Saturday, 29 November 2008

Saturday on the go

With only two free weekends left before Christmas (the curse of a busy life, where the LRP season never ends and relatives live a long way away) and family negotiations still ongoing for December/January, I needed to make this one count. So today we headed up to the big Tesco to do our Christmas food shopping...

Sadly, my drive to be efficient was thwarted. Nothing seemed to be where it should be and despite being a big store, the selections on offer were still very poor, so I guess I'm going to have to try again - possibly while roaming around Devon and Cornwall.

We did drop by Next and I bought a hat, so I have something to wear on my head when walking to and from the train station next week. I'm booked onto a conference Monday to Friday, so I'll be commuting to Birmingham each day where I will listen to all sorts of lectures about Oracle databases. I've looked at the agenda and can say hand firmly on heart that I predict a heavy week, long hours and an overload of technical information as I endure death by Powerpoint.

Naturally, while we were in the vicinity we dropped into Borders - drawn primarily by the Starbucks coffee shop. I browsed the magazines and noted the existance of 'Sew Hip' which is published by the same folks as Yarn Forward. As with YF, Sew Hip is not sealed in plastic so you can browse it before buying, is a British sewing magazine and definitely worth a second glance. I didn't pick it up as none of the sewing projects called to me and I'm not finding time to sew at the moment, but I was impressed by the amount of readable content - real articles which looked like they might be interesting! This is a mag I'm going to keep an eye out for in future methinks.

I did succumb and buy a single book - Vogue Knitting on the Go: Crochet Shawls. What can I say other than I picked it up and as I flicked through, suddenly found myself wanting to pick up a crochet hook there and then (Ravelry link). This is happening quite a bit lately as I've done quite a bit of knitting this year, but precious little crochet and I'm finding myself hankering after the hook.

Other than that, today has been about tidying; I bought some packing crates and I resumed trying to put things away. I can't say I threw anything away, but I've earmarked some things to go to charity shops and Freecycle, which is a start I guess.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Purpley goodness...

Today is a grey day out there and very smokey, as our next door neighbour decided to light a massive fire in his back garden last night. I'm at home, taking a well earned day off from work in compensation for working through the weekend two weeks ago. So far, that has meant I've spent the day doing housework, but I'm hoping to spend some time with my spinning wheel this afternoon...

In the meantime, I've popped online to catch up on the news and to post some pictures of another finished project.

Here is the second Stolen Moments Wrap.

This was knitted up using another ten balls of Paton's Funky Chunky, this time in an aubergine colour which I think has come out quite well in the photographs. I used 9mm needles since they'd worked well on the first wrap and wasn't disappointed with the result.

The wrap has been lightly blocked to open out the lace pattern and came out at 227cm x 48cm, so quite sizeable and equally snuggly as the first.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Summer once more...

I'm sat here pondering the significance of VAT being lowered temporarily to 15%, wondering if/how that is going to persuade folks to spend money the way the government want them to and if we aren't just storing up a whole lot more trouble for later. Tax cuts are one thing, but not if the deficit they provoke means tax hikes for years to come - but then, I'll admit to being largely ignorant of the world of big finance.

There was little sign of reluctance of people to spend money at the weekend, as we took to Coventry's high street to tackle the bulk of our Christmas shopping. A lot of the stores seemed to have sales of one sort or another on this weekend which Coventry's populace was out in force to take advantage of. There were people everywhere and the queues were frighteningly long, but in the end, after a day of fighting our way through the crowds, we just about finished tackling the list.

The rest of the weekend was spent wading through housework and trying to finish outstanding projects. I washed and blocked the wrap I've been working on, then spent some time staring at the cotton bag, started way back in July. It just looked too plain. The yellow and orange of the bag fabric weren't gelling for me and the bag just looked unfinished.

In the end, I decided to scatter some buttons across the front flap to see if they tied things in and after some more careful consideration, it seemed to be the thing to do.

This bag is loosely based on 'Flora' published in Let's Knit magazine.

I say loosely based, because other than the inspiration, I've changed pretty much everything.

