Monday, 28 July 2008

Purple heatwave

It seems that summer has finally arrived (for a few days at least) with the past few days being very hot and humid. The weather forecast remains scary though, with the beebs animated one for today flashing lots of lightening in a dramatic fashion for tonight.

Due to the sudden heatwave, this weekend has been a fight to acquire oomph to do anything. Nonetheless, I headed into town on Saturday to start collecting supplies for next weekend when I'm hoping to join Helen, Heather and a few others for a spot of dyeing.

Reading Heather's extensive list of what we'll need to bring, I started off by buying cheap brushes and a bucket. Rubber gloves and a plastic dust sheet are still on my list, while I rescued newspapers from the recycling box. I ordered undyed yarn from Fyberspates at the beginning of last week so I'm keeping my fingers crossed my order shows up or there will be no dyeing for me!

Being on jury service this week means that I can't get the delivery sent to work, so I'm going to have to pick the parcel up from wherever Royal Mail takes it when they can't get you to answer the door. This used to be a sorting office in town, but I think it's been closed recently which means I have no idea where I'm going to have to go to fetch an undelivered parcel.

In other news, the eyelets are all set in the tent. I waited until early Saturday evening, when things cooled just a little to show Dave how to set an eyelet. He got started on the remaining eyelets early (ish) on Sunday morning (before the main heat of the day) and tells me they're all in. I haven't seen the finished eyelets myself yet, as he took the opportunity to douse the lawn in water and lawnfeed so everything became very damp for a short while.

By the time things had dried out again, it was too hot to think about hefting canvas about so I sat in the shade, playing with beads and mohair. I'm still at the experimental stage, but I'm pleased with what I've done so far. No photographs as my brain was melting by the time I was done (even sat in the shade) and I couldn't muster enough energy to fetch the camera.

Finally, I found this in the market on Saturday.

I've never seen a purple cauliflower before and was very taken with the vivid shade of the florets, so had to buy one to try it out. The purpleness was not very colourfast though, turning the water it was blanched in a nice violet sort of colour. This meant I was forewarned and not alarmed when the same purpleness leached into the cheese sauce the cauliflower was cooked in...

In fact I was rather amused by this turn of events, with both Dave and I agreeing that it was kind of cool to each purple cauliflower cheese. It was also very tasty, in a purpley, pink goodness sort of way.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Pink or blue?

Another week has flown by and I've been busy at work, trying to get anything essential done before the end of this week as my attendance at the office will be a bit hit and miss for the next month. I start jury service next week, so currently I have no idea where I'm going to be at any time. After that I have holidays booked, meaning that work have been warned that if worse comes to worse, they may not see me now until September!

As I look ahead to a weekend filled with more dodging of showers interspersed with whacking eyelets in all the while wincing at pain in my knee and arm, I'm also hoping to work on this...

This is a simple messenger bag that I cut the fabric for a couple of months ago and it's taken me until now to finish sewing up. As you can see, it's made of a nice (but maybe a little boring) heavy boiled navy wool which was probably originally intended for men's overcoats.

The wool itself is a woven fabric which has been boiled so that it's shrunk to become very dense and stable. It may also have been giving an additional waterproofing treatment, although I couldn't swear to it. This is the remains of a three meter piece of wool that I turned into a mantle for a friend a few years back and has been sitting unloved in my stash ever since.

No pattern here. I just measured out the pieces as I saw fit and made a strap which I lined to stop it from stretching. I lined the bag using some calendered cotton left over from a ball gown I made up, ooh probably four or five years ago now. I added a couple of pockets to the lining as I think they always come in handy for slipping your purse or mobile phone into, especially with bigger bags where such things have a tendency to get swallowed up.

I am pretty much making this bag up as I go along. No pattern and I'm not really experienced in the bag making department, so this is a big experiment. I'm also trying to make this bag up mostly from whatever is sitting in my stash.

And that includes Mohair.

