Sunday, 27 May 2018

Another bank holiday

May is a great month, with a bank holiday long weekend at both the beginning and end of the month. So now on Sunday early afternoon, I'm only halfway through my weekend - yay!  We've just got back from the garden centre where I was perusing the clearance tables looking for perennials to fill in gaps in my borders, plus a few annuals.  I'm going to plant up a small hanging manger basket if we can get it screwed onto the wall on the new patio - never a certainty when trying to fix things into old brick.  A couple of days ago I installed a wall mounted clothes hanger on the basement wall and when I started drilling the first hole the drill hit something hard and jumped literally a half inch sideways and a bit upwards, making a huge mess in the plaster wall before drilling easily into what was presumably a masonry joint. Luckily the bracket covers up most of the mess. It's too muggy outside at the moment to put the new plants in but hopefully it will cool down later.

I did some DIY yesterday as well, finally clearing out all the clutter from the alcove in my bedroom that functions as a walk in closet with a curtain hung across it. After procrastinating for almost four years about it, I have now painted over the dark navy blue walls, which made it look like an unwelcoming gloomy cave in there,  using a beige/stone colour to match the bedroom. Then I installed a new hanging rod across the back so I finally have somewhere to hang my coats, jackets and out of season clothes.  DH is going to go to IKEA next week to get a couple of cheap flat pack shelves which will house more out of season clothes and my shoes.  I will look for a cheap curtain rod to replace my improvised one, and possibly sew up a prettier curtain than the beige one I've been using. What finally motivated me to tackle this project?  Belatedly finding in March a new winter coat concealed behind all the clutter and piled up coats, when it would have been nice to have been wearing the new coat all this winter during the miserably cold weather.  I bought the new coat in the sales last spring, put it in the closet and promptly forgot all about it. Now everything is hung up neatly where I can see it.

I've run into a bit of an impasse on the Japanese dollshouse project. I had planned to really do a lot of work on it this long weekend, and to that end I opened up the next half dozen chapters and separated out all the pieces that need staining dark brown in order to build the next balcony room.

I had recently run out of the spirit-based Colran Georgian Medium Oak wood stain that I've used for the first half of the house, but was not concerned because I had another full can of it.  Only when I went to open the new can, I discovered it is not the lovely-to-use spirit based stain, it is some water-based gloopy wood dye which doesn't sink into the wood, goes splodgy instead of covering evenly, and isn't even the same colour as the old dye.  I dragged DH off his comfy seat in the sunshine to drive me to the DIY store, but all they stocked was more of the gloopy stuff.  Back home and looking online, I discovered that the law changed in 2014 (EU) as apparently the good spirit-based stuff is bad for the environment and now Colran only make gloop. Very frustrating.   A company called Liberon (which sounds French but wouldn't they also be covered by EU regulations?) still makes spirit based wood stains so I've ordered three small tins of that to see if any of their colours match what I've been using.  Apparently you can also mix the colours so I might be able to mix something custom. In the meantime I will have to work on smaller jobs that don't require any stained wood pieces.

I finished the Bruges Lace motif that I started on the course in Peterborough.  There are a lot of mistakes in it as I really didn't know what I was doing with the leaves.  I did look at my book but it seems to be saying different things than what the teacher told us. I tried some of the book techniques on the second leaf (on the right in the photo). I guess I should regard this experience as a taster and if I want to actually learn Bruges lace, I should start from the beginning of a book and work my way through. It just feels like I don't have enough time to do that at the moment when I haven't finished either of the Bucks projects I am making.

The Peerie Floores fair isle mitten  is not going very well.  I pulled back the first attempt and restarted the thumb gusset at an earlier point, and was sort of winging a design on the gusset as I didn't like the designer's chart. I didn't like how my improvisation was looking so I pulled back after some rows and tried something else and completed the gusset to the the same size as the original design. When that gusset was finished, I realised it was way too small for my man hands.  I stopped improvising and actually charted out a gusset that is a lot taller and knit that up.  I like the design now and the gusset is almost the right size, but it's still too high up the mitten and I think the initial increase above the cuff is actually too baggy on my hand.  So now I've pulled all the way back to the cuff. I've going to cut out a repeat of the flower motif to make the mitten fit more snugly, and start the thumb gusset much earlier, but knit it to my own chart so it is a good size for me.  Hopefully fourth time is the charm!  I've also started knitting a simple baby cardigan in DK for a work colleague who is having a baby girl in July.