The bag was supposed to be knit using moss stitch stripes, as a fold over bucket bag. I decided against the stripes as I wanted to use up stashed Peaches and Cream cotton, which (as you can see) was already very busy. The bucket bag meanwhile, was originally intended to be knit as a huge square and then folded in half lengthwise. This fell by the wayside when I lost the will to live half way through and decided to knit a large 'L' shape instead.

I kept the idea of a flower on the front of the bag, but didn't like the knitted one depicted by the designer so switched it for one from Crochet Inspiration.

The method of fastening the flap remained the same, being what drew me to the bag in the first place. It's a traditional method that I've only seen on re-enactment items before; two buttons with a cord sewn under one button and wrapped around the other. The cord is held in place by friction and gravity, aided by adding a weight (i.e. beads) to the bottom of the cord. In this case, I made a 'S' twist cord out of perle cotton and threaded on a couple of beads from my stash attached it as the 'stem' for my flower, as per the original design.

Finally, again differing from the original instructions for this bag, I decided to line it to minimise stretching. I scoured my stash until I found a suitable piece of pink cotton and used the finished knitted fabric as a pattern. Unfortunately, between measuring the unsewn bag and sewing it up, the knitted fabric relaxed meaning that by the time I got around to sewing in the lining, it was suddenly too big for the bag.

I tried re-blocking the flap, but no matter how much steam I threw at it, the cotton kept shrinking back to its new size. I considered taking the lining out and starting again, but given how long I've been working on this bag and that it's an intended Christmas present, I wasn't keen, besides which the main problem seemed to be the lining seperating from the flap. The only way I could see to fix it would be to use iron-on interfacing to permanently stretch or stabalise the knitted fabric, which kind of defeats the point of using a knitted fabric entirely.

This was my ulterior motive for attaching random buttons to the front of the bag's flap, I was borrowing on an idea from making quilts, where you sew through the multiple quilt layers at intervals, anchoring them together and sometimes, placing buttons at these anchor points. The decorative shell buttons (picked up from the Singer shop in Coventry) are not only pretty, they're helping to stabalise the lining on the back of the flap.

Overall, I'm happy with the finished result, but most of all, I'm happy that I finally finished this bag as it was turning into one of those projects which never seems to be done! But here we are... It's bright, cheerful, girly and completely at odds with the season. Finally.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

A continuing theme...

Work has been the theme of the past week or so and will be continuing for the next few days, as I camp out at work (not really, but it seems like it sometimes) as I plod through a series of application upgrades. This is really fun stuff, which saw me work long days on Saturday and Sunday and means that I haven't had time to do much of anything else at all.

You can tell it too by looking around my house. Dave has done some cleaning, but we do things differently. I'm also currently refusing to acknowledge the massive pile of ironing which is waiting for me to be at home long enough to deal with it. I will be at home this coming weekend and see my days filled with housework, frantic Christmas shopping, calling home and trying to finish ongoing projects.

In the meantime, I'll fill the blog vacuum with pictures of Dave's creative endeavours in the form of his orks, which he insisted I photograph.

This fellow is actually a troll, or so I'm told. He actually has quite a sweet, pleading expression on his face...

Whereas this one...

... Just seems to be in a terrible rush to get somewhere. I love the little guy hanging on in there in the back.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

eBay Dodgy Geezers

I started poking about on eBay again looking for another water pistol after the previous one failed to materialise.

My hopes went up when I spotted a gun very similar to the one I'm currently borrowing from Claire and then I scrolled down the page to check the seller's payment instructions and came across this...
  • No refunds are given, PAYMENT WITHIN ONE WEEK NO EXCUSES.
  • I take no responsibility for any items lost or damage in the post, its up to you to claim compensation from the post office. So if you require recorded delivery please ask.
Which rather threw me.

As a customer who buys many things over the internet, if I pay for goods which I don't receive or arrive in a less than ideal condition, I'm going to consider it the seller's problem not mine.

I checked eBay's policy and it's clear - the seller is responsible for ensuring the goods get to the buyer (although they're free to charge exorbitant amounts for this service).

If good's don't arrive, are damaged or not as described, eBay advise you to talk to the seller and hopefully sort things out amicably. Failing that if you paid with PayPal they'll refund you providing you make a claim within 45 days (eBay then start investigating the seller).

