Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Way too hot

It is now officially way too hot, for me at least.  It's in the high twenties this week and edging over 30 degrees C on some days.  I don't do hot weather.  At least it isn't humid - humidity really does me in.  My office is very reluctant to put the air con on, partly because of miserliness I suspect, and partly because a vocal minority complain vociferously about draughts/being cold, so the official policy is it can't go on until it hits 28 degrees inside.  So on hot days I am a nomad, moving desks around the building trying to find somewhere cool enough to be able to think straight. Usually by the afternoon the air con is on and I can move back to my real desk.

But on the weekend it was quite pleasant, with a nice breeze where we were in Norfolk.  I took DH away for a birthday treat (it wasn't his actual birthday but it's a better time of year to go) to the area of Thetford where they filmed a 1970s British TV comedy called 'Dad's Army' which he quite likes.  We visited the Dad's Army Museum in the Town Hall in Thetford which was surprisingly good, with a lovely vintage tea room, and costumed re-enactors such as this gruff Captain Mainwaring in a recreation of the Vicar's office. I took DH's picture with him later.

We did a Dad's Army trail walk around Thetford, and then went on to Bressingham Steam and Gardens which also had a Dad's Army exhibit because they lent many vintage vehicles to the film crew back in the day.  I didn't think Bressingham was as good but there was still lots to look at and we went round the gardens afterwards.

Our hotel was a surprise. It didn't have very good reviews on TripAdvisor but actually turned out to be rather impressive.

Lyndford Hall is yet another Victorian country pile now converted into a hotel and trying to survive. While admittedly tired in places, it has retained extensive grounds and we enjoyed a walk around and a Pimms on the terrace.  As it happened, they had a 1940s dinner dance on that night which fit in with our Dad's Army theme.  I dressed in a 1940s style dress complete with seams up the back of my tights, and topped off with one of my hand knit shawls in a traditional pure wool and stitch pattern.

Neither of us knows how to ballroom dance but before leaving our room, we looked up how to do the box step on Youtube.  So we were able to strut our stuff on a few recognisable numbers like In the Mood and Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy while admiring the much more impressive experienced dancers performing various acrobatics.

I'm now trying to do at least one hour of Japanese study almost every day, which although enjoyable is severely cutting into my already limited craft time on work days.  So not a huge amount of crafts this week.  On the car journeys on the weekend I was of course knitting on my ten stitch triangle shawl.  It's almost big enough now, I think one more time around (or perhaps two) then I will knit on a solid colour edging to pull it all together.

I have to confess to being a total quitter on the Cynthia England featherweight wallhanging.  I just found the 'freezer paper on top' method very aggravating, there were a kazillion tiny pieces and it was almost impossible to get them to line up neatly, and it was frustrating not being able to see the finished result because of the papers in the way.  I tried to fix the section I got wrong last time, which was a waste of time, so I had to re-do most of that, and then realised there was still a piece in the wrong fabric right in the middle.  I don't like to give up on things and rarely do, but I looked at the enormous expanse of tiny pieced pattern sections still waiting to be tackled and just thought 'no'.  The whole project has gone in the bin and I have crossed it off my list.  It feels good, should have done it 15 years ago.  In celebration, I whipped up a sheep-themed knitting project bag using some fabric I bought for that purpose a while back.

I haven't done any bobbin lace since the Wymington lace day last weekend, but I did find a pretty embroidered tablecloth with a hand-tatted edging in one of the antiques shops we visited in Norfolk.  I don't think the tatting can be that old as the thread is variegated, but it is neatly done and looks nice in the hallway. I wonder if someone added an edging to a vintage cloth they already had?

Japanese dollshouse: After some extensive testing (a handful of labelled brown-stained coffee stirrers to prove it), I've decided that the Rustin spirit-based wood dye in Dark Oak is the closest match to the old Colron stain I was using.  It isn't penetrating as deeply (the spirit is obviously something less noxious) but the colour is very similar.  I can see a difference but I don't think it will be that obvious to anyone else.  So I went ahead and stained all the wood pieces I posted a pic of a few weeks ago, and I've done the initial assembly of the right hand first floor balcony room. It still needs a ceiling, trim and windows, then the balcony railings to go on.

