, probably enough to knit  a complete second tam and still have possibly enough left for matching mitts if I subbed in some background colour from my own stash.  I'm thinking about knitting matching mitts or gloves using the same chart.

After I finished the tam, I knit a little bear for a work colleague who is expecting.  This is the Harriet bear by Sandra Polley which I have knit before a couple of times.

I've put in some more time on quilting the Indigo Bear's Paw quilt this week, I'm on the home stretch now although there are several mistakes I need to go back and fix, where little pleats have crept in.

For the Japanese dollshouse this week, I made a couple of chairs for the guest room, and a low level mirror unit with drawers.  The mirror is covered with a silk cloth which is apparently a traditional superstition.  I spent some time painting the mirror unit to look like it was lacquered with gold designs, only to have all my painstaking artwork dissolve when I applied the varnish which was frustrating.  I overpainted a few more stems so it looks sort of worn and antique now.

I also made the telephone and telephone cabinet for the first floor landing, and the sliding shoji screen for the round window. I painted the shoji black and backed it with some printed translucent paper from the scrapbooking store.

I did a little bit on my Bucks Point edging this week, not very much, while I was watching YouTube videos on how to train climbing roses.  Apparently I have been doing it all wrong but hopefully I'll do better when the roses I planted in the autumn start to climb.

I forgot to show you my new sewing-themed biscuit tin that arrived last week. Isn't it cute?  Debenhams sells these with Danish biscuits inside, although the delivery man  threw the parcel over our side gate completing the demise of the already inadequately packed biscuits.  So DH got a bag of biscuit crumbs to eat while I gloated over my new purchase.  He was still happy.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Spring: don't blink or you'll miss it

We seem to have jumped right from winter to summer, with temperatures reaching the mid twenties over the weekend.  The garden has basically exploded into bloom, with plants visibly changing in the course of one day.  The poor magnolia tree looked fabulous for about three days and now is rapidly shedding all its petals which is a shame.  But it has been very nice to sit out in the garden and listen to the soothing sounds of the fountain we installed last year, now unwrapped from its winter cocoon of hessian and fitted cover.  I've finished spreading mulch now and am already wondering if I should start watering regularly as our sandy soil is looking dry.

Having discovered audio books on Youtube after someone mentioned them on Facebook, I managed to get through quilting all the rest of the diagonal lines in one direction on my Indigo Bears Paw quilt in about an hour and a half this week while listening to the first few chapters of Neil Gaiman's North Mythology  on headphones.  Listening to the stories took my mind off the mind numbing boredom of the quilting process.  I've now started drawing on the lines for the other direction of the crosshatching and plan to listen to more stories when I do that stitching.

I've done some work on converting my bench grinder into a disk sander.  I took off the grinding disks and cut some chipboard replacement disks which aren't completely round but aren't too bad and the grinder isn't visibly wobbling so I think they're alright.  I've bolted the grinder to a baseboard and sent off for some hook and loop sanding disks and some hook and loop tape.  So I just need to make the table now for offering up work to the sander and I'll be in business

I have not been very enthusiastic about working on the Japanese dollshouse this week because I have not enjoyed working on the staircase.    It was just too fiddly, so many pieces and nothing fit properly so there was a lot of adjusting and testing, and at times it felt like trying to build a 3-D jigsaw while holding the pieces in mid-air.  The ground floor section of the staircase is now done and in place at last and it looks alright but the railings are fairly fragile so I'll have to be careful not to knock them. I made a few more pieces of furniture in between working on the staircase and now I am making six more tatami mats for the second bedroom.

I'm on the decrease section of the Scalloway fair isle tam now, or I should say, I'm on my fourth attempt at the decrease section.  The directions for the decrease don't match what the chart is showing at all and I tried twice before giving up and turning to Ravelry for help.  There I discovered other knitters commenting on how rubbish the decrease directions are, and explaining how they did them.  My third attempt didn't work because I tried to get away without having to unravel all the way back to the start of the decrease section.  So far (touch wood) the fourth attempt seems to be ok so I should be finished soon.  There will be a fair number of ends to darn in.

