Monday, 30 June 2008

Sewing, baking and battles are all in a days work

I took last Friday off work for no particular reason, other than it was a case of take the day off or lose it. I have similar days off coming up this week and next week, for the same reason.

During my day off, I did much housework and started working on repairs to my bell tent which has a dodgy door zip. The door has always been a bit tempermental and I guess I'm surprised it lasted as long as it did, but now it has gone, I really do need to do something about it... Or we sleep in a tent with a door flap that won't close.

So Friday morning saw me cutting canvas strips and then pre-sewing them into panels ready to attach to the tent. The canvas had already been washed and treated with Fabsil to waterproof it, reduce the chance of the dreaded mildew and give some UV protection - all of which are good things with cotton tents.

My plan is to add dutch lacing to the tent flap, which means adding an overflap to one side and a reinforcing panel to the other side of the door, to support eyelets or gromits. I'd taken measurements last year, so trusting that I'd got it right back then I pushed on with cutting and preparing the panels, making sure there were no exposed raw edges. It took me the best part of two hours (shockingly), to measure, cut, iron, sew, iron the canvas some more, then topstich the panels so they maintained the shape I was after... And this was before going anywhere near the tent itself!

More on this later as it started to rain before I could go any further and I needed an extra pair of hands to help manouvere the tent as I sewed.

That took care of the morning, in the afternoon I decided to bake the first cake since I moved to Coventry, which would be over nine years ago. The impetus for this was the rhubarb plant which is slowly trying to take over the patio, triffid style. while it provides an excellent climbing frame and shelter for the cats, that is a whole lot of very tasty rhubarb going to waste, so I decided to make a rhubarb cake, recipe courtesy of Heather.

I had much fun and discovered that I haven't forgotten how to bake. I upped the spices a little from Heather's recipe and decreased the amount of syrup because I'd added sugar to the rhubarb when stewing it. I don't normally stew rhubarb, preferring to bake it as it retains its shape and texture, but stewing sure is good for mushing it down so it blended into the cake mixture really well.

No photographic evidence of my baking efforts I'm afraid, as the cake is almost gone. It was indeed yummy.

Saturday I drove up to Ripley so that Dave could play in a tabletop wargame as part of the AscendancyLRP campaign. There were two boards running simultaneously and as the recording scribe, I had my work cut out trying to keep track of everything.

The game Dave was playing in was particularly tense as Dave opened with some really awful dice rolls, which meant he didn't have much chance of recovery. Uninvited assistants on his opposing side kept sticking their oar in, questioning the rules and demanding to see the rule book and arguing just about everything which meant the mood was ugly.

Considering they were wiping the floor with Dave, I thought their attitude was a bit over the top... But I'm no wargamer, so what do I know. Dave kept his cool and was remarkably patient and stoic in the face of everything. I'm not sure I'd have done so well.

I took lots of pictures which I sent to Richard so they can be retouched, resized and added to the website in due course, but a few of my favourites...

And this last one, which looks for all the world like Nightjar (the cat woman figure) is going to attack the Masked Rider (the guy on the horse), whereas in reality she's there as a bodyguard.

(As always, click on the images to see bigger versions...)

In the evening we all headed off to the pub for some food, but disaster struck in the form of an ill child. The small person in question is OK, just a bit of a tummy bug, but it was badly timed and meant that Andy and Heather had to abandon their one night off, which was a shame. I drove them home so they could pick up their car, then rejoined the rest for a pleasant evening before driving home via a brief stop at Richard's for a cuppa.

A good if long day methinks.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Mouldy Raspberry

Now for something different, at least for me.

This is my first knitted hat!

This is the Basic Tam with Flowers (minus flowers, because I decided against them) from One Skein Wonders.

It's knitted in the round, initially on 4mm DPN's, but I switched to 5mm for the main body of the hat to make it a little larger without increasing the number of stitches. The main problem from my viewpoint was keeping the tension even as I changed needles - I can mostly manage it for a sock, but working on such large (and slippery) needles presented a whole new challenge. Otherwise, it knitted up OK - except where my attention lapsed momentarily causing me to slip into rib for a whole round and only notice some 10 rounds later, which meant ripping it back.


Minor mishaps aside, it did finally come together and I managed the decrease at the top without incident. The slippery needles did give me a few hair raising moments in the last few rounds when having only a few stitches on each needle meant their was little friction and the stitches were prone to falling off the non-working needles!

The yarn is a wool/acrylic mix in DK weight purchased from Busy Fingers over two years ago. It was a single skein that I found in their bargain bucket by the door and as you can see it is a wonderful colour. A sort of brownish pink with flecks of red, blue and green worked in... Or as Dave named it, mouldy raspberry (Mouldy Rasp-Berret?) - he has a way with words, doesn't he?