You may remember I blogged about how much trouble I had getting the basic structure of the left hand balcony room to fit together?  We're talking actual hammers, heavy compression with quick-release clamps and intense effort trying to get things together before the glue went off.  This time I dry-fitted everything and was having similar problems, but worked out that it wasn't me being incompetent, it's actually that certain plywood pieces were significantly thicker than others.  The thin pieces of plywood fit fine into the prepared grooves and slots, the thick plywood definitely does not.  Having identified that at an early stage, I was able to sand down the offending pieces before painting them. So assembling the right hand balcony was much less traumatic, whew!

I wanted to blog a neat gadget I saw at a beading demo over at Coleman's craft warehouse. Rather than laboriously hand-threading dozens of beads onto the soft beading wire, you just bend a hook at the tip of the wire, and insert the hook into the bowl of a spinner full of beads.  The spinner sits on a spindle, and when you whirl it with one hand, the beads are driven onto the hook and hey presto you quickly fill the wire with beads.  I thought this might be useful for knitting as well, for patterns asking you to pre-thread the beads onto the yarn.  You could thread them onto the wire and then slide them off the other end onto the yarn.  The instructor said you can buy these spinners for about £14.

Friday, 15 June 2018

A week in Cumbria and yes, more yarn

For our second week of holiday, we drove up to Cumbria (about four hours) to stay in a cottage on the edge of the Lake District.  I'm not sure whether doing the cottage the second week was better or worse after having had a week off at home.  We were already quite relaxed so once we got to the cottage we instantly settled into a sedentary life and were very unambitious about going out.  Perhaps if we had done the cottage first then we would have had more motivation to go out and see things, lol.

On the way up we stopped at the Black Sheep Wool Craft Barn near Warrington, which I've wanted to visit for a while.  Black Sheep is a big online discount yarn and craft supplier, and this is their bricks and mortar HQ.  It was stuffed full of excellently priced yarn of all qualities (but admittedly a lot of acrylic), and also stocks cross stitch and felting supplies and has a room of quilt fabric.  In the bargain room I picked up some Debbie Bliss Baby cashmerino in pale blue for a couple of pounds a ball for some future baby knitting, and some pretty cross stitch charts that were .50p each.  I got a ball of solid blue sock yarn to knit an edging around my ten stitch triangle shawl (which was my go-to project during the holiday for in the car and when we were waiting for food at restaurants), and five balls of Jeannie cotton blend to knit a pattern for a cable yoke top.  I also fell victim to a kit to make a simple crochet afghan, I liked the vintage colours and the kit was so cheap as it is acrylic yarn, so even though i don't really crochet I couldn't resist.  Afterwards we had tea and cake in the pleasant cafe.  A really nice place to visit with friendly staff and I hope I can go again sometime.

View from the tea room, there is a lot more store out of sight

The next day, we drove over to Appleby-in-Westmorland which was hosting the annual  Horse Fair, a gathering of some 10,000 gypsies and travellers which has been taking place for over a hundred years. It attracts a lot of tourists now as well, so the town was pretty packed.  We got there early and got a good parking place and then wandered around admiring the horses and exploring the fields of market stalls.  As well as being driven randomly up and down the street to be shown off, a lot of horses are taken into the shallow river to be washed and even swum.  The event spills over into the surrounding area so we continued to pass encampments of travellers over the next few days in a lot of the areas we visited but by mid-week it was all over and most had moved on.  It was all pretty unusual and interesting, and there were some absolutely gorgeous horses.

Another day we drove up to visit the World in Miniature museum at the Houghton Hall Garden Centre near Carlisle, a collection of 1/12th scale room boxes and miniature objects. I had seen some of the exhibits before when the collection was in its former home in Oban, many years ago.  The current museum is well worth a visit if you are interested in dollshouse miniatures.  At the moment there is also an exhibit by the Miniature Needlework Society which was quite interesting. The garden centre itself is huge and has a craft shop as well as all the usual farm shop, deli, cafe, gift stuff.

