Archive for March, 2011


Sunshine

Another bright day over East Anglia with a blissfully bracing wind. I tied a plastic carrier bag around the washing line the other day so that the gas delivery men would stop reversing into it and snapping it, but so far it only seems to be acting as some sort of protective ward, stopping the gas from being delivered at all. In any case, it has ballooned up nicely and has been distracting the cat for a little while, giving me a break from rabbit and mice corpses. Must be the season – yesterday saw two field mice and a baby bunny devoured on our carpet…

While I wait for the washing machine to finish the first load I’ve had to do in ages, I am busy decanting my fabrics into their new boxes beneath the wash stand. It is a sad realisation I have come to that most of the things in this house which have – until this point at least – been unstorable, have been mine. Whilst the hi-fi corner does look as though a cable factory exploded, I will admit that all of the consoles and various amplifiers – yes, they are plural – have their proper place. For months now though, my knitting and sewing has hovered through the house, stashed in various nooks until a permanent arrangement could be reached.

And here we are, finally. At something akin to permanent. I can’t say how long we’ll be in this house for, nor how long we’ll even stay down south, but for now I’ve found something that could almost be described as a sense of peace, or at least an absence of restlessness. And for me, that’s pretty good going.

To celebrate, I am going to attempt to make a kiwi cake. Mostly because I have some kiwis. As always, I will only vaguely be following a recipe and will let you know the outcome after the event.

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It is home

I eventually got sick of waiting for the guys at the antique centre to call me back about whether or not my precious washstand was available and decided to nip over there with Charlie Micra to see what the deal was. As per my request, they’d managed to find a new handle for the drawer and had just got it sorted that morning. As a result the stand was split into its marble top and spindly-legged bottom, just by the door. As I’d parked not two meters away, I felt it too good an opportunity to miss and asked the guys in charge to see if they could fit the two halves into the back of the Micra. And they could. And the suspension didn’t buckle under the weight.

Delighted, I set off for home, only realising as I hit the dual carriage-way that my little 1.2L engine would be revving itself silly to hit any sort of speed over 50mph. As a result, we travelled home at a rather respectable pace for once and were overtaken by three lorries. It was like driving my old Polo again – slow, steady, and with the weight of a small tank.

 

The precious wash-stand which I inexplicably fell in love with. It's not my usual style at all, but something about the colours - and perhaps the almost patchwork nature of the pattern - just meant I had to have it.

 

The lamp in the picture, incidentally, was bought for a tenner at the antique fair on Sunday whilst the shade came from a discount store in Newmarket. It ended up only costing fifteen pounds in total. Which is very good because the wash stand cost considerably more. In fact, I couldn’t really afford it if truth be told. Sometimes though, you just have to say something naughty and dismissive, wave your hand and insist, “I’ll just live off nettle soup for a few weeks.” Anyway, the positioning in the photo isn’t the stand’s final destination. I’m waiting for S- to finish work so we can drill holes for a shelf for his speaker before getting the stand and my sewing machine into position.

My other great victory of the day was making two knitted mice before lunch. You see, up in the vegetable patch there’s a little family of mice which have made their maze of tunnels beneath the herb box. Once a day my neighbour’s kid – whose birthday it is tomorrow – goes to take a look at them. Sadly, my cat does the same and has now eaten at least three of kiddo’s little friends. Because their entrails are currently littering my dining room floor, I thought I’d make a vague attempt at replacing the mouse population with these knitted offerings…

 

Note the corn behind these two - thankfully it was in a glass jar so they couldn't eat it.

 

Kiddo seemed to like them and took great delight in being able to throw them across the field. Husband was also very interested so I think I’m going to have to knit him a pair of his own. In other knitting news, I’m taking a break from the sweater for today for the simple reason that the size of it caused a sobbing fit last night. With only one arm left to make, I got S- to try it on and it looked as though he were swimming in a tent. On closer inspection, and after frantically consulting ravelry, I have decided to finish the mammoth task after all and try to shape it into a slightly more favourable size by washing it and drying it flat.

Finally, you may notice there are pictures again. This is because the marble of the washstand is cooling the laptop and giving the crazy-loud fan something of a break. As long as I don’t do anything too taxing, the death rattle seems to be coming in shorter, less infuriating bursts…

 

Home improvements

Everyone says that pregnancy leads to nesting, yet until I suddenly decided that I needed to rearrange my whole house for a Victorian wash stand, I wasn’t prepared to believe it. Today though, in preparation for the lovely bit of furniture which will become my sewing desk, I have raided the shed for the remainder of the wooden boxes which I stumbled on last year. Mum recently gave me a load of tester paints from Farrow and Ball so I’m decorating them in a range of very lovely chalky shades.

AND, best of all, the various bits of furniture we wanted rid of have been spoken for or have already been taken. The living room is looking lovely now and as soon as husband manages to rid the laptop of what can only be described as its death rattle, I will post some pics. The problem is that whilst our desktop computer is superior in almost every way, it doesn’t have a build in SD card reader. And the multi card reader we had been using apparently only functions with XD these days… oh the joys of technology.

