Friday, June 29, 2007

The best laid plans...

I just called the cattery I use and cancelled the booking I'd made for next weekend. Sadly, due to lack of confirmed bookings we've had to postpone the Strangehaven event we had planned until September, hence the cancellation. Fortunately, the cattery lady was happy enough as she has a queue of people waiting for cancellations, meaning my cats' space will be reallocated within the next hour. This is good as I like to keep the cattery on side in case I ever need to make an emergency or unplanned dash to the South West for family related matters.

With the cattery all squared away and my time my own again for next weekend, I was briefly wondering what to get up to but fear not, my time has been refilled. It looks like we'll head down to Tewkesbury for the Medieval Fayre and battle instead. Tewkesbury is free to get in, but you have to pay a small donation to park and I believe the organisers make most of their costs back from traders. The Fayre is a great place to buy fabric and see the more crafty end of stalls as well as traditional, historical kit suppliers. In other words there will be many opportunities in which I shall be sorely tempted to part with money. It will also be an opportunity to catch up with some friends from Plymouth I suspect, as I'll no doubt see a few familiar faces lurking around the market. In other words, all good... and it should go a good way to making up for the disappointment of a missed event.

In the meantime, I'm hoping for some dry weather this weekend - although I understand I'm unlikely to get it. I have tents to dry! Admittedly, they're not too bad but they still need to be aired and then folded, so they can re-emerge ready to use in a few weeks time.

With the Sweetpea Shawl finished, I'm contenting myself with knitting some ribbon scarves using a drop stitch pattern. This is the first time I've had a go at drop stitch, but it seems to be working out OK. The ribbon yarn I'm using is not disimilar to those I made last autumn, but then I crocheted them. The main difference in working it is that this time, it is behaving itself and having the ribbon on two sticks seems to be keeping it under control. Less twisting by far and much less of a nightmare to keep the loops open.

Other than that, this weekend marks the return to the bump since I think it's time we saw an increase in size. I have two of these physreps, so the plan is to take one of them, take it apart and then start adding layers until it is huge!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sweetpea... also in plum

Taking a few moments out from working and waiting for my new mobile phone to spring into life, to write a further update here. Although before I do, why is it that the delay between deactivating the old SIM and activating the new one has to take so long? I've been without mobile connectivity since 2:30pm yesterday afternoon and I'm now beginning to fret. It's not that I want to call anyone or that I'm particularly itching to send a text message but... You never know I might actually be missing some vital call while I'm disconnected like this!

As you might be able to surmise, upgrading my mobile telephone and my talk plan was on my list of errands over the weekend. After visiting the Orange shop and fast coming to the conclusion that I knew more than the store assistants did about the deals on offer, I headed home and called Orange's Customer Services to negotiate my own deal. Yay for the internet and doing your own research.

Next on my list for overdue upgrades is a computer... As in I think that maybe it's time I actually bought one and maybe, perhaps I need some kind of proper internet connection. Currently, I use dial up from home and a very antiquated laptop which has been retired from work use. While this used to be more than sufficient for my home needs, recently I've been struggling to even read email and so the slow realisation that I need to move out of the stone age is catching up with me.

But I digress...

I also finished crocheting the Sweetpea Shawl on Saturday evening and so, on Sunday decided to take advantage of the fine weather to have a go at blocking out on the patio. I took an old bedspread - normally reserved for camping use - and laid it out, weighing down the corners with bottles of water. Then I spread out the shawl, pinning it into place and pulling it to open out the pattern. Once I had it pinned securely in place, I sprayed it liberally with clean water and waited...

I had to have stern words with both cats when they decided to try to help, but other than that it went well enough and about three hours later the shawl was dry. I carefully unpinned it and was relieved when it didn't immediately spring back into it's previous shape and did a practice drape for Dave who told me it looked 'longer'. Before blocking, I think it reached to about the small of my back whereas now it reaches the back of my knees!

Sunday and Monday night I sat and attached tassles and voila! One Sweetpea Shawl.

I'm really pleased with this one and I think it's probably the nicest thing I've ever crocheted. Before blocking it looked fairly good but now it is really pretty and the pattern has opened out so it can be easily seen. I'm impressed both with the shawl and the transformation, so I guess this blocking lark is all it's cracked up to be.

