Tuesday, 21 September 2010

War of the Wools

Hello all, hope you had a nice weekend. The weather here wasn't grand so we didn't even attempt the car boot. Luckily I was anticipating the rain and had taken myself on a tour of the charity shops on Saturday instead. I bought some very ugly lampshades to go with my lamp bases that I have yet to decide on a colour for. I also found some more patterns for my vintage collection. I will probably never knit from even 1% of them but I so love looking through them. I will have to take some pics of my favourite ones to show you. I need to sort them out into categories now that I have somewhere to store them.

Which brings me on to my first find, a Golden Hands book from the 70's. At first I bought it solely for the cover, isn't it gorgeous? I didn't have time to look through it in the shop as my kids were charging about and I feared for the trinkets! Once I had it in my hands for the reasonable sum of £1 I found that it is actually chock full of different lace and colourwork stitches and other tips and was well worth the money. Some of the designs are a bit ropey of course but I instantly fell in love with this picture. It looks like something Boden would come up with these days. Apart from maybe the curtain tieback tassel belt!
Do you want to see my knitting progress? Please excuse the pictures, for some reason they have come out really faded looking. I'm having problems with both my cameras at the moment so I may have to ask Santa for a new one. It's the second time I have started it as my tubular cast on (instructions from Ysolda) was a little too tight and was curving. I didn't take the advice to go up a needle size and regretted it afterwards. I ripped back before I had done too much and am happier with it now. The cables are really slow going for someone like me. Every cable row seems to take so long and I'm always catching the front with the other needle and making little pulls in the yarn that I have to try and squoosh back in. I wish I was a fast knitter but as soon as I try to focus on speeding up I forget what I'm doing. At least slowly I can remember the pattern. For added safety I have used a lot of stitch markers.The trouble with knitting slowly is it gives me time to ponder. I'm actually really, REALLY tempted to do the sleeves stripy, like Dakota's cardi in War of the Worlds. Don't tell me I'm the only one who remembers films by the knitwear? Mr J just looked at me blankly when I told him I wanted to make a War of the Worlds cardigan. This is it here.
I know I am really bad at sticking to things that I have started , and stripes would mean buying yet more yarn but I reckon it would look so nice. I think I'll just plod on with the cables for now and make up my mind after I have done the front. I'm always jumping ahead with the next idea before finishing what I'm doing.

I also saw the most adorable wedding car, a white vintage VW camper van. I really wanted to snap a pic or wait to see the couple come out but felt a bit weird! Shame it was raining on their day but I'm sure they didn't mind too much. I've been married to Mr J for a good long while now but if I could have my day again I'd be sure to go with something like that.

Last week was pretty rotten for me. I have an ongoing family ruckus, aka The Situation, that on the whole I can cope with as long as I can keep my distance. Sometimes things do unavoidably flare up and the resulting upset knocks the wind out of my sails a little bit so I'm in need of some happy. I've booked myself in at the hairdressers for a long awaited hair overhaul and I'm really looking forward to that. I may also have something big and pine lurking in my car boot that I picked up this morning.

Till next time

Ms C

Friday, 17 September 2010


Hi again. Life has changed a little around here now the kids are back at school. Last year I let things slide and there never seemed to be enough time in the evenings for anything but rushing, stress and the dreaded nagging! I decided that I needed to try a bit harder to make things work better for us and it seems to be going well so far. I just need to figure out where my time for blogging and knitting fit in. The little one is at home with me during the day and he seems to be at a bit of a loss without his big brother and sister after being used to seeing them all day. To pass the time he has taken to following me around clinging to the back of my knees and wailing. And saying 'No!' to everything, even things he wants to say 'Yes' to.

We went to the car boot last weekend as usual. I think that they will be becoming few and far between now the weather is turning colder, they aren't well attended as they were and everyone packs up much sooner. I did however knock a few items off The List in the form of a couple of standard lamps and a shade (still need to find a shade for the other) At the moment they are a bit worse for wear and they are joining the big To Do Queue to be prettied up. I have lovely ideas for them!