Yesterday I went to the Denton Lace Day where I met up with several other lacemakers that I knew.  It was a smaller event, quite quiet, but I enjoyed my day with good company and I managed to get over two inches done on my Bucks Point Lace Edging (to which news DH replied: "Is that good?") which worked out to a little less than half an inch per hour even though I was working industriously.  I think it is going to be a while before I have enough yardage for a mat.  I also got some secondhand lace prickings  in return for a donation, being given away by an older lacemaker who was de-stashing.  And there was cake.  For the last hour I pulled out the 10-stitch triangle shawl and did some more knitting on that.  It's about the size of a shawlette now but I want it big enough to drape well over my shoulders.

I'm starting to think about our 2019 holiday now, because we will probably go abroad again, and I'm thinking we might go back to Japan.  I did look into several other destinations on my bucket list, and ordered various brochures, but Japan just ticks so many boxes.  The language difficulty is an issue, but I think that's outweighed by how many fabulous things there are to see, how clean and safe it was, how easy to get around, and the flight is do-able.  I did look into New Zealand seriously, but I can't be doing a 25-hour flight and we can't take enough time off work to break the journey in both directions, so I think NZ might have to wait until we are both retired.  I will definitely go back to Fabric Town in Tokyo for more exploration and fabric shopping, and of course Tokyu Hands (at least one branch if not more). Then I think we will try to go somewhere new that isn't on the well-trodden tourist trail, perhaps Shikoku.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Finally it's warming up

It seems like the crazy weather may be settling down because it was 15 degrees and warm and sunny in the garden yesterday.  We did three solid hours of gardening in the morning, hacking back, weeding, fertilising etc and two more hours today spreading mulch.  We brought the patio furniture out of the shed (which suddenly makes the shed feel three times bigger) and sat out in the afternoon with DS on the patio, all enjoying a cup of tea.  The sun wrought visible differences throughout the day, including the magnolia tree opening up several buds to the sun.  Unfortunately lots of weeds suddenly appearing as well.

I've done a fair bit of work on the Japanese dollshouse this week after work each day. I finished the Tokonoma alcove in the second bedroom. The papier mache 'twig' turned out fairly well, I will likely do the same in the upstairs rooms as well.

Then I started working out how to glue the first floor to the ground floor.  The instructions don't tell you to do this, I think perhaps it was intended that each floor remain separate with its own opening front section.  But that just seems really unstable to me and inevitably going to damage connecting components like stairways. Of the two bloggers who built this house, one joined hers but the other left hers loose for transporting to shows.  The instructions tell you to connect each floor into a unit, on the assumption that each unit will be an identical width/depth, but due to the modular nature of the construction, this assumption is false. Or at least it is for me. 

I decided the safest thing to do was to attach one bit of the first floor at a time to the ground floor, so that I could align key points such as the vertical beams.  Right away I had two problems: my lefthand bedroom was hanging out a bit over the side of the ground floor spa room (I think my spa came out slightly narrow due to the problems I had with the sliding window construction). This could impact how the hinged sections line up later, but I couldn't see how I could fix that so I've left it.  The second problem was that my first floor landing, which should have been a mirror image of the ground floor hallway ceiling, was a good 1/4 inch deeper and my stairwell openings weren't lining up at all.  The righthand bedroom was lining up reasonably well with the kitchen underneath, so it seemed the best solution was to sand/cut down the hallway landing piece until it fit between the two bedrooms, meanwhile trying to line up the stairwell opening.  Once I had done that, I had to similarly whittle down the back wall of the first floor landing so that it would fit in between the two bedrooms. I hope that this width adjustment isn't going to cause problems in future chapters for the hinged doors meeting in the middle.  Much sanding and clamping later, and I have two floors joined together.