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

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Another jacket in plum

This weekend just gone was my first free weekend in about five weeks! What with working and events, I'd just about forgotten what it's like to be able to spend a whole weekend running errands, getting on with projects and of course resting.

Once I'd done the whirlwind tour of town, dealt with domestic necessities and argued with the computer, there wasn't as much time left over for making stuff as I'd have liked, but I did manage to get this finished. Although I had to be very sneaky to sew on those frogs without Charlie's assistance.

Spurred into action on this one by nearly cooking at the event last week. It's a lightweight jacket intended for use in Shards, made as always out of wool and lined in cotton. I've added in extra fabric at the sides to accomodate the padding that is the bump and deliberately stopped the frogs just where it's rise should be. The idea was to make the jacket wearable without the padding, since it's a lot of effort to go to for something I'll only need for two months or so.

I also vented the forearms, using hooks and eyes set in alternate orientation to hold the seam closed. i.e. on one side you have hook, eye, hook, eye and on the other side eye, hook, eye, hook and so on. Basically, this prevents the hooks and eyes from undoing easily by themselves as they will do regularly if you have all of the hooks on one side and all of the eyes on the others (something I picked up on from examining theatrical costume).

As always click on the pictures to see bigger versions.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Of lace and wikis

I've just spent my lunch hour making a good stab at trying to sort out the Shards wiki which moved from its previous home a few days ago. I'll not go into the whys and what-the-hell's that I could do at this moment, since I've already done my fair share of tearing out metaphorical hair. At the moment I'm concentrating on trying to clean up the spilt milk rather than ranting.

Allegedly, the entire wiki has been copied from Schtuff to PBwiki with it's links intact. Sadly, this does not seem to be entirely true. Most of the data is over, but the context has been lost. The tags are now meaningless and since a lot of the pages were dynamic, based on saved searches, those are also completely lost. Cue me trying to piece together what is or is not missing and then build static pages to substitute for those missing searches. There may of course be a way of rebuilding the searches using PBwiki's tools, but lack of familiarity means that for now I'm not trying to be clever - I just want to get it all back online.

Worryingly I've also come across the odd page which seems to be missing entirely. Fortunatley, the original site is still up so all I've had to do is nip across and copy them over, but time is running out on that score. I'll continue as I am for a few days while I get the measure of it, but then I'm going to need a general announcement methinks... Only the main boards are down as the website is also down and I don't think everyone is using the Yahoo Group.

On the positive side, I have managed to put the beginnings of a sidebar in place to act as a menu. The character pages are beginning to take shape and of course I now have some idea of what is missing. The colours are still yucky and I don't like the template, but without the admin password there's not a lot I can do about that.

On to more fun stuff, despite wanting to do nothing more than curl up and go to sleep, I headed out to Knit-Wits last night which had a good turnout. Steelbreeze had made some latch hooks out of old machine knitting needles, which look not dissimilar to the latch hooks I've used in the past for rug making, only a lot smaller. Steelbreeze went on to demonstrate how they can be used for picking up dropped stitches in your knitting, which sounded like a fine idea to me. So I must admit I snaffled one of these fine inventions for myself.

Steelbreeze also showed me how to do cables, which from her quick demo do not look anywhere near so scary as I thought they were.

With those and the how to fix dropped stitches, I think I really do need to do some sample swatches and have a play. The Stitch n'Bitch book has a section in it about fixing mistakes and I think I might need to deliberately make mistakes and repair them before having a go at lace knitting, because that sure does look fiddly and accident prone.

I took along Victorian Lace Today, which did the rounds and got a lot of oooh'ing and ahhh'ing. Every time I look at that book, I want to make something and by the attention it got, it went down well with everyone else as well. In my case, what can I say... It's finicky, detailed, fussy and requires a lot of attention to finish... Just my cup of tea!

The Sweetpea Shawl also went with me last night and I'm now getting through those rows with frightening speed. I don't think it will be long before I finish it and then comes the dreaded blocking...

Photo's taken by Steelbreeze - as usual, click on them to see bigger versions.

Edited to add: This link to a review I found out there in the blogosphere for Victorian Lace Today. Scroll down and look at the pictures, to see why I like this book so much...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

And that was the day the cow stood still...