My intention with this bag was always (from the day I originally cut the panels) to embellish it with crochet motifs. I picked up a copy of Easy Beaded Crochet during our recent trip to Lichfield and I was inspired by a bag in there which uses these lacy beaded motifs on a felted (crochet) bag.

I have seed beads sitting in my stash as well and so I thought, why not add similar motifs to this bag? I think it would certainly give it a little more oomph!

So the only question remains... Pink motifs or Blue motifs?

I need to make a decision before tomorrow when I shall start the search for matching buttons.

And finally...

We have a new addition to our household, a little friend that Dave brought back from Maelstrom with him.
Meet Rydl, in doll form.

Apparently this doll was knitted up by a fellow player at Maelstrom after Dave admired her 'sock' in progress earlier this year. The sock turned out to be a glove, but the lady was impressed by Dave's knowledge of knitting and so she made him this doll.

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

Monday, 21 July 2008

Eyelets (gromits) between showers

I spent this weekend mostly dodging showers.

British summertime was at its best in Coventry this weekend, with fantastic sunshine one minute followed by heavy downpour the next, clearing to sunny again within another 10 minutes.

Normally, I'm quite stoic about this - it is normal after all.

However, when you have a tent to fix this is very inconvenient, especially when there is a deadline approaching (i.e. I want to use the tent this summer) and you work fulltime, limiting the days you have available to work on said tent.

Saturday morning, I woke to sunshine so happily started preparing to work on my bell tent's door flap which I'm repairing by replacing the zip with eyelets. I waited for a few hours to make sure the ground was dry before hauling the tent out of the shed and laying it out on the lawn. Dave wasn't here (it being a Maelstrom weekend) so I was working on my own and with a currently dodgy arm/shoulder, that bag of canvas was painfully heavy, but I was determined.

Next up I gathered my tools, finding a suitable holepunch, a small piece of wood, a nylon hammer, a tiny anvil, my pointiest awl and of course a pencil, plus the required eyelets. I set a test eyelet in scrap of canvas, just to make sure I hadn't forgotten how, then marked out where the eyelets had to go on the top door flap. I also periodically instructed the cat (Charlie) to get off the canvas, which he wanted to help wrestle into submission.

Finally, happy that I had everything under control I nipped indoors for two minutes and was heading back outside when Missy came in to tell me it was raining.

Missy is a smart cat who holds a very high opinion of me. If the weather isn't to her liking she will come and find me, complaining about the situation bitterly and looking at me like I should now fix it. No matter how often I explain that I can't stop rain, she never stops acting like its a serious afront when I fail to do something about inclement weather.

But I digress. I rushed outside to find a heavy shower in progress and my previously dry canvas tent was getting wetter by the second. There followed a frantic two minutes as I bundled the tent up, carried it awkwardly into the shed before returning for the tools.

Some twenty minutes later, the rain stopped. I waited as the sun came out, waited some more for the ground to dry and then retrieved the tent from the shed, laying it out on the grass as I repeated the above... Until the heavens opened once more.

And so it went for the entire weekend.

After lugging that tent in and out of the shed more times than I care to admit, I finally set all of the eyelets for the top flap Sunday afternoon, finishing at 4:50pm. Each eyelet needs about ten to fifteen minutes of whacking with a hammer before they're in to my satisfaction. By that time, my knees were complaining, my hands were hurting and my arm was throbbing. And that's only half of them done!
So here we have seven eyelets, set 20cm (or 8 inches) apart, which seemed like a sensible distance to me. If you look carefully, you can see I've closed the original zip here and used the top flap to mark the position of the eyelets on the back flap. Which I will undoubtedly hope to do next weekend...

The cats were also spending the weekend dodging the showers, with the view from my back door alternating between this...

And this...
Around that point, Missy realised I was watching so started to mew happy girly squeaks while rolling over to beam at me, while Charlie watched in a bemused fashion.

I did try to get a picture of her the right way up, but when I stepped over her Missy got wind of the camera and her paperazzi issues kicked in and she ran off. Charlie posed for a moment or two though...
(Note the single orange hair lying on his forehead - now I wonder who put that there?)