By this point I had about eight chapters open and partially done, so now it was time to return to the earliest open chapter and start sweeping up the leftover bits.  I made the 'shoe stones' in gravel trays that you can see in the first floor landing in front of both sliding doors.  And I put together a 1:20 kit for a 1950s television.

The next two chapters are to construct the stairway from the ground floor to the first floor, which seems a complicated affair and doomed not to fit exactly.  It took me almost an hour just to translate all the Italian using Google Translate and I'm about halfway through construction now.  The first flight of stairs to the intermediate gallery seems fine, but the shorter second flight of stairs seems like it is going to be a 1/4-inch too high so I may need to bodge the top step into a much shorter step. That will be ok as it will be hidden by the thickness of the floors.

On my day off I forced myself to do an hour of quilting and finished the diagonal lines across half the Indigo Bears Paw quilt, and yesterday I drew the lines for the other half.  It doesn't look too bad although I've wandered out of the ditch while stitching in some places.

It seems like forever since I actually tackled a new quilt project because I've spent months trying to quilt the old ones.  So I dug out one of my oldest projects-in-waiting which is a pattern I bought about 20 years ago  for a picture-pieced wall hanging by England Design Studios called 'Stitch in Time'.  I bought the pattern and some fabric for it in America, probably on one of my Paducah trips.

The pattern is so terrifying that I've been procrastinating about starting for 20 years.

But I've pulled the fabrics for it now and I've watched a couple of her Youtube tutorials on how to do the technique.  It still seems scary and hard to get right, but I'll have a go.

While m-i-l was visiting, she helped me with getting all my bed quilts out of my cupboard and off the display rack to shake them out and hang them over a couple of bannisters to let the wrinkles relax.  They'd been out for a couple of weeks so yesterday DS helped me re-fold them and put them back in the cupboard.  The cupboard is basically too full now after all the recent finishes, it's not good for them to be so crammed in.  Perhaps I need a second cupboard...

I kept back this one and hung it in the hallway as it seems appropriately spring-like and I've always loved the colours in it.

On the knitting front, I've re-done the knitting I had to rip out on the 10-stitch triangle shawl and in the evenings I've been knitting on the Scalloway Tam.

My West Yorkshire Spinners Florist Collection yarn turned up so I'm going to kit up three future knitting projects for two shawls and a pair of socks.

And I made a new pricking for my Bucks Point lace edging to fit round the roller on my travelling lace pillow.  I realised last weekend that attempting to leap frog my original two prickings as I worked wasn't going to be feasible as the short prickings didn't want to curve and lie flat.  I was sceptical that a longer pricking would fit round the roller circumference exactly, but it's actually not a bad fit. Perhaps slightly loose but not enough to be a problem.  That meant that I had to move the lace-in-progress from the old pricking on to the new pricking, a hazardous and nervewracking enterprise.  This is a halfway picture where I've pulled out almost all the old pins and pulled the pricking off the pillow so that I can fit the new pricking.

Then I carefully pulled out the last of the pins and gently moved the lace onto the new pricking, trying not to put any tension on it.  Then it's a case of trying to get enough pins back into the pattern to hold the threads in place, trying not to pull or distort the work in progress.  I managed ok, I don't think the finished lace will show too obviously where I moved the work.  I'm still working to get all the pins back in so I'm still having to be careful not to pull too hard on the bobbins, especially the passives. But now I should just be able to keep working and rolling the pillow onwards and never have to move the lace again until I have a finished length.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Spring into Wool show in Leeds

We had a day out to Leeds today, it was nice to get away after all the time I've spent in the house being poorly the last month.  We had been thinking of going anyway to see the Thomas Chippendale exhibition at the Leeds City Museum, celebrating 300 years since his birth. Then I happened to notice an ad for the Spring into Wool Show being held this weekend at the Grammar School in Leeds, so it turned into a day out.