The weekend saw myself and others heading off to York to run the first ever Strangehaven event. The game itself went well, but oh my goodness I about melted in the heat! Dressed as I was in many, many layers of padding with many more layers of clothes (costume) on top, I think I came about as close to heatstroke as I have done in a long, long time.

The site was fantastic although hard on the head. I must have banged my poor noggin at least four times in all on low doorways, with the first time being the hardest. I was also very brave and managed to lie down on a bunk infested with wildlife of the eight legged variety. The second night I think I even managed to fall asleep, which is what exhaustion and far too much sun will do for you.

Other than that though, it all went well I think and the players seemed to have fun. After all the hard work which went into preparing, writing background and plot, it was something of a relief to see it all come together. We could do with a few more players though, so if there are any people reading this who fancy having a go, do pop over to our blog and have a look.

Yesterday I had a day off, which meant I spent the day unpacking and tackling the laundry. My first ever subscription copy of Knitting arrived and I'm afraid its been read from cover to cover already. I also retrieved the cats from the cattery, much to their delight with Missy being particularly happy to be home.

And yes, she is chewing a stick. Missy likes chewing and playing with sticks, the more twiggy and well endowed with leaves the better.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Today I ache

My right leg, from my hip to my calf is giving me some serious gip and complaining as if I'd overdone it at the dojo or gym or something. Muscles I really didn't know I had are complaining this morning and the cause of this discomfort is of course my visit to my physio therapist yesterday. The obligatory lecture covered the does and don'ts of sitting, the need to accurately report on pain, bending my knee and how to stick my bottom out. After forty five minutes of painful mauling, I was really glad to escape back to work!

We have hot water once more, the boiler having been fixed by the man from British Gas... The cause this time was apparently the British weather, with rain being the primary candidate for our problems. There were signs of water damage inside the boiler and the plumber's opinion was that heavy rain (like the kind we had during last Thursday's storms) came in through the flu, flooding the bottom of the boiler so that it spilled out and shorted the electrics. This is not exactly reassuring news, as it rains quite a bit in Coventry and sometimes the rain is indeed of the heavy variety, not like back at home in Plymouth though, where it wasn't unusual to see it rain upwards! But I digress, it does indeed rain in Coventry and so I've now been alerted to a new danger which could strike at any time. Dave has told me not to worry... He says he has a cunning plan involving cellotape.

This news was met with some sceptism at Knit-Wits last night, where we were having a de-stash night. Now I did consider getting rid of some fabric but what with having been working like a crazed crazy woman, I have not really had much time to do anything the past week or two. So in the end, I dug out some no longer wanted issues of Burda and took those along, telling Dave I was doing my bit towards decluttering the house.

Ahem. Somehow I came back with more magazines than I took with me... And some knitting needles... Oooh and some fuzzy sparkly stuff that Steelbreeze waved at me.

I did do some work on the Sweet Pea shawl from The Happy Hooker, which is growing nicely now. I disagree with the designer's comments about whipping it up in a single evening though and having it ready for use the next day. Admittedly, I'm only spending an hour here and there working on the shawl, but those first few rows were killers.

Here it is in its current state, very much a work in progress but you can see that it is beginning to take shape.

I like the way it's coming along and now I've got the hang of the pattern, it's not that difficult to make. I did have problems with the pattern instructions, but fortunately was able to interpret the chart which accompanied it. My next worry is for when its done as I think I may need to have a go at blocking (a first for me) to get the best out of this one.

Finally some gratuitous cat pictures, because I'm in pain, working far too hard at the end of a very long week (i.e. no weekend) and want to see kittens.

My ever vigilant assistant Charlie, who is an oversized kitten really, is always ready to help guard my knitting or crochet. Or at least flop all over the project bag the above shawl currently lives in.

Of course, once he realises that you're watching him he turns on the charm... And don't be fooled by that expression, he is ready to kill Dave (who falls for it everytime) if he touches his tummy.

Missy on the other hand would never allow herself to be photographed in a compromising position...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

And to prove that Dave does not always look like a tree...