If you didn't pay via PayPal your position is a little less clear cut, although if you bought directly with a credit card they'll hopefully refund the monies. If all else fails, eBay advise you to report the seller to the police!

All of which seems very definite to me - the seller is responsible for supplying you with goods you've paid for, anything else is theft!

I hasten to add that the eBay trader I was originally trying to buy a water pistol from gave me an immediate refund when I queried its whereabouts. No problem there at all.

As for the other trader with that oh so tempting super soaker... He's not getting my bid, that much is for certain!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

At least it didn't snow...

It's Armistice Day already and I'm wondering how it got to be the middle of November already? I had a moment of panic on Sunday night when I realised how few 'free' weekends I have between now and Christmas, with the same sense of panic intruding everytime I look at my diary at work. The end of the year is creeping up on us with frightening speed!

The weekend just gone was spent at Murton Park, in York playing in an AscendancyLRP game. It was the end of a mini campaign and a good event, if a little upsetting for my character who's family came under fire again (honestly, they're not exactly the luckiest bunch). There was also an odd moment when a big, gribbly type was throwing his weight around and I stepped back looking for the usual suspects to leap in there and deal with him... Only to realise none of the usual suspects were with us and *I* was going to have to step in in their stead!

The main problem of the weekend, as far as I was concerned at least, was how cold it was. The huts at Murton are very roughly put together and far more drafty than my garden shed with the added limitation of the dark ages lacking 'glass'. This meant that to be able to see inside your hut, you have to open windows which in turn means letting the elements in.

When there's a brisk, freezing cold gale blowing out there opening the window is a brave option and results in your contact lenses blowing off your finger tips before you can put them in your eyes... So perhaps it would have been better to try to put them in using torchlight. A lesson learnt there methinks.

Thermals were a must under my costume and four season sleeping bags combined with a stack of blankets meant we were warm enough at night once we were in bed. Meanwhile, my feet were cold all weekend, particularly my poor toes which I lost contact with on Sunday despite wearing proper walking boots and two pairs of socks. My fingers faired better inside their double insulated gloves, although one crew member did comment on how cold my hands were when I was administering 'medical' assistance.

On the plus side, I did make friends with a goat during the weekend, who apparently decided I knew how to scritch him just in the right place. More photo's here courtesy of Richard who made it to the event despite having a cold.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Dark, cold, wet and windy - where did the weekend go?

It's been a grey, cold, wet and windy weekend with barely a glimpse of the sun to lessen the gloom. We stepped outside the door on Saturday to nip to the local shops and it was bitter out there. The cats however loved it, dashing about with the wind up their tails and attacking any tree debris which landed in the garden.

It was a bitty weekend as far as crafts go. I wound the plied singles off my spindle and used two chairs to skein it up. I still need to wash the resulting first ever yarn before I take photos to record it for posterity. I want to see if the yarn 'blooms' (as Claire told me it should) and if that improves the whole thing. Otherwise, it's a yarn I describe as... er... full of character.

Not that I'd have got very far with the camera this weekend, it's been so dark that getting decent pictures would have been very hard.

I've also cracked on with the cotton bag, making up the lining and sewing the bag itself together. I'm still working my way around the edge of the lining, which I'm hand sewing in so I can keep the stitches small. Once I'm done, it's going to need another good pressing with steam to finish it off, but otherwise it's looking good.

Yesterday (Sunday) we headed off to the Living History Fayre with Richard, where I indulged in a spot of Christmas shopping and found some wool.

'Five Shades of Sheep' (no photo's as of yet) from Sally Pointer, was a packet of five 50g balls of undyed handspun wool in varying natural shades. It should knit up as DK and according to the label, has approx 120m a skein. I bought two packets and so I guess I'm going to need to think of a suitable project for it to add to the end of my never ending queue.

Mostly though I was good and just bought Christmas presents. I did pass on the snail slime creme though... While tempting, it was just too expensive as something that when I gift it, is likely to be thought of as a joke.

We came back via a pub for lunch, which turned into an afternoon of nattering so that by the time we made it home it was going on 4:30pm. Where did the day and the weekend go?