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!

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.

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