Stung by Richard's comments about only linking to pictures of Dave as a tree, I thought I'd better rectify matters by showing a couple of other pictures which maybe put him a better light. The first thing you need to remember is that both Dave and I play characters in LARP events and that we both like to dress up. That is, when kitting out our characters we tend to go to town a bit in the effort department.

At Maelstrom, Dave doesn't normally look like a tree. Instead he plays a polymorphic non-gender specific servant of the gods (i.e. an angel) who sometimes looks something like this...

Note the makeup, dreads and ears which make him near unrecognisable. In fact when I first saw this picture it took a second or two to realise who it was! Dave takes at least six changes of costume to each event for this character, although catching him on camera is apparently difficult and I rarely get to see photographic evidence.

I'm not responsible for any of the costume Dave is wearing, the frock coat having been made by a friend and the rest of his outfit has come from theatrical costume or charity shops.

I am however wholey responsible for this...

Except for the hat and boots that is; fear my sense of style.

As always, click on the pictures to see a bigger version.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Ah... The selfless sacrifice

With the first Strangehaven event fast approaching, I decided I'd better buy myself one of those self-inflating sleeping mats (the manufacturers for which claim them to be as comfortable as a proper airbed). The site we're using has these little dark age (ish) huts with raised wooden platforms for sleeping on, so I need something to put down to soften things a bit. Last time we went there, I took Dave's self-inflating mat but since he'll be off at Maelstrom (traitor! ;) ) and will be needing it himself, I thought I'd best get my own.

Anyhow, one trip to Go Outdoors! later and I have myself a suitable mat. Being one of those people who doesn't like to leave things to chance, I read the instructions and did a test inflate...

This is what happened the instant the bed had inflated itself.

As you can see, Charlie was selfless as always and promptly volunteered to test the comfort and fit of the new self-inflating matress.

From the look on his face I think it was a hit and a successful test, now given the Charlie seal of approval.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Arrgh! Life has gone all crazy on me...

It's been an eventful few days in the less than helpful or co-operative sense, with the boiler dying (again) in a spectacular fashion on Thursday. And by that I we had crackling. We had smoke and a strong (still lingering) smell of burning of the electrical kind. The only positive was that it happened whilst we were there and hence we were able to switch things off and did not go up in flames. Those who've read my LJ know that this is becoming a frequent occurance, the third break down in less than a year with the last one being fixed in the middle of April... I am not impressed.

Timing couldn't be worse of course, since the next two weeks see the implementation of a major double upgrade to a critical system. To the non-IT professionals out there, that means I have to nearly camp out in my office, working through the weekend and I simply cannot just nip home for a couple of hours to wait for a plumber.

Cue me spending a couple of hours arguing with appropriate people on Friday - whilst trying to roll out a major upgrade - and eventually being bullied into joining British Gas's Homecare. Twas the only way I could get someone to respond! The result was that by the time I got home from work on Friday night, the gas had been turned off - not terribly convenient - but Transco did come back later and switch it on, before turning off the gas to the boiler at its valve. We still don't have any hot water, but we're not about to blow up or anything and British Gas are now legally obligated to sort it out.

Aside from all of this, I have of course been working. Again, bad timing as I have an event next weekend, which wouldn't normally be an issue but since I'm on the writing team, I'm feeling a bit pressured. I'm hoping that I get things sorted out enough that I can blag Friday off, but I shall have to see.

In the meantime, I'm working. I've sneaked on here for a few minutes to write this but otherwise I'm juggling computers (of the big variety) and persuading them to do what I want them to do. The temperature in here was 30.4C when I came in this morning, having maxed out at 29.7c last night when I finally escaped... So it looks like it's going to be another scorcher. Believe me, by the time I made it home I was tired and drained of all energy.

Still, the world of crafting and making things stops for no one, so besides trying to think in a creative fashion - the operative word being 'trying' - I've dug out unfinished costume pieces. I have a tunic I bought earlier in the year that needs hemming and another one that I made last year for Belgariad (another LARP I was on the writing team for) but never finished. My aim is to get them sorted out and wearable by the end of the week!

Other than that, I've not had time to do anything since like Mandy, I really could do with more hours in the day! Note I do not want more days in the week as that just means I'll need to work even harder. I also need some 'Ooomph' so if anyone has any going spare, please send it in my direction.