Naturally, because I can’t have pictures in this post, I really want them. As a result, here are some that I dragged out of an email. They were taken in the five minutes I could stand the whirring of the laptop and the one of the little bench shows it in its temporary home. The one of the bear was taken by Mum and shows Rupert wearing the sweater I made for him – the pattern for which is available here.

 

Rupert, looking smart and ready for a night on the town.

This looked like the world's ugliest dresser in the antique shop, but at £65 and with perfect measurements, it was too good a bargain to pass up. I actually quite like it now that it's home and covered with bottles of booze. I will replace the handles when money is a little more readily available, but until then it serves a purpose.

This replaces the old cream sofa seen in my last post. It was an impulse buy at an antique fair we stumbled upon. The really clever part is that the seat panels come up, allowing you to put storage boxes underneath but still have easy access to your wool... because all storage in this house is for craft supplies.

 

 

Furniture!

I might have gone on a furniture spending spree. As a result the following items of furniture are up for sale. People can make as cheeky an offer as they feel like for any of them, as long as they’re willing to come and take them away as soon as possible. Their replacements are currently crammed into my once pristine nursery and I want it back to looking pretty asap…

 

These are some pine shelves. You can change where the shelves go in relation to other shelves. There are also some glass doors.

This is a set of drawers. It's been in the shed. I'd just be happy if someone took this to be honest. Any money would, I'm sure, be appreciated by my neighbour whose drawers they are (I did ask if I could get rid of them).

This is the old sofa. This is what I want rid of most of all. Please, have it. Someone.

There are a few light scratches on the back of the sofa. You can't really see them unless you look hard. And they're on the back.

 

 

Finished Quilting

It is done. I worked right up until 8pm in the end – after a 9am start – and finished sewing the final seam up by hand about half an hour ago.

The playmat/patchwork quilt is displayed on the washing line, however it wasn’t until I was eating breakfast across from Artemis – who, by taking advantage of my sleep induced haze, had somehow managed to get away with being asleep on the fruits of yesterday’s labour on the dining table – that I realised I have no idea whether my child’s future grot-magnet is washable or not. And by washable, I don’t mean able to soak in bucket, I mean able to spin in the machine because I am incredibly lazy and think hand-washing is for chumps. Regardless, the blanket will need to be washed now after having been used as a cat bed for the world’s filthiest animal. Honestly, when I finally did talk her into moving she left a Sahara worth of sandy muck in the little pocket she’d managed to tuck herself into.

Anyway, I’ll stop stalling. Here, for your viewing pleasure, are some pictures of my latest quilt.

 

This is the whole pattern of the quilt - I didn't quite have enough navy so I swapped in some red squares at random. I really like the effect they have though.

This is a close up of the fabrics used - you might have to click to open the picture in a tab of its own to see the nursery rhyme pattern on the cream blocks but the print is a sort of water-coloury-style one.

This one might give a better view of the cream blocks - I don't know. In any case, you can see my gorgeous old Jones proudly surveying its latest work.

And finally, the obligatory arty shot. But because the sun isn't out it doesn't look that arty...

 

 

Quilting

The other day I decided to get back to the sewing machine and so set about destroying perfectly serviceable pieces of fabric in order to make patchwork. I don’t know why patchwork appeals to me so much – all things considered it’s a rather tedious method of creating a blanket – however I find it incredibly satisfying to sit with a calculator and figure out how big to make the squares, which pattern to use, how to quilt, which accent colours should I swap in if there isn’t enough of a certain fabric for the pattern I’ve picked. And the actual sewing itself is even more interesting as to get the correct size of finished patchwork, you need to have been incredibly accurate.

Still… because this quilt is for baby to roll around on and cover in grot to rival the cat’s, I want it to stand the test of time, and to look good. As a result I’m not taking any of my usual shortcuts – no buying pre-cut squares from ebay, no skipping the ironing of seams, no super-thin seam allowance so that I can use the presser foot as a measuring guide. Oh no. This time I am measuring my seams for every square, I’ve carefully cut all the patches by hand* and I actually bothered to look out the iron.

Some time later…

Ironing does nothing! All the work – all the arm movements… NOTHING. Twitch.

*Frankie falls over into a small, drooling heap on the floor and pledges to finish the quilt another day.*

_______

* The last time I did this was whilst working on a 2x2m quilt for M- and the cutting alone took 3 days. I vowed I’d never subject my hands and scissors to that again and insisted, when other people asked, that I’d only done it for M- because I love her. Here we are again though and it wasn’t quite as bas as I remember.

Cat

This time of year with the cat is usually lovely. She and I open all the upper sections of the living room bay window with the intent of snoozing on the sofa in the sunshine until the chill of the evening air tells me it’s time to get up and make dinner – and of course, tells her that it’s time to go out and maim helpless animals.