While I didn't buy very much I was led by the chain of purchases to my newest knitting project. My *daughter had spotted one of the patterns I bought and had taken a liking to it. The girl in the picture does look a bit like her, they have similar hair. I can't see my son taking on the boy's haircut though.
She said she would like 'that cardigan, a pink one please?' Then later on in the day she let out the call 'Look Mom, some buttons!' I have them trained up as an extra pair of eyes for my bargain hunting. In return I look out for Pokemon and dinosaurs and Duplo for them. And inside the (slightly musty smelling) tub of buttons that I bought for 50p was seven pink buttons. Just the right amount for the pattern.
Now I'd love to say that I found the yarn for 50p but I'm not that lucky. I don't often see yarn at the car boot and when I do it's usually scratchy or hairy and/or the colour of a dead badger. I tried to match in the yarn to the buttons but buying online it's always hard to tell colours but they go really well, although now I'm worried they are too boring! First impressions of the Artesano Superwash are really good. It comes in some beautiful colours and I will definitely be buying more in the future. Lots more!

I'm not a loyal shopper and tend to go where I can find the best deal ** and I'm an absolute pushover for a bit of free postage. I found the yarn at Hejhog for the very decent price of £2.90 a ball. There they also sell a selection of toiletries, accessories and clothes so it was easy to bring up my total to the £24 free postage limit with some new shampoo for my currently awful hair. My parcel arrived so quickly and everything was nicely wrapped in tissue paper. I love parcels like that. My daughter had expected me to make a whole cardigan in one day while she was at school. I wish I was that quick, though she was satisfied with my choice of colour. She declared it 'beautiful and soft, like a weasel' (????!) I'm currently learning a new way to cast on so it's taken me a bit longer than I hoped to get going but I'm planning some sitting down time with it this evening. Hopefully I will have some progress to report next time.

See you then!

Ms C

*I'm struggling to come up with nicknames for the kids. I should have given birth to the
A-Team instead, since they already have them

** Disclosure - My comments are based on my experience as a paying customer and I am not associated with them in any way nor have I received any compensation or gifts.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

10 things

Thanks to Sarah at Sugar and Spice for tagging me for my first award.

The rules are I have to tell you the blog who tagged me (above) and list 10 of my favourite things. Instead of the usual family, children etc I have decided to be a bit more offbeat. Because let's face it I have to love the children, it's the law. Even if they do steal my make-up and leave the toilet unflushed.

So here are my 10, in no particular order.

1. Rowan Cashsoft 4 ply in shade 448 - Sweetcorn. I don't like actual sweetcorn but this yarn is my favourite from my stash. I have 9 balls of it and it's discontinued so I can't decide what to do with it. I'd like enough to cover my bed and roll around on it a bit, like a cat with catnip. Yes, I would.2. Serj Tankian. Hear him here on YouTube or look him up on Spotify. I'm stalking my email for details of his tour. It has to be soon!3. Pizza Express pizza with the goat's cheese and spinach and red onions. I'm well overdue getting one, we were supposed to go for our anniversary in June but I was ill.

4. Vegetarian Haribo. I haven't eaten jelly type sweets for years as most of them aren't veggie friendly. There is a frightening amount of these wrappers in my bin.5. Harry Hill. If I were not married already I would rather like him to be my husband. He seems like such a nice bloke and funny to boot.6. Brighton. My heart says I belong there, my wallet says I do not.
7. Clint Eastwood. If I were 30 years older.... ! He is responsible for quite a few of my favourite films. Bridges of Madison County, Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino.
8. Bevelled mirrors. I don't actually know how many I have got. I buy them, I put them away. Mr J rolls his eyes. I think the answer is 'too many'
9. Reading blogs. I have so many on my blog reader it can get a bit much sometimes but I get through them in the end. I am gradually adding them to the sidebar so the list changes when they are updated. I love having a peek into other peoples lives and seeing things they are cooking or making.

10. Buttons!
I have stuck to the rules thus far, the next dictates I have to tag another 10 blogs to pass it on to. Most of the ones I read have already had it so I will leave it open for anyone to take up the award for their own blog. Let me know if you have posted your 10 things!

Ms C

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Happy How-to | Stripping varnish

I've always had an interest in DIY, I grew up around lots of bits of wood and tools and things. My dad is very much of the kind who Does Not Share and despite me hanging around while he was working I was often given short shrift and sent away to do something else. I think that had I been a boy he would have been more willing to pass on some of his knowledge, my mom has told me before that they would have called me Peter! As an adult I have kept my interest, mainly because Mr J has zero desire to do any jobs around the house that don't involve computers. I've gradually built up my own toolbox and learned to do basic things. I've also made a lot of mistakes along the way! I do enjoy it though.

