Friday, 30 April 2010

Promotion


There were minor celebrations in our house this week, for which dd made the cakes pictured above. They are peaches and cream cupcakes out of the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook.

On Monday, I went for a job interview. It's only a temporary secondment, backfilling someone else's maternity leave, but it was still a promotion, so I was pleased to receive a job offer later that day.

I'll be working a few more hours, so there may be some impact on my crafting life, but hopefully I'll still be making stuff. Actually, since I tend to knit more when under stress, it may actually improve my knitting output!

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Choc Cherry baby

Eagle-eyed readers might have noticed the appearance of Choc-Choc-Cherry items on my FOs list recently. Here is the complete set:


And here's the hat being modelled:



The choc-choc-cherry bamboo/merino mix yarn I used is available from http://www.easyknits.co.uk/.

Both items were made using free patterns available on the Internet. The jacket is the Stripey scrappy socky cardigan by f.pea, specifically designed for sock yarn, but I knitted it without the stripes, obviously. I also made the garter stitch section slightly longer than specified, and the button bands 2 rows wider each side, so I could add two buttonholes using the yarnover method, rather than using button loops.

The hat is a baby ruffle hat (knit) from Bernat - you have to log in to obtain the pattern, but sign-up is free. This one was supposed to be knit in dk, so I had to adjust the pattern slightly for gauge.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

In bloom


Our apple trees have tiny blossoms now (top right, above), and the japonica (bottom left, above) has finally flowered, terribly late this year owing to the prolonged cold weather in February and March.

The bulbs I planted last Autumn have come up (top left and bottom right above). They are very pretty, even though some of the daffodil flowers have been eaten!

I looked on the internet and it seems earwigs may be the culprit (deduced since the whole flower is not gone, and we don't have chipmunks in the wild in the UK.)

Our fence replacement was done at the start of the month, so I can now plant my soft fruit whenever I like - not expecting any crop this summer, though. I've started with this gooseberry bush:



Dh is going to dig a hole and plant that for me, as deep-hole digging is not my strong point.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Resolutions progress

When I posted about my resolutions back in January, I said I would review progress towards the objectives in April. Since we're now in the middle of April, here is a quick update:
  1. Do more knitting / complete more FOs in 2010 (baseline: 4 completed items in 2009): Two items completed in January - Bella's mitts for dd and a second battenberg tea cosy. Two more done in February - Ziggy zag baby jumper for Gabriel, pink ruffle hat for new niece. In March I cast on for a baby cardigan, also intended for new niece (almost finished - just got collar to work), and worked more of my shawl, which brings me nicely to resolution no 2.
  2. Complete at least one item out of 4 on languishing list: finished Regatta Shawl in March, aided by a Ravelry group I belong to which set a task to complete a WIP.
  3. Learn a new skill: had a introductory crochet book for my birthday in January. So far I've only studied the diagrams, but I have a 4.5mm hook and intend to have a go in due course.
Regarding my employment situation, someone else has volunteered for redundancy, so it looks like my job is reasonably safe, at least for the next foreseeable future. I'm not betting on the longer term, though, as I work in the public sector, and everyone knows that'll be due for cuts in the UK next year, whoever wins the election. In the meantime, I'll just carry on hoping for the best.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

In a dash

I tried my hand at a bit more sewing this weekend and completed this Dash make-up bag:

It was the third time I'd sewn a bag with a zip closure, and once again, sewing the zip was a bit of a struggle. I'm starting to wonder whether the issue is really with my (vintage) sewing machine. I was using a zipper foot, but the main problem seems to be a lack of flexibility in the presser foot, so whenever I'm trying to sew past the zip closure, the foot gets stuck against the zip closure, the needle sews in the same position (as the fabric can't be fed past the presser foot) and the bobbin thread then breaks. Surely this can't be right? Or am I doing something wrong?

I'd be interested to hear if anyone with a more modern machine has the same type of problem.

For reference, my machine is a Jones c. 1982. Although this machine has seen me through many years of sewing, right from when I was learning "needlework" (to use the terminology of that time) at school, I'm now starting to be aware of its limitations. For example, it stitches straight and zig-zag, but has no embroidery stitches. I have used it for applique using a very close zig-zag stitch, but I would love a satin-stitch or a blanket-stitch option.

While I was busy sewing this bag, dh and ds had gone to London. They spent four hours in the British Museum, exploring the African, Mexican and Ancient Egyptian galleries, as well as seeing pieces of the Staffordshire Hoard - still covered in mud, according to ds. The children's multimedia guide was obviously hugely enjoyed by ds, age 7. Pity I missed it, but having done a lot of looking-after during the Easter holidays, I felt like a quiet day, plus had teenage girl ferrying-around requirements.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Blog-iversary


My blog is one year old today!

I started my blog in light of a sewing restart after an eleven year gap, thinking it would act as a motivational aid and help me complete projects. And it worked!

Since I started my blog, I've learned a lot on the sewing front. I've taken my first steps in quilting. I've learned to spot, and correct for, pattern errors. Previously I only ever worked from commercial paper patterns, but I've now drafted my own patterns, successfully making two different skirts, one pair of pyjama pants and one pair of kids' shorts. And I've even had one of my own designs - a simple upcycle patchwork cushion - published in a real magazine (thank you, Sew Hip).

My knitting productivity went down last year as a result of the sewing orientation, but on the plus side, I finished many more hand-made items, which I've been able to share with the blogging world.

It helps to sustain my enthusiasm for blogging when I know I'm not writing into a void, so please do feel encouraged to leave comments. I'm always charmed to receive feedback from my readers.

PS I didn't make that cake in the photo. Owing to a time shortage, it came from Marks and Spencers!

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Easter tree


Every year, we decorate the two apple trees at the bottom of our garden with colourful easter eggs.

I imported these plastic eggs after spending an Easter in Germany a few years ago. They have been admired by many visitors to our home, so I'm slowly helping spread the custom to England. (We do also have easter decorations indoors, and a china jar full of little chocolate eggs.)

It's easy to find indoor easter decorations in the UK, but the outdoor versions are impossible to find in my experience. If you want to buy plastic eggs to decorate your own garden in the future, try searching for "ostereier" or "kunstoffeier" on ebay, with the international option turned on, and import some from Germany. I've sourced packets of plastic eggs for various friends and relations on there, for very little outlay.

A happy Easter to all my readers!

Thursday, 1 April 2010

En vacances

Just back from a few days' holiday in Disneyland Paris.

I can't fault the efforts of the "cast members" (read "staff") to ensure we had fun, the food (this is France, after all!) or the hotel - we stayed at Sequoia Lodge; it was lovely, and the hotel pool was particularly highly rated by ds.

No, the main difficulties were caused by the age discrepancy between our two children, which I may have mentioned before. I have one hormonal almost fifteen year-old, and one seven year-old with very different interests. As a result, I can't say I've had a totally relaxing holiday.

However, the kids assure me we did have a good time. Here's some photographic evidence:



Although I queued for (and endured!) the Rock and Roller coaster, Space Mountain, and the Hollywood Tower of Terror (twice. I must be mad), I say give me the teacups any day:

From the above photo, it looks like ds agrees with me.