A bunch of random stuff

ARGGHHHH!!!!! I just spent a couple of hours writing a long and involved entry, and somehow hit some key combination that wiped the lot. And it won’t come back :-(

Oh well, I’ll try and reconstruct what I lost, but of course this version won’t be anywhere near as witty and interesting as the original. Just imagine that what you’re reading is like this, but so much better…

It seems that most of DD-land have late-June/early-July birthdays. So happy birthday to everyone who shares a birthday week with me! And thanks for all the birthday greetings from everyone.

Latest cross-stitch progress report:

All those shades of green might look impressive, but they’re driving me mad. I counted something like 10 slightly different shades (plus a similar number of browns).

My incredibly expensive lace pillow finally arrived from America. It’s made of a high-density foam that supposedly is self-healing when you stick pins in it, which means it will last much longer. I don’t know how true that is, but it’s much nicer to use than the old polystyrene pillow I’d borrowed from the tutor.

I had to make a cover for it (to protect it, and because it’s best to work on a washable cover because, as you can imagine, the surface of the pillow eventually gets dirty from being in contact with your hands), so I got a bit creative. I’d seen a picture on the internet of a pillow with a bean-bag base, which allowed the pillow to be adjusted to any working angle when working at a table, or even to use the pillow on your knees.

After a bit of figuring out, I decided to make a separate base with a solid top (to provide a firm surface for the pillow to sit on) and beanbag underneath, with velcro to attach it to the cover (which has an elasticated edge so it can be removed from the pillow for washing).

The cover itself had to be in a dark plain colour (so the threads of the lace can be easily seen against it), so I decided to make the base nice and colourful to cheer it up a bit. And I just happened to have a pile of fabric scraps lytteltonwitch had given me, in her trademark bright colours, so I definitely achieved the aim of brightening it up! (And of course the green matches my bobbin roll, so I’m feeling very co-ordinated ;-))

Here’s it all put together to show how it adjusts to any working angle:

When I took it along to the lace class last week, everyone was suitably impressed. I think some of them might have a go at making their own over the break :-)

Oh, and of course I had to make a matching bag to carry my pillow to class in:

At least I’ll definitely never get my bag mixed up with anyone else’s!

Here’s my bobbin collection so far:

Hands had a selection in different native woods, so I got a pair of each. They’re such gorgeous woods, and each with such distinct characters.

I still need at least a dozen more (and eventually a lot more than that), but even at $2 each, the cost adds up pretty quickly, so I’m just getting a few at a time, and using the tutor’s bobbins in the meantime. However, Mum thinks she knows someone who is a wood turner, and might be able to make me some. I’m going to send down a bobbin for him to have a look at, so fingers crossed!

And just to show it’s not *all* about the tools, here’s some lace:

From left to right:

1) and 2) Scandinavian holes.

3) A gimp (though you can’t see it very well – I should really have used a brighter colour. It’s the dark green thread woven through the white threads.)

4) and 5) A pattern I found on the internet and decided to try (I was feeling ambitious that day!). It involved learning a couple of new stitches – cloth-stitch fans (the red bits down the sides) and triangle ground (the 4th and 6th diamonds) – plus a new way of starting and finishing, so it was a bit of a steep learning curve, but it turned out ok. (#5 was actually my first attempt, but the thread I used was way too fine, so it didn’t turn out as well as it should. It was good practice, though.)

6) Tallies. They’re supposed to come out perfectly square, so obviously I need a bit more practice :-)

7) Plaits and picots. The picots (the frilly bits where the plaits join) are incredibly complicated. I kept thinking I had the hang of them, and then when I’d come to the next one I’d be utterly confused again.

And now, a rant. We went to buy a bar of chocolate at the supermarket the other day, and were suprised to see that Cadbury had changed their packaging. Instead of the old foil and paper wrappers, the bars were all in cardboard boxes. When I picked one up, I discovered why – despite looking the same size, the bars felt a lot lighter than they used to be. And when I looked at the weight, sure enough it was only 220g, when they used to be 250g (no, I don’t obsessively memorise the weights of random grocery items, it’s just that I have a recipe that uses 250g of dark chocolate, and I know a bar of Cadbury’s energy chocolate used to be exactly enough).

The really sneaky thing was that they had removed all the old packaging chocolate from the shelves, so there was nothing to compare the new ones to. So I bet most people wouldn’t even notice they were being short-changed.

When I got home, I checked the Woolworths online shopping site. They often forget to remove the old products from their database when there’s a new improved version, and yep, both the old and new bars were there:

Spot the difference? Exactly the same description, exactly the same price, but 30g smaller.