When I started buying bits of furniture to do up I found that information on the internet was very vague and a lot of DIY forums were mostly inhabited by men who liked the sound of their own keyboard. I'm one of those people who prefers to have exact instructions for tasks but despite this I decided to try things out for myself and have found some methods I go back to time and again. I'm certainly not an expert by any stretch but I thought it might be useful for me to post what has worked for me in case it helps anyone else out there.

A lot of items that find their way home with me from car boots and charity shops are made from pine that has been varnished and has since discoloured by taking on an orangey tone and started to gather a build up of ingrained dirt around the edges. It's easy to be put off taking it home because it looks like it would be too much work to sort out.

You can go either of two ways, stripping and refinishing or painting a different colour altogether. Either way it is worth stripping the varnish back to get a good look at what you are dealing with and see if there is anything worth salvaging under there. If you are wanting to repaint you don't have to be as thorough as you would be if you are taking it right back to the bare wood, just enough to give a solid base for the primer to stick to.The first method people (including me!) try is sandpaper,or glasspaper as I was told is the correct term. The downsides to sanding are that the paper gets quickly blocked with varnish meaning you get through a lot. Another is of course you are flattening and smoothing out the wood grain as you go which can take the characteristic markings out of older pieces or you could lose details such as decorative edges if you are too overenthusiastic. Varnish sinks down quite far into the wood grain and it can be hard to get an even result, let alone sand down far enough to get it all off. Finally, sanding is hard work both physically and on your hands!

So if we aren't using sandpaper what can we use? I like to use liquid varnish and paint stripper, the most commonly known is Nitromors. This option can also be expensive but I try to squeeze as much value out of each drop as I can. The cheapest and best remover I have found was actually from Lidl in their homeware aisle along with the washing powders and the like. It is called Baufix and was around £3.99 for a large bottle. I have also had a lot of success with Colron Furniture Stripper though it is a little bit more expensive. It seems to work well on older (pre-1960's) finishes.Here is my demonstration item, as you can see it is very grubby. I have already stripped the lid to show the difference. Ok, because I am impatient!To do this you will need:
Medium Grade steel wool
Liquid paint and varnish stripper
A plastic filler knife or scraper, not metal.
A metal bowl or old baked bean tin, anything that is strong enough to stand holding the old product without melting.
White spirit and old, clean rags
Gloves and possibly a mask and goggles too, though I don't bother if I am outside (naughty me!)
Kitchen towel for wiping hands and spills

Before you start it is best to make sure all children and nosy pets are well out of the way and you are preferably outside in the fresh air. Baufix claims to have a 'pleasant fruit aroma.' It doesn't!

The easiest way to do this is to have the surface you are working on flat in front of you as it lets the stripper soak into the wood and do it's job more effectively. The varnish will have sunk into the grain of the wood and it will help to lift it back out again.Pour a large amount of the stripper on to the centre of the wood and spread it around the section you are working on, rather like buttering some bread. Don't worry too much about drips as they can be sorted afterwards.Leave the stripper to work for around 20 minutes. You can then use the plastic scraper to collect together the stripper which will have congealed into a rather lovely looking stretchy jelly-like substance. Scrape this into your metal container.
Reapply a new layer and continue until the wood begins to look paler. Still orange? Keep going!
You'll start to see the pale wood starting to show through.
Rub gently with steel wool to get the last bits from the corners and details. Run your plastic scraper firmly along the grain of the wood to remove any last bits of stripper and put these in your container too. The wood will be wet and prone to damage which is why I use a plastic scraper instead of metal, less chance of overdoing it and getting scratches.
Steel wool works much better when a surface is dryish so now you can rub along the grain to get rid of the last bits of varnish and gunk. Shake out the steel wool and keep folding and refolding to get the maximum use out of each piece.
Rub down with a rag soaked in a little white spirit.
Leave it to dry before gently sanding off any rough patches that may have cropped up. Usually the wood is nice and smooth and ready for you to add oil, wax or varnish. Dispose of your used stripper into a bin, not down the drain!

Hope that was helpful to someone. I still have a couple of sides of my box to finish. I'm not sure still whether to paint it or apply Danish oil. I've also got a very old antique blanket box. It has never had any finish on it and it is quite dirty and I'm not sure of the best way to deal with it. As it's old I'm worried about making a mess and ruining it. If anyone has any ideas I'd love to hear them.

Ms C

Just a quick edit to say I have visited most of the Lidl branches in my area and can't get any more Baufix in any of them! Quite a shame as it's rather good. As I have a lot of projects in the pipeline I'm ordering in a 5 litre drum in instead.
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