And then got all excited by the attention, bouncing around the garden for a while before trying to wriggle under the patio.

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

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Cabled Footies

On a cold, wet, miserable summer morning, cosy socks are just the thing to remind you that winter is just around the corner.

Having made three pairs of plain socks, I decided it was time to stretch my knitting muscles and try making something different. After thinking about it for a while, I decided to try making house or bed socks, preferably using bigger needles and a DK yarn.

So I came to the Cabled Footies (Ravelry Link) from One Skein by Leigh Radford (another Ravelry Link).
These are knitted up on 5mm DPN's, which was convenient since I picked up some 5mm sock needles for working on the Mouldy Raspberry Hat. I used one of Mercia Wools' Superwash Wool in a DK weight, meaning the end result can be thrown in the washing machine... Which I'm afraid I consider a must for something as basic as socks!

I couldn't face the idea of juggling a cable needle as well as the DPN's so I used Grumperina's tutorial to learn how to get by without one. After the initial apprehension of slipping live stitches off the needle this proved to be quite straight forward and meant I sped through each sock, so much so that I finished the pair in a week and a half - which for me is fast.

I made one modification to the pattern and that was to decrease every row for the last three decreases, rather than every other row. The idea was to give a slightly less pointy toe which I think I managed.
All in all, a cosy and warm pair of socks that I will probably make again. This particular pair are intended for my mother, who I hope will find them useful.

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

Entrelac - a definition

We had an entrelac workshop at the Coventry Knit-Wits meet up last week and we were speculating the origins of the word 'entrelac'. We even consulted the resident French member of the group who was similarly mystified.

As I was cycling in this morning, my mind wondered back to the discussion - I'm not sure why exactly - and it struck me "Entre - into, Lac - Lace? Possibly, interwoven lace? Interlaced?"

Curiousity well and truely piqued and being someone who's always interested in the origin of words I looked it up...

a decorative border of interlaced garlands and leaves.
[Origin: F; akin to entrelacer to interlace]

So there you have it, my half remembered French obviously came through - eventually. :)

Monday, 7 July 2008

A day out in Lichfield

Due to the miserable weather which is often typical of British summertime, this is as far as I've got with setting eyelets on the tent this weekend.

And this is despite having Friday off work while I waited in for workmen. We're having summer showers of the sheet rain kind, meaning it can go from brilliant sunshine one minute to torrential downpour the next... Which is not good weather for dragging a tent out of the shed, laying it out on the lawn or banging eyelets into it.

The sun is out at the moment, but it was raining less than ten minutes ago... So I'm doubtful I'll get a clear window of a couple of hours which is what I'll need to get started on this.

Setting that one eyelet took over half an hour as I tried out different size holes - the hole getting progressively smaller with each attempt. Due to the size of the eyelet (1/2 inch) there's nothing for it but to whack the eyelets in with a hammer so I reckon I need to allow about fifteen minutes for each one. All of which means there is several hours work in those eyelets.

Saturday, after waking up to sheet rain that gave the cats pause for thought, we decided to drive to Lichfield for the Medieval Fayre. This is a tourist affair, rather than being a medieval market for re-enactors or those interested in history, which was what we were expecting so no problems there. Entertainment had been laid on in front of the cathedral but to be honest we didn't hang around there very long, being drawn to browsing the stalls and then taking refuge inside the Cathedral from the weather.

I haven't been inside a proper cathedral in a while, so it was a treat. We watched a puppet show telling the tale of Jonah and the Whale for a while and then wondered around soaking up the atmosphere. They sure did know how to build cathedrals back then!

Panning upwards with the camera at the sky, you can hopefully see the British weather in action. Whilst the sun was out when I took the photograph, it was spitting rain at the same time.

Some ten minutes after that, the heavens opened again and we fled the fayre heading back into Lichfield proper and hiding in bookshops. We also (or rather I with Dave in tow) made a point of visiting Spellbound Beads, where I succumbed to pretty packs of beads being sold like sweeties. I really do need to do some beadwork soon I think. I keep putting it off as I lack inspiration and a local supply of beads!