Yes, I know we’re in a recession, and companies have to make money however they can, but it really annoys me when they treat their customers like idiots and try to sneak in a lower value product like this hoping we won’t notice.

Oh, and just to add insult to injury, they seem to be importing all their chocolate from Australia now, instead of making it at the Dunedin factory. At least, every bar I checked said “made in Australia”. No offence to my Australian friends, but your Cadburys chocolate is rubbish. It’s got a much higher sugar content than the NZ version, so it tastes different, and isn’t as creamy in texture (and of course, is completely different for baking).

Looks like we’ll be buying Richfield’s from now on.

I’m alive (and old)

Just in case any of you saw this news item – yes, that is just around the corner from my place, yes, I am still alive, and no, we weren’t evacuated – in fact I had no idea it was even going on (although I did hear what sounded like gunshots around 9.30, but assumed it was just someone letting off fireworks – gunshots not being the normal soundtrack for this usually very safe neighbourhood). Big dramas for our little suburb!

Apart from being alive, I’m also now 40. I decided the only possible way to celebrate was to ignore my actual birthday and instead have an “I’m still in my 30s” party yesterday. It went really well – I spent all of Saturday baking, so we had vast amounts of food (way too much, actually, but I wasn’t sure how many people would turn up, and as I’d given a general invitation to everyone in my department at work, the numbers could have got very large!), and I’d made the invitation very vague and casual, to pop in any time in the afternoon for drinks and not-birthday cake, so we had people coming and going all day.

It was a really good mix of people, too – work people, bookcrossers, and other friends. I think we must have had about 20 people turn up in total – luckily not all at once, or they wouldn’t have all fitted into the house! Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, anyway. But I’ve promised MrPloppy I won’t have another birthday party for at least 10 years… :-)

And today I’m planning on having an utterly lazy birthday day (of course I’ve got the day off work – I never work on my birthday!), eating leftovers (see above – I kind of over-estimated the amount of food) and watching the DVD of Cosmos MrPloppy got me – the bestest bestest birthday present ever!

I like this being old thing :-)

More pretties

I seem to be getting worse and worse at actually updating my diary lately. I blame work. I seem to spend more and more of my day staring at a computer screen, which doesn’t exactly inspire me to stare at a computer screen for fun when I get home (which is saying something for this confirmed geek).

Anyway, rather than make some feeble attempt to catch up, here’s some pretty pictures of my latest lace-making efforts:

First, for Yetzirah, who asked about the bobbins:

No hooks or anything – just somewhere to wind the thread around, and a lip at the top so you can tie a hitch to stop the thread slipping as you move them. The whole process basically involves moving the bobbins over each other so that the threads intertwine. The order you move the bobbins (and how you place the pins between the threads) determines the pattern of the lace.

And yes, pretty tools is a large part of the appeal – and the best bit is you normally buy the bobbins “unspangled” (i.e. without any beads on the end), so you get to play with beads as well to make the spangles (which do have a practical purpose as well as being decorative – they add weight to the bobbins, which helps tension the thread, and keep them from sliding around the pillow).

And the latest bookmarks:

First, some spiders. When I’d seen the next stitch we were learning was called a spider, I knew lytteltonwitch would have to be the recipient of that bookmark. But when I followed the pattern the tutor gave us I wasn’t that impressed with the result (that’s the one on the left). The spiders themselves looked ok, but the little exercise at the top (which is kind of a half spider, to show the first part of the technique) made the whole thing unsymmetrical, plus it really needed another row of ground at the top to stop it looking so broken. So I decided to re-design it. (Ok, so that was inevitable, given that I end up redesigning virtually every cross-stitch project I do, but I didn’t really expect I’d start trying my hand at lace designing *quite* this early!). My new improved version is on the right. Not all that radical a change, but I’m still counting it as my very first attempt at lace design :-)

And from left to right:

1. The next exercise, called a rose ground. I was quite pleased with how this turned out, but I wanted to experiment a bit, so I tried…

2. The same pattern using a much thinner thread. Each pattern has a particular thickness of thread you’re supposed to use to make it come out right, but I wanted to see what happened if you didn’t. I think I actually like this effect better than the “correct” thickness thread.

3. Another attempt at the whole-stitch bars that didn’t work properly last time. I managed to do a better job of the edge between the bars and the ground this time, but I’m still not happy with the corner where the two bars meet. I tried it two different ways, and neither of them look quite right to me. The top one looks a bit better (apart from the huge gap it leaves), but isn’t correct according to the pattern. I might have to experiment some more.