Leeds is about a 2.5 hour drive for us which was uneventful, and we got to the show about 11:30am.  The venue is hugely impressive, a massive independent school campus that apparently was built about 10 years ago but looks no more than  a year old and with facilities which would put some universities to shame.  DH headed into the huge canteen for a late breakfast (opposite the large indoor chapel), while I browsed the lobby stalls before passing the indoor swimming pool to reach the main part of the show in the big gymnasium with purpose built climbing walls in one corner.  I enjoyed the show, there were 78 exhibitors, many of them new to me, and the layout was spacious and well lit, and prices seemed fairly reasonable and everyone seemed really friendly.  I would rate the show on a par with Fibre East or Unravel - it didn't have the strong guild / local group presence of those shows but compensates with great facilities including a very reasonably priced canteen and only £5 to get in.  There were workshops available as well in a separate well lit spacious room.

I enjoyed looking but didn't feel especially tempted by anything major until I reached  The Wool Zone stall, who had some great kits and colours.  I bought a kit for the Scheepjes Yarn Shawl of Secrets by Sarah Knight, in gorgeous colours of Scheepjes Secret Garden Silk Blend yarn (20 silk, 20 cotton, 60 poly) and a ball of Stylecraft batik swirl DK (80 acrylic, 20 wool) because it was so pretty.  And an impulse buy at the till was the West Yorkshire Spinners 'Florist Collection' of patterns because I liked the cover shawl so much and then saw several other patterns I liked when I flicked through.   Florist Collection is a 4 ply range in really pretty spring like colours so I guess I will have to order some of those.

After some lunch, we headed over to the nearby Park n Ride and got the bus into Leeds to visit the Chippendale exhibition.  It wasn't huge but it was very interesting.  I was sad to read that someone so influential had basically died almost in poverty and his son subsequently went bankrupt, largely because their wealthy patrons just wouldn't pay the bills for the work.  There was a mix of authentic Chippendale pieces and pieces that were made by others using the designs from his influential book, and some explanations of his workshop set up and how he worked with clients and architects.  We had tea and some delicious cake in the cafe and I picked up a cast metal 'Chippendale' chair pincushion in the gift shop which I will probably repaint/reupholster.

On the way back to the bus stop I spotted the Handmade Collective at 19 Grand Arcade full of the work of local designer makers which had some interesting things.  This cute little house on a thread spool (combining two of my hobbies) came home with me.

We were tired when we finally arrived back but it was a nice day out, I wouldn't mind going to that knitting show again but I would go on the opening day before things get picked over or shopped out.

Yesterday I visited a local bobbin lace group and did about three hours divided between both my bobbin lace projects.  I spent the last 30 minutes knitting on my 10 stitch triangle shawl and it was only when I was explaining the construction to another lady that I realised I had worked the last corner at the wrong angle (acute instead of square). So I had to pull back the entire side strip to re-work that corner properly.  At least I noticed before I had knit all around three sides which would have been really annoying.  On the car drive today I was knitting on my Scalloway Tam by Marie Wallin , which I started last night from the kit that I bought at the Nottingham Yarn Fest. The colourways of Jamiesons yarn in this design are so gorgeous, you want to keep knitting just to see what the next combination is.

I've done some more on the second bedroom of the Japanese dollshouse  but it still isn't finished as I haven't got the alcove post walls in place yet or made the tatami mats.  But you can get an idea of the colour scheme.  The decorative paper on the sliding doors and cupboard is actual Japanese washi paper from Japan. The wallpaper is some scrapbooking paper I had in my stash.

The weather was really mild yesterday and we enjoyed our first cup of tea sitting out in the garden since last autumn.  Lots of daffodils have come up and for once the slugs haven't eaten all my primroses. The fuschia is blooming as well.

The magnolia tree is just bursting into bloom, it should look
really lovely soon.