I've also been struggling with my 'freezer paper on top' Cynthia England design as I find her picture piecing technique really difficult.  I watched her Youtube videos on how to do it, but when I try to do it her way, I can't get my tiny pieces lined up properly, I can't see the crease for where to sew along the edge of the paper, I ended up sewing papers into the quilt etc etc.  So I started winging it and have come up with a way which works much better for me.  First of all, whenever possible, I sew the seam first and then iron the two pieces of freezer paper on top on either side of the seam.  Where I am adding to an existing block of seamed pieces, I put the block down onto my light table so I can see the edge of the freezer paper through the fabric, and draw a seam line along that edge on the wrong side. Then I can lay on the second piece of generously-cut fabric, stitch along my drawn line, then iron on the second piece of freezer paper to align with the seam, then finally trim the seam allowances.  It's going much better now and I've finished the first block A which is the window scene in the top left of the pattern picture.  You leave the freezer paper on to stabilise the edges that aren't sewn yet. I'm pleased that it's going better but it still feels like a very slow and tedious way to sew a picture.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

It's been a lovely sunny weekend without being too hot, my kind of weather. We've just had another BBQ out on the new patio tonight, it's a really useful outdoor room. Earlier, we headed over to the village of Badby near Daventry to visit a group of four gardens open under the National Gardens Scheme and the weather had obviously given everyone else the same idea.  The little, very pretty, village was packed with cars parked all over the place, we had to drive through and circle round and come back in again to find somewhere to park out on the edge.  We enjoyed strolling around admiring the thatched cottages and old houses, and saw some pretty gardens as well as having some tea and cake in the ancient village church.  Afterwards we stopped into an antiques store in Weedon that we hadn't been to before, and I picked up some embroidered linens and another Victorian beaded panel (DH noted in a resigned voice that I appear to have started another collection...)  The embroidered linens are for a future quilt top like one I saw on Facebook which was pieced from all sorts of vintage linens surrounded by pretty fabric.  I will need to collect for a while so I have an assortment of embroideries to work with. Luckily they are usually very cheap.

Although sunny in the daytime, it's been cool at night so I've been enjoying having my new Bear's Paw quilt on the bed. I was surprised to find it's the right size for my queen-size bed, I had been thinking it was a double but obviously 15 years ago I decided to design the right size to fit my bed.  This quilt was so tedious to make and so much work, but now it's finally finished, I really like it. The blue and white is such a crisp combination, and the subtle detail of having every block in a different indigo print is really nice.

You may be aware that there was a certain Royal wedding yesterday.  I hadn't intended to watch it at all, but turned on the telly as the guests were arriving just to see what was going on, and ended up getting completely sucked in and watching for 2.5 hours right through to the carriage ride. We used to live not that far from Windsor so a lot of the street scenes were familiar to me. Meanwhile I was knitting on a glove to match my Peerie Floores Hat, by following the matching mitten pattern, but I am going to pull back because the thumb gusset isn't in the right place for my large hands and also I don't like the colours in the gusset so I'm going to change the gusset design.

The hat itself is completely finished and blocked, but I haven't worn it because of the warm weather.  It fits well but has come out much more slouchy than the beany hat in the pattern photo, presumably a tension issue but I like it better than the Scalloway Tam because this hat will keep my ears warm.

I did some more work on the Bruges Lace motif I started in my class last weekend and completed the first of the two leaves.  It became very apparent that the rushed five minute instruction on how to do leaves at the end of the class has not sufficiently equipped me and there were several places where I wasn't sure what to do.  I have a couple of books on this kind of lace so I think I need to read through them first before I tackle the second leaf.

My day off this week was all about my vintage Singer Featherweight machine. First I gave it a good clean and polished it with high quality car wax, following the free video tutorial online from the Featherweight shop.  It looks a lot cleaner and shinier now.

Then I spent some time sewing some accessories for it:  a bed cover to protect the bed from getting scratched by the screw holding the side plate, and a bag to hold the power cord and plug.

As a final flourish, I sewed a miniature Dresden plate spool doiley, inspired by one I saw online.  I happened to have a tiny plexiglass Dresden template already, and it was a chance to use up some of my 30s repro scraps. I backed it with felt.

I've been working on my Japanese dollshouse off and on this week, and have now completed up to Chapter 50 which feels like a milestone even though it isn't halfway through the 120 parts yet.  On the other hand, the whole week has been working on the balcony room box which feels really slow, but DH pointed out that it is basically an entire mini-kit on its own: it has interior shoji screens, exterior sliding windows, internal and external finishing mouldings and an external balcony with an intricate railing which is still in progress. And there are three more of these to build in upcoming chapters. At least I will be familiar with the process so they should go quicker.