Finally, some pictures of owls who were sitting under umbrella's whenever I walked past. They didn't look too impressed, either with the crowds or the weather.

(As always, click on the photograph's to see bigger versions...)

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Alfresco Sewing

Still playing catch up on this blog as I turn my attention to Sunday, when I took advantage of Dave's presence to continue working on my bell tent's door flap.

Here it is laid out on our lawn, sporting its dodgy zip. Even with no tension, it currently needs a very gentle hand to get this zip to do up with even the slightest hitch or bunching of the canvas meaning the zipper skips some teeth. Not good at all.

To recap, my plan is to add dutch lacing which means attaching a reinforcing strip (to support eyelets) and an overlapping flap to the door. The bell tent is big, with a diameter of about thirteen foot and standing about ten foot tall, which means there is a whole lot of canvas to work around.

Feeling adventurous and wanting to put Dave's antique Singer to the test, I decided to have a go at alfresco sewing...
I rigged a sewing table in the back garden, using a standard workbench adjusting it so the Singer was held securely in place. Not exactly my normal approach to sewing but it meant I had room for all that canvas.

The piece of fabric tucked into the handcrank is just a doubled over scrap of cotton/linen that I was using to set the tension and stitch length. I sewed in straight lines on that until I was happy that the sewing machine was going to give me reasonably even, tight stitches. The fabric is tucked in there like that because I didn't want it to blow away. Sunday it was very windy and it kept trying to rain, eventually succeeding just as I finished working on the tent.

The first step was to pin the prepared canvas panels to the existing door. There is nothing like trying to push standard dressmaking pins through two layers of seven ounce canvas to remind you how tough this stuff is. My thumbs were smarting by the time I was done.

Then I got Dave to help me carry the tent to where I'd set up the sewing machine and had him support the canvas as I sewed it.

In all honesty it wasn't too bad, however the Singer doesn't have much oomph and if I strayed too near the existing zipper tape, the needle couldn't punch through. The other problem was the tiny little presser foot didn't offer much stability while the spring on the presser foot seems a little soft to me. I tightened it up as far as it would go, but it still wasn't applying much downward force which combined with the tiny little foot, meant the feed dogs had their work cut out. I'd start out OK, but by the time I was half way along the length of the door (which is 126cm in all... see how seamlessly I switch between feet and cm?) the canvas was hardly moving at all under the needle.

In the end I got around this by getting Dave to apply a little tension to the canvas I'd already sewn, holding it taut but not pulling it through the feed dogs... Just helping them out a little.

Another issue I found was with the Singer itself. When I turn the wheel backwards, rather than sewing backwards, the sewing machine unsews the previous stitches which took me by surprise. It could just be I'm doing it wrong of course, which is why I need to search out instructions... In any case, I got around this by going back to basics, leaving long tails on each of my ends and securing them by hand.

Until finally it was done!

The stitches are fairly tight although not as evenly spaced as I'd normally expect - which was down to the aforementioned lack of pressure from the presser foot. It was a fiddly job and took quite some time to do, with one wary eye on the weather the whole while. I suspect that Esther's industrial machine would certainly have done the job quicker without worrying about the weight of the canvas. We would have had space issues though, that much I'm sure of... Which is why I decided to have a go using the Singer handcrank. One of the joys of sewing is, it isn't permanent. If this really hadn't worked, I could have unpicked the lot and spoken nicely to Esther before having another go, this time using her hefty beast of a machine. Trying out the Singer was fun and cost me nothing other than a couple of hours of my time. :)

Esther, if you're reading this - still love you loads and all that, just I had a toy to play with, you know how it goes!

I also had lots of enthusiastic help of the furry kind.

Missy declined to have her photograph taken, even though Dave chased her half way around the garden with the camera. She finally gave him the slip by diving behind the shed and into a stinging nettle patch. Charlie however does not have Missy's reservations about the paparazzi.

Next up eyelets, which are far more scary as they involve poking holes in my tent...

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