A nice, simple hat. A quick, easy knit and very effective - I like it.

(As always, click on the pictures to see bigger versions...)

Monday, 23 June 2008

Old maybe, but still working

The weekend was a busy one, with errands and housework taking priority - so nothing unusual there!

I did find some time to cast on a pair of socks and did a tiny, token amount of spinning on my spindle. I also fell off the wagon, buying yarn both in Busy Fingers and from the stall in Coventry Market, which I made the mistake of checking out after recommendations from the ladies in Coventry's Knit-Wits.

I also bought a book - Tweed - using a forgotten gift token left over from Christmas which needed using up... Or at least that was my excuse. Nice book with very tweedy jumpers in it which appealed to my need to stretch my knitting muscles. Things to aspire to.

Saturday and Sunday afternoon, I spent quite a lot of time cleaning and oiling old sewing machines.

I can currently boast to having five sewing machines living in my little house, only one of which is actually used. One is my original sewing machine (really Dave's) which I retrieved from his sister's cupboard, not long after we got together and then learnt to sew on.

The next one is a tired, unreliable Frister and Rossman gifted to me by Dave's mum, which I really do need to take to the tip I guess. Then I have a little, lightweight baby sewing machine my aunt originally bought to hem curtains with, but could never get the tension to adjust properly - and I've never spent long enough playing with to get it sorted. My current domestic machine is a Janome and a pleasure to sew on...

And finally we have this...

I don't know how old this sewing machine is or the model, but I dug it out from where it's been hiding under a pile of fabric (which I'm still not talking about) so that I could fiddle with it. I have a tent which needs fixing and as nice as my Janome is, it's motor is going to really struggle to sew through several layers of canvas and I don't really have room indoors to easily manipulate the bulk. Something either driven by hand or by a far more powerful motor is going to be required as well as room to work.

I've already broached the subject with Esther, who has an industrial sewing machine which could certainly whiz through the small amount of sewing involved, but in the meantime, I wondered about this old Singer hand crank. This beauty was given to Dave by his then land lady and he tells me he has sewn on it, but he couldn't tell me how to thread it or wind bobbins on it. Never mind though, I figured it out!

First thing I did was to scold Dave for leaving it stored for all this time with the presser foot in the up position!

Before trying to sew with it, I cleaned it thoroughly. I'm afraid the original foot attachments and bobbins are not much good as they are covered in rust and I'm not sure how to clean them. Any suggestions?

The rest of the machine cleaned up well and after generously oiling every conceivable part, I was ready to play. Using my experience far and looking at pictures on the internet, I managed to get it sewing reliably by Sunday afternoon.

The bobbin race gave me pause for thought. It oscillates, rather than rotating, but is a drop in rather than side inserting. It has a nifty little lever for popping the bobbin out when you're done, which I was impressed with. Figuring out which way round to put in the bobbin took some time, as did trying to see how to line up the thread with the notches, but I got there in the end.

After a few hours, I had it working as reliably as I'd expect my Janome to be. The main problem area is going to be tension and stitch length, the knobs for which don't have any indicators so you know how much you've set them to. Instead, I tweaked the tension knob (on the tension plate spring) until I was getting a good tight stitch. The stitch width selector is under the bobbin winder, discovered by trial and error and adjusted using a similar approach.

The threading diagram so far... For sewing in red and bobbin winding in green.

I think I'm going to email Singer with the serial number and see if I can get some basic operating instructions. While I think I've got the basics sorted out now, I still can't see how to drop the feed dogs. It only does a straight stitch but has all these wierd foot attachments, which may extend it's range somewhat... If I can clean them up of course.

(As always, click on the pictures to see bigger versions...)

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Today's good deed

Today started with more excitement than I had anticipated when I came across an accident as I cycled into work this morning. I was pushing my bike across the bridge at Canley station, when I saw two people on the floor where the ramp doubles back on itself. As I drew closer, it became obvious that one was a person on the floor covered in blood and the other was administering first aid while juggling a phone as she called for an ambulance.

Naturally, I stayed around to help out - first running to the station and to get the full address for the ambulance as well as asking for a clean cloth. There was a queue which made it awkward as I pushed in with my "Errr... Excuse me! Sorry... Um... Can you help please? There's been an accident..." I was worried about getting lynched there for a moment, I can tell you!

Then I was on hand holding duty and trying to keep the injured girl awake by insistently interrogating her.

After ten minutes of waiting and asking questions, with the station master hovering around me(the other woman had gone to flag down the ambulance) and it turned out the girl had borrowed the bicycle, which had no brakes! With no helmet either, she'd only discovered this when hurtling down the slope and into a bend on the bridge.