A miniature lacemaking pillow with the view sadly obstructed by
a permanent magnifying glass inside the room.  The bobbins are perfectly in scale
but the lace and pins are not.

A 1/12th dream tiled bathroom

Cumbria is a beautiful area to holiday in. We enjoyed visiting some of the historic houses and gardens in the area, and had some lovely drives over the fells and moors, and spent one afternoon driving along some of the smaller lakes. I particularly liked the many becks and waterfalls, and seeing the occasional red squirrel (the now endangered native UK squirrel).

I stumbled across a yarn shop while we walked around the historic town of Penrith, and bought some Hayfield yarn that cleverly self stripes with a rose effect when you knit it, as well as the pattern and some matching rosebud buttons.

Also in Penrith, we found a great secondhand book shop with some very reasonably priced craft books (most were £3 or less) so some of those came home with me as well. The rag doll book has some really cute patterns in it which are quite tempting, and there is an edging in the Lace Edging book that I might try on my triangle shawl.

The rest of the week involved far too much sugar, a  bit of plant shopping, a lot of reading and crafts (I took two knitting projects, my cross stitch and my travelling lace pillow), some nice lunches out, some antiquing, many tea rooms, a few easy country walks and a wide variety of weather.  All very relaxing but it had to come to an end and today (Friday) we came home.

Tomorrow I am off to another bobbin lace day but I will probably take my big hexagonal mat project as I haven't worked on it for quite a while.  Hopefully when I get home in the afternoon, if the weather is dry, I can get out and hack back some of the garden which has become a bit untidy in our absence.  I also need to plant the new rose 'Chianti' which we bought at one of the houses we visited after smelling its gorgeous fragrance on the large example growing in their rose garden. I've just looked it up and apparently it can grow to 6 feet by 5 feet so I will have to ponder where to put it and will probably have to move some other things to make room.

Monday is back to work for us both and having to deal with a two week backlog of emails etc.  Oh well, we have to pay for the holidays somehow!

Saturday, 9 June 2018

A week of holiday goes so fast...

We've had a relaxing week off work at home.  I had optimistic ideas that I was going to get loads done, hours of crafting every day etc.  In reality I may have actually done less on most of my hobbies, lol!  In between holiday treats like afternoon tea at a local hotel, a couple of lunches in cafes, trips to fabric shops and antique stores, plus doing a bit of work around the house and garden and generally slowing down, I have done crafts but not loads of them.

The dollshouse has not moved on much at all because the second lot of wood stain I ordered last weekend didn't turn up until Thursday and then we had to pick it up late in the day from the post office as we missed the delivery.  They are more in the right family of browns, two are quite dark and one is quite light.  I am experimenting with mixing the dark one with the light one and I think I will get something that won't look horribly different from the first half of the house. In the meantime I put together kits for two chairs, a low table and a Japanese lantern.  The chairs and table will be going inside the next balcony room when I can build it.

I did put in several hours on preparing two bobbin lace samples for a class I'm going to be taking.  I want to go to the class with both projects started, and I wanted to do the tricky starting part in the quiet of my own home without feeling under pressure.

I've done more work on the Cynthia England paper pieced wallhanging which I am really not enjoying.  It is so fiddly, lots of tiny pieces the size of a fingernail. I finished the third section and pinned it on the design wall, then realised that I had used the wrong fabric on two small pieces and that another fabric I've chosen is the wrong value.  So basically I need to re-do that entire section of about 15 tiny pieces.  Bleah.  I don't like to give up on projects but this one is starting to tempt me.

My Peerie Floores mitten  is coming on well, the re-worked thumb gusset is finally the right size and in the right place (fourth time lucky) and I'm almost up to the start of  my fingers now. So I need to decide now if I want to knit fingers or just a cuff for a fingerless mitt.  I'm thinking probably a cuff, no fingers.

On Thursday DH drove me over to the Fabric Guild warehouse in Oadby.  I used to shop there when it was in Leicester but then a while back they moved out to the burbs and this was the first time I'd been to the new location.  It's a lot bigger but I think there is about the same amount of stock, just spread out more so you can see it better.  I wandered around for a while but didn't actually buy any fabric. I had some member vouchers from previous visits and I traded them in for a cross stitch book of designs and a couple of mini templates.  But on the way back we stopped into an antiques mall which randomly had some nice fat quarters packaged up on one stall (new, not vintage) at a good price so I bought two packs of some repros I thought went nicely together. They look a bit green in this photo but really they are brown/sepia with red prints.