I’m not bothered by the fact that my cat is a good, old-fashioned sort of hunting cat. It keeps my house free of mice and rats and squirrels – which invaded the roof when we moved in. I just wish she’d eat sensibly. What animal catches a baby rabbit, leaves all the lovely, lean body meat and munches on the skull?

At the moment, I am thinking of sending her out to get all the people who decided that to borrow money, you already have to owe money. Recently, we’ve been looking at mortgage options like the grown-up people we are (ha!) and because we’re not in debt, the banks don’t trust us to borrow money. I dunno what anyone else thinks, but surely that’s all backwards? Having fought crazy hard to stay out of debt for the last year, I feel somewhat hard-done-by – and am even more tempted than usual to go out and buy furniture. You know, just so I’m using that overdraft facility I never wanted in the first place. Ugh. Why do people insist on making life so much more complicated than it needs to be?

I swear, the modern world gets more confusing every time I go out in it. Who brakes for no good reason on the entry slip-road of the A14, causing 5 emergency stops behind them? Yes – this does mean I went to Risby to look at wash stands, but no I didn’t buy any. Worse than the moron on the main road was the article I read on my return. Apparently, according to the good ol’ Daily Mail the following stats apply:

CAR MAINTENANCE – FACTS AND FIGURES

Number of male motorists unable to open car bonnet – 6 per cent

Number of female motorists unable to open car bonnet – 17 per cent

Number of drivers who have never had car serviced – 2.6m

Number of drivers more concerned about how the car looks than how it works – 67 per cent

Number of drivers more concerned with condition of engine – 13 per cent

Number who have filled their car’s tank with the wrong type of fuel – 1.9m

I am actually horrified. My new life plan is to win the lottery – thus removing the need to borrow money – and buy a large chunk of land, my own oil well and petrol refinery and a fleet of cars to serve my various motoring needs. Then I will grow my own food, hire some peasants to suit my various despot whims and live out the rest of my days in a happy stupor, separated from the trials of the modern world. Maybe I’ll need to win the lottery twice, actually, looking at that list. Reality sucks.

Break

I’m having one of those days again where I must clean all the things. This is bad. It means that inevitably, I will stop cleaning because I decide we need more storage. Without waiting for the sofa to sell, I will rush out to Risby, or Clare, or Ely, or all of the above and buy some gigantic piece of antique furniture to fill the gap that isn’t even there yet. Then, my mind warp the size of my aptly named Nissan Micra until it is big enough to accommodate 17 adults in addition to the gigantic dresser that I have just paid for. The nice people at the shop will struggle to lift the huge wooden lump into the boot, asking politely all the while if I’m sure I measured 102 inches, not 102 cm, and I will tell them that of course I’m sure, explaining that I had the Sydney Opera House in the back just last week without the seats down.

In the end we will give up, I will call husband and explain the situation. He will sigh and consent to renting a van. If this tactic fails, I will call Daddy and beg that he brings some sort of large vehicle down on his next visit. I will then realise how incredibly spoilt I am, return home in a guilty sulk and try to begin cleaning again. The guilt will gnaw at me again until I stop cleaning and decide to make everyone presents to show how much I appreciate them. The gift manufacturing process will create mess and the cycle will begin again.

 

Spring

I have now done the preliminary weeding of the flower beds and all that remains is the veggie patch and the strawberry plant pots. Naturally I’ll need to wait a little while and then do a second round of weeding because the first never gets everything out, but I think I will actually manage to get a lovely cottage gardeny sort of look this year. W- from next door helped me identify some fox-gloves in the field which needed separating, and we’ve swapped a few bedding plants which should make for a slightly more diverse border for both of us.

I really wish I had some more space though – I want to plant so many lovely things and I really do think I’ve crammed everything in to bursting point (in the hopes that there are fewer weeds to remove next year). A-, who I go and see during the week, has some edible plants for me – some tomatoes and tatties – so I will finish the vegetable patch off tomorrow and pick those up on Tuesday. Hopefully someone will be nice and helpful at the garden centre I pass on my way home and load some compost into the car for me.

While I was digging up half of the vegetable patch (and before the fox-gloves distracted me) I found the only surviving carrot from last year’s crop. Before the rabbits could organise themselves and wrestle it from me in a scene worthy of Wallace and Gromit, I washed it under the garden tap and ate it. At only 3cm long it made a humble mouthful, but I enjoyed it all the same. There’s something about eating things from your own garden – no matter how small they are – which feels wholesome and good.

The only other news I have to report at this point is that I am selling the old sofa on ebay, if anyone wants it. It’s very squishy, and cat paw marks wipe right off – good to know if your mog also steps in unspeakable things.

Scarf

I’m still fretting for the safe return of Charlie Micra, so I thought I would share the fruits of my nervous labour in the meanwhile. I’ve still got the sweater to finish, another one to start, and another lacey scarf to attempt. Still, for an afternoon’s work, I’m rather proud. I hope you like what you see…

The pattern is really nice and simple and came from Turvid’s blog.