I thought you might be interested to see this PhoneScope which I bought for £8 on Amazon after seeing Jacquie Tinch using one at the class last weekend.  It clips over your mobile phone so that the lens aligns with the phone camera, and basically turns the phone into a digital microscope.  The zoom on the phone still works so you can zoom in really close on your lace and see every twist and cross (or mistake) or you can use it work out how old lace was made, for example. It's a bit plasticky as you might expect for £8 but it works great. You need to hold it flat on the item you are magnifying as the depth of field is quite shallow. Apparently it's also good for examining coins or for kids to look at nature stuff.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

A weekend of lace

I've spent both days this weekend in Peterborough for bobbin lace.  On Saturday I was in a Lace Guild day class to try Bruges Lace taught by Jacquie Tinch which was quite fun.  Quite an intensive day as we tried to finish each component so that we could learn how to do the next.  I finished the flower and the central filling but only one person got as far as starting the leaf.   This is a lace where you make various components such as leaves and flowers or baskets and then can join them together into larger motifs.  The Guild were selling commemorative bobbins for the day (which they call the Fringe) so I bought one as a keepsake.

Today I was back in Peterborough for the Makit Lace, Quilting and Needlework Fair, always a nice day out.  There seemed to be more quilting stalls and fewer lace stalls this year but as I do several hobbies, I always find plenty to look at. I also ran into several people I know from my various craft communities which was fun.  Here is my haul of loot:

The book is what some of my classmates were using yesterday so I will look forward to reading that.  The threads on the left are for making some more Bruges lace flowers and leaves.  The threads on the right are to use with the Lace Guild book I bought a few months ago with patterns for decorating christmas baubles.  The bits of coloured tatting and the hankie were secondhand bits for sale on the Lace Guild stand, I thought I could use the tatting to decorate cards or other things.  The bobbin is from Margaret Wall, I really like her work.  The two brooches (knitting and a sewing machine) were impulse buys, on the same stall as the divider pin next to them.

 It was all fun and afterwards DH drove us to Stamford where there was a little food fair in the meadow, and we had delicious homemade Punjab food for lunch.  There were also a lot of plant stalls and I found this pretty little pot of sedum-like alpines, mounded up like a cake (the smaller pot in the photo. The bigger pot is one I planted up myself a few weeks ago).

Then we went to a favourite bookstore and visited the antiques mall up the hill, where I bought this example of Victorian beadwork and woolwork, which was dated as circa 1870.  It's in really good condition. I wonder if originally (before the modern day framing) it was meant to be two panels of a tea cosy? Sorry about the reflections on the glass.  I don't think the mat is the right colour for it, I might have it changed. DH even suggested taking the panel out of the frame and turning it into a table runner with a middle part from fabric. I wonder if any of our stitchings will still be around in 150 years?

Do you remember this pincushion I bought at the Leeds City Museum gift shop?

This week I took the cushion off and gave the metal chair a spray of primer and thought about what to do with it.  I decided to go with a Swedish Gustavian look, so I washed over the grey primer with white, and recovered the cushion with a typical fresh blue gingham.  I quite like it now, what do you think? I'm keeping it in the living room on my sewing worktable as a handy place to stash needles.

This week in the evenings I've been sewing down the binding on my Indigo Bear's Paw quilt, I've done three side and I'm on the final side, so the pincushion has been useful when pausing in my work. When I get tired of that, I do some more rows on my Peerie Floores hat.  Strangely, although the picture shows a tight fitting beanie hat, mine has turned more into a slouchy loose hat which must be a guage issue.  It still looks nice.  I've switched to DPNs for the crown decreases.

I have spent time on the Japanese dollshouse this week, building the first floor landing stair railings but mostly cutting out palm leaves from green card for a little garden effect for the corner of the landing. This took ages and was a bit of a pain to construct as leaves kept pinging off every time I tried to adjust the stems, but I got there in the end.  I've just put it in the corner for the photo, the glue isn't dry  yet.  Once it's dry, I'll glue it into the corner then glue in the stair rail in front of it.