I think she was a very lucky girl. Had she been heading into traffic when those brakes failed... Or if the bridge wasn't covered in high bars with wire mesh to stop folks going over the railings and onto the tracks below... Let's just say that could have been very, very nasty.

Anyway, the ambulance finally showed up after what seemed like ages but was probably only fifteen minutes or so, the girl was bundled off and I carried on to work. I'm sure she'll be fine but oh my gosh... No brakes!

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Picnic in the park

Dave tells me my bicycle is once more working. He took it to the shop on Friday and it was sorted after five minutes of fiddling. Apparently it was the gear cable, which had stretched again (this is the second time it's happened). They also tweaked my brakes which had been catching slightly... I've yet to test ride it, but fingers crossed it will be OK.

Yesterday, we headed for Coventry's War Memorial Park for our picnic. We had a good turn out, seeing the usual suspects plus a few others, along with children, spouses and friends. Some knitting was achieved, so we did indeed knit in public on World Wide Knitting in Public Day and we ate quite a lot of food, as everyone generously donated to the spread.

I made some potato salad, which was yummy if I say so myself and also took along sliced carrots, chips and dips. My thanks to Dave who scrubbed the potatoes for the salad, so I could get them on to cook in a timely fashion.

I was shocked at the price of ice cream in the park... I swear the ice cream man was adding 50p purely for the privilege of buying it inside the park. Pure profiteering!

The rain held off, with the promised showers not appearing so all was good. The only problem was the frizbe hazard, with poor Lynne dropping stitches after being hit in the head! I believe Esther had a near miss too and she was cradling her youngest at the time. We also had to shoo off a few dogs who had an eye on the contents of our picnic blankets... As Dave said, their owners needed better training!

After returning from eating and knitting in the great outdoors, Dave and I decided to go watch the latest Indiana Jones movie. What can I say other than it was silly fun. We both enjoyed it and came out happy.

All in all, a good day.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Mistaken Rib

My bicycle is broken. :(

Last night as I cycled home, it started spontaneously changing gears all by itself. Then when I did change gear, it didn't. There were wierd clicking noises from the back wheel and when I got off to look, the chain placement didn't match the gear I should have been in. I think it was the spontaneous gear changing that was most worrying as it wasn't a smooth transition, more a sort of great jolt which nearly threw me off the bike. The gear transition has always been a bit ropey, but this having a mind of its own is something else entirely!

I've handed the bike over to Dave to take to the bike shop and naturally, today I drove to work.

Ironically, I don't have a lot of petrol in the car just as there are some strikes effecting the delivery of petrol to forecourts... The fuel gauge has been low for a week or so, but since my car use has dropped considerably over the past few weeks I'd been eeking it out. Tonight I shall endeavour to buy fuel... I just hope no one is panic buying out there!

I finally got around to sewing the button on my first attempt at a waistcoat and I now declare it finished.
For those who need to know these things, this is the Simple Mistake Rib Waistcoat (that's a Ravelry Link), taken from 101 Designer One Skein Wonders. I knitted it up in the smallest size to fit a 34" chest (i.e. me, I am ickle) out of James C. Brett's Marble in DK.
Having added a crochet border and given it a light pressing with a cool iron I've decided it does fit after all. The waistcoat has a lot of negative ease and I think it is supposed to sit like this. Having looked at it in the mirror, it looks 'right'. Not exactly what I was expecting, but certainly wearable and it may grow on me come the cooler weather when I start wearing it.

I'm still pleased with the seams on this and I like the way the crochet border gave it some shape, adding stability to the whole thing. If I make it again, I'll either make it in a larger size or add a few stitches at the front to reduce the negative ease just a little. All in all, I'm pleased and glad I made it.

Now, in response to those who said I'd never posted pictures demonstrating my cat's love of paper bags I refer you back to this entry. See? Completely mad for them!

And to prove the cats still enjoy their paper bags and take turns* sitting on them, here are the cats yesterday, pictured seperately.

* NB Taking turns meaning they squabble and chase each other off the paper bags if one catches the other on them; as sitting on them or playing with them is a very desirable thing indeed.

And finally...

Another week has gone by in a blink of an eye and the weekend is upon us once more. Tomorrow (Saturday 14th June) is World Wide Knitting In Public Day and we will be having a picnic in the War Memorial Park, Coventry. Knitters and crocheters are welcome, along with their significant others, hangers on and children. Just bring a dish to add to the picnic and something to sit on as well as your knitting/crochet (of course).

If the weather behaves itself we should have a good day. :)

(As always, click on the images to see bigger versions...)

Monday, 9 June 2008

Stash diving

This weekend I did not work but spent the time at home, catching up on chores and trying to find time to relax. I say trying, because I wasn't very successful on the relaxing front and what's more I don't seem to have been very productive either!

Saturday, I decided to sort through my yarn stash.