I will leave you with a picture of  our silly cat who climbed right into my backpack for a protracted exploration because she could smell the salmon salad I had been carrying in it. Who needs cat toys?

And in front of the silly cat you will see my stash of craft goodies picked up from this week's Aldi special purchase stock, including a couple of A3 self healing mats for my dollshouse room, a craft box, some fat quarters, some scissors and four packs of buttons, all at very reasonable prices. Even DH went over after work and got himself a couple of A3 mats for his modelling room - at £2.99 each they are going to make great work surfaces that you don't have to be too careful with. 

Monday, 2 April 2018

Happy Easter

It's been a four day weekend here in the UK for Easter - according to a quick Google this doesn't happen in the United States but does in Canada. It's something to look forward to as it means a short work week both before and after.  We had the elderly in-laws visiting from Friday lunchtime right through until Monday lunchtime so sadly not much relaxing hobby time for us. It was nice to see them and we get on fine, but it meant three long days of quiet entertaining and sitting around drinking lots of tea while listening to stories about the children of people we don't know and isn't it terrible what the world is coming to, not to mention lots of cooking and eating and washing up. But not being free to watch our TV or do our hobbies.  M-i-l did encourage us to do what we would normally do on a weekend but I don't think she had in mind me disappearing off to the basement to dollshouse for three hours.

So I've been doing a lot of knitting while I listen to them and I also did a bit of bobbin lace one afternoon while keeping them company. The weather was pretty terrible but DH and I did get outside Saturday afternoon to do a bit of gardening, and we took them to the antiques fair at Lamport Hall on Easter Sunday which we all enjoyed. I did sneak downstairs a couple of times for a short burst of work on the first floor landing of the dollshouse but I haven't glued it to the first bedroom yet because I want to finish the second bedroom. Then I can check the entire first floor against the ground floor and make sure they are the same width before gluing everything together.

 DH drove the in-laws home after lunch today leaving me and DS to hobby to our heart's content all afternoon.  I did spend three hours dollshousing - hurrah! - and stained and painted all the pieces for the next bedroom in the Japanese house.  I also quilted several more gridlines on the Indigo Bear's paw quilt and marked out the remaining lines for this diagonal  first half.

Before they arrived I had finished and blocked the first Harriet fingerless mitten and while they were here I managed to knit the entire second mitten which just needs blocking.  Here's the first one.

Also before they arrived, this week I finished the first bedroom in the Japanese dollshouse including the tokonoma alcove with its tree trunk (a twig from the garden) and the tatami mats.

For the second bedroom I'm experimenting with adding some paper mache to the dowel post that comes with the kit, to make it look more like a twig, because it was pretty difficult using a real twig with bends and bulges.  I had to carve the wall panels to fit around the twig shape. If I can use the dowel instead then it will have straight surfaces where the wall panels connect.  The geisha scroll hanging in the alcove is actually petit point embroidery done by a friend of mine, it fits perfectly in this scale.

I was looking into hobby-sized disc sanders and not very happy about how much they cost (the Proxxon sander is about £180) when I stumbled across some Youtube videos that show you how to convert a bench grinder into a disc sander.  You can buy a 6" bench grinder on Amazon for £30, so look what turned up today courtesy of Amazon Prime delivery.
Now I just have to do the conversion. Probably not this week but maybe next weekend if I get time.

Now that I've finished the mittens, I've dug out the Japanese knitting pattern and yarn that I bought in Tokyo. I also found the notes I took in a class with Donna Druchunas several years ago about interpreting Japanese knitting patterns, which covers some of the basics.  I'm going to make a photocopy of the pattern so I can scribble translations on the copy.  Japanese patterns are based on schematics rather than written out, but there is a fair bit of writing on my pattern. I think I still have the app on my tablet that can translate kanji characters from a photo into English so I'll have a go with that, plus Donna's class identified some online resources for Japanese knitting instructions. 

I hope you had a good Easter and lots of quality crafting time!

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