I've been spending some time the last few weeks starting to learn some Japanese, using a variety of online resources and a textbook called Japanese from Zero! 1.  Last time we went to Japan, we memorised some stock phrases to be polite/for emergencies, but this time I wondered if I could do a bit better.  It's a very complex language and my middle-aged memory is quite deficient so I doubt I am going to get very far.  With much repetition over the last few weeks I've learned to read basic Hirigana (one of the three writing systems) but not write them, and I've started to learn a few vocabulary words.  Forty years ago I could put in a few hours of study, easily memorise a whole bunch of stuff, ace the exam the next day, then forget it all within a few days.  Now I can watch a 20 minute video, understand it, but immediately forget all of it apart from 1 or 2 words.  DH says I should focus on having learnt the 1 or 2 words, but it feels like very slow going.  My track record is not good, I had many years of French growing up and hardly remember any of that either.  Yet I can remember how to do craft things that I learned 25 years ago and haven't done since?  My memory is obviously prioritising:  Crafts= might be useful.  Languages for countries I don't live in = not so much.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Minor miracle

A long bank holiday weekend when it was actually sunny???? As rare as unicorn horns or hens' teeth, but that's what we've had: gorgeous summer weather and the hottest early May bank holiday on record today.  We've christened the new patio/pergola with a BBQ and several family meals, the fountain we bought last year is lovely and the pleasant noise almost drowns out the screaming kids next door and the people playing their radio loudly with the window open so we can actually relax out there.  It's been very pleasant.  I even strung up the fairy lights we bought on holiday last year, although that involved some electrical work as I had to cut the plug off to get the wire through the shed wall, then re-join the wires and string an extension cord around the wall to reach the socket.  It feels like a luxury hotel now.  Or at least a premium economy hotel.  We went to a local village plant sale on Saturday and picked up several bargain plants to fill in some of the bare gaps in the garden so hopefully those will thrive.

The big craft news this week is that I finally finished quilting the crosshatching on my Indigo Bear's Paw quilt, and I put it through the washing machine and the colours didn't run!  Something I had worried about occasionally over the last several years I've been working on it.  It's come out quite nice, soft and vintage looking.  I just need to put the binding on now.  It was hard work trimming the edges ready for binding because I have to keep it off the floor - because it's white and my sewing room floor is not pristine. So lots of bunching up and smoothing out to trim each small section of edge.  It's all trimmed up now and ready to sew the binding on.

I'm getting on well with my Peerie Floores hat designed by Kate Davies, which is the fair isle project I started once I finished the Scalloway Tam.  I bought this pattern a few years ago but only recently decided which colours of Jamiesons Spindrift I wanted to use. I also bought the matching mitten pattern so I might adapt those to fingerless gloves or mitts.

My colleague at work was thrilled with the teddy bear I knit her and has requested some cardigans as no one in her family knits.  I said I would be happy to make a few for her.  She's not due until July I think so I've got some time.

I've done more on the Japanese dollshouse this week.  I put together the ceiling for the landing and glued it on, and also made the other over-door canopy.

I had to sand down the ceiling a bit to get it to fit, since I had shortened the width of the landing when I assembled the first floor.  So I finished my modifications to the bench grinder turned disk sander, and used that for sanding the ceiling.  The grinder is not working exactly right yet, the sanding disks I bought do not seem good quality, and the hook tape I applied seems a bit too spongy. Also my wheel is bigger than my sanding disks.  But it still worked well enough to sand down the ceiling. I'll have to see about trimming down the wheel size and maybe try different loop tape.

With my extra day of holiday, I moved on to the next few chapters which is constructing the opening door and balcony room for the lefthand bedroom.  This was very difficult to assemble, the smallest discrepancy meant that later components didn't fit.  I resorted to a lot of banging with a hammer and forcing joints shut with my panel clamps, and got there in the end. Still need to build and install the doors and windows.

I occasionally watch a programme called Japanology Plus on TV and was very pleased when the cameras went into the home of a shopkeeper who lived above his shop in Tokyo.  His livingroom was basically the same as one of my dollshouse rooms:  same alcove with decorative post, same floating shelves, same sliding cupboards, the tatami mats, the low table, the post and beam construction etc. So this dollshouse is surprisingly authentic.

The bobbin lace has progressed slightly this week as I worked on my hexagon edging both Saturday and Sunday for a few hours with friends.  I'm going on a day course next weekend to learn Bruges Lace, a different type of bobbin lace, which should be fun and then Sunday is the Makit lace fair in Peterborough which is always good.

The rest of my spare time this week has been spent on developing the itinerary for next year's Japan holiday.  I've decided I'm going to book it all myself this time and not use a travel agent at all.  So lots of work to identify destinations, a logical route, plan how much time we need in each place, and making a start on reserving or booking hotels.  I've even emailed a traditional Japanese hotel to enquire about reservations using Japanese characters courtesy of Google Translate so feeling very brave.  It probably seems ridiculously early and yet already I've had trouble getting hotels I wanted in Tokyo and Osaka as the ones I wanted were sold out.  It's a popular destination.

Hope you've had great weather wherever you are!

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