The other thing I tackled this week was to strip the wax off our hall bench/coat stand and paint two coats of primer and two coats of the green paint to match our wainscoting.  I was pretty fed up with painting it by the end of all that!  But it looks a lot better. Before it was sort of a dark pine which didn't suit the hall very well, now it visually appears to have shrunk and the hall seems a lot bigger. The bench has coat hooks along the back rail so we have somewhere to hang coats, because there isn't a closet in the hall.  DH wasn't happy that I was doing 'work' on the holiday, because it made him feel like he should be doing work as well and he didn't want to.  My view is that it's the kind of job I don't have time for in my normal life so a holiday is a good time to do it.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Stair surfing

A bit late on blogging this week as I managed to slip and fall down half a flight of stairs yesterday, surfing through a bunch of tools on the way, and ending up at the bottom bruised and battered.  It's my own fault as I had left the tools there after working on my walk-in closet alcove, plus some lace stuff. I think I actually slipped on an empty plastic bag left over from building the two IKEA units for the closet.  As I have had back issues before, I was worried that I had done something to my back, and for the first few hours I was having trouble moving and walking because everything hurt.  But after lying on an ice pack a few times and taking ibuprofen regularly, it's not too bad today.  Just a big bruise on the impact area (my butt), sore but not wrenched back, and strangely a very sore neck.  So feeling very fortunate that I didn't do anything worse.  It scared the heck out of DH who was at his desk a few feet away when I took my tumble.

I only have one photo this week because everything else has been a work in progress.  I finished the little baby cardigan and I'm going to post it off to the pregnant work colleague today along with two other baby knits that were in my stash from past makes. This is a free pattern from an Australian blogger and is a quick easy knit in DK.

What else have I been working on this week?

  • I'm re-knitting the fourth attempt on the Peerie Floores fingerless mitt.
  • My closet alcove in my room is now kitted out with two IKEA units I assembled to hold clothes and shoes, and I bought some fabric to make a door curtain at the Mill Shop in Northampton on Saturday.  Just waiting for the curtain rod which is on order.
  • I've cut out the 'kits' for the next four section of my Cynthia England Featherweight wall hanging and I am working on assembling section B.
  • I've chosen and pricked out two Bucks Point lace sample designs from my Alex Stillwell book and have started one of them which will include my first corner attempt in Bucks. I'm using Egyptian Cotton 60 thread for the first time and managed to snap four threads at the beginning, it's not nearly as strong as the DMC Broder Machine I usually work with.
  • I have tested and rejected the three Liberon wood stains I ordered for my Japanese dollshouse. They were all a reddish-brown, completely the wrong colour compared to the cold dark brown I was using.  I tried mixing in some yellow pine stain which toned down the red but tended to make it a bit orange instead.  Now I have ordered four small tins of Rustin's spirit based stain in the hopes that one of them will be a better match for my previous stain, they should be coming this week.  Other than that I haven't done much apart from working on some sliding Shoji screens.
  • I'm trying to learn at least a few Japanese words every day but I'm struggling with my ageing memory deficiencies.

We've spent a lot of time out in the garden the past few weeks as it is looking lovely this year (if I do say so myself  :)  ).  All the rainy weather coupled with the longer days and growing season has been perfect for our garden, which has poor sandy soil and usually suffers from drought.  So it is a green oasis out there with lots of lovely flowers.   We feel like the work we've done out there the past three seasons including the hard landscaping has finally come together.  I still don't feel like a gardener and am often floundering but nature and the weather have been helping me out a lot. Even DS is amenable to eating out on the new patio whereas at the old house he never wanted to go outside.

We're both home from work this week, taking some leave to relax at home, so I'm hoping to get some solid time in on my various hobbies.  We've invested in some frozen ready meals for supper, which we don't normally buy, to maximise hobby time. Looking forward to a relaxing few days!

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