I've finally managed to get hold of some resealable plastic bags and with moth season soon to be upon us I wanted to get as much of my yarn bagged up as possible. Sadly, I can't bag my fabric stash (which also comprises a whole lot of wool) as well as they do not make big enough plastic bags, so I think I'm going to need storage tubs, but that is a problem for another day.

Compared with some people I know, I don't have a particularly big yarn stash and when I hauled it all out, the whole thing sat comfortably on one half of a sofa. I deliberately searched around, finding the elderly balls of yarn that I purchased nearly two years ago back when I started getting interested in crochet again, adding the resulting mix to the pile.

Once I'd grouped similar balls and dyelots, I took some photographs of the elderly yarn and added it to Ravelry. Not because I felt the need to increase my stash list, but because these elderly balls of wool (which are not really that elderly) have been forgotten. They've been sitting behind my sofa, not gathering dust because I keep them in the plastic bags they were sold in, but never seeing the light of day and never being thought of. This means they are unlikely to be ever knitted or crocheted into anything. This is a waste of decent yarn and therefore bad.

I have similar problems with fabric and habberdashery... But again I'm not going there. One thing at a time.

Most of these formerly forgotten balls of yarn are sale yarn or discontinued, bought in small quantities, a ball of this, two balls of that... and intended to be played with, rather than to make anything specific. As such, I wasn't very consistant in my approach and my more experienced self is still puzzling over what exactly to do with them. But at least I know they exist now and having added them to my Ravelry database, I may even remember them over the coming months as I look for 'small' projects to do while I tackle my next intended 'real' project which will be a lace shawl.

I'm still not done. I ran out of time, energy and plastic bags, but even those yarns I didn't get to bag up have been moved to a more prominent place in the pile and I've started the process of thinking about simple projects for them. Bed socks for example... They're knitted at a looser guage, so in theory are faster, make good Christmas gifts and would satisfy my need to knit socks (I hope).

One thing I can say having gone through the stash, my intake of new yarns has slowed considerably since that original buying frenzy two years ago. Yarn I buy tends to be with specific types of project in mind, rather than randomly selected. My fabric habbit went a similar way, with the original frantic buying of practically anything vaguely woven, giving way to carefully selected lengths. There are always exceptions of course, the odd skein which I fall for or a pretty piece of fabric which I declare would make an excellent frock coat (which I admit may never get made), but I do try to be sensible...


Tuesday, 3 June 2008

What day is it again?

I worked through this weekend, upgrading a critical system and staying camped out at my desk for an ungodly number of hours. It was a fraught couple of days, with minor glitches getting in the way of the upgrade, which itself ran through pretty much as planned, but those glitches meant I lost hours sorting them out. So all in all, the weekend was long, stressful and incredibly tiring... The sort of tiring where at the end of the day I can barely string two words together in a coherent fashion. Not good.

I'm reliably informed that today is a Tuesday but to be honest I'm beginning to lose track of days. Part of my thinks it is a Wednesday, but I've been warned that Friday could be a long time coming and I have a whole lot more work to get through before then.

Having been at the office over the weekend and returning home in a poor state for anything more than eating and sleeping, has meant I'm not really progressing anything at the moment.

But... I have been slowly cracking on with my first attempt at a seamed knitted garment, a simple waistcoat (Ravelry Link) from 101 Designer One-Skein Wonders.

Here it is as of last Monday, just so you can see what the fabric looks like.

Click on image to see a bigger version...

This waistcoat is a very simple knit, using something called a mistake rib, which is basically a 2x2 rib knit on an odd number of stitches. It is very easy and doesn't require much thought, although I have from time to time found myself knitting a proper 2x2 rib as my attention wonders.

I finished the knitting part of this on Sunday night and last night, I bravely tackled the side seams using matress stitch. Now, I've used matress stitch before but never on knitted fabric and I thought I did a fairly good job. When I held it up I couldn't see the join unless I used my fingers to feel for it by squeezing the seam, which to me was pretty much the idea. Picture a very happy me.

Until I tried the sewn waistcoat on, at which point it appeared to be far too small for me.

I'm trying to temper the disappointment at this stage as I persevere with adding a crochet border, which I may beef up a bit adding a second row rather than just the one required by the pattern. So far, the border is stretching the edges of the knitted fabric (as I expected it to) quite a bit, but the main body of the waistcoat isn't stretching with it, so the whole thing has a warped and lop sided thing going on. The yarn (James C Brett Marble) is lovely, but acrylic so I can't go near it with steam which means I plan on waving a cool iron over it when I'm done. If that doesn't work, then I'll try washing it and pulling to shape...

I'm considering this a learning experience.

No finished pictures as of yet, because I'm concentrating on trying to sort it out rather than waiting for good light and photo opportunities.