Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Going bananas with turquoise

What a silly title, sorry, it's hard coming up with a snappy and relevant one!

I'll start with the turquoise bit which begins with my gorgeous jumper. I've had this pattern,  'Wisteria' by Kate Gilbert, on my 'to do' list since it was released in 2008 and I finally decided to crack on with it but didn't know what yarn to use. A rummage in my stash uncovered 10 balls of Mirasol Tuhu, discontinued ages ago, which I'd bought at a bargain price when a yarn store was closing down. It's a really soft and squishy yarn and feels wonderful against your skin.

Having looked at other examples others have made I knew I wanted to make it fitted rather than loose as it shows off the cables better. I also wanted to make the sleeves slightly shorter than shown as I prefer to end them at the wrist - I don't like sleeves ending on my hands as I'm far too messy and clumsy! The yarn is slightly thinner than that suggested so it took a while to get gauge and I settled on 3.75mm needles to get the stitch count but this was slightly out on the row gauge so I had to adjust the length accordingly.

The other thing about it was that it's knit top-down in the round and I've never tried a top-down sweater before. That may seem very odd to some people but I've always constructed my knits the way I would create a sewn item, ie with seams for strength and structure. Oh my goodness it's a brilliant way to do it as I could try it on at every stage and so got exactly the right fit and length I wanted at every stage.

It isn't blocked yet but I just had to show it - I'll model it soon so you can see how the colour works with my hair (that was a bonus!).

The neck is a great fit and doesn't go too far up to interfere with my double chin!

The hem echoes the neckline

I adjusted the sleeve length to include an extra repeat of the trellis to match the hem of the body

I added extra rows to the upper body and shaped the waist a bit more than the pattern stated.

Going bananas

It all started with a trip to the lovely town of Rye which I've written about on many occasions. As we wandered along the High Street we passed Cordelia James and Mike spotted this dress in the window and suggested I try it on. Yes, really! It's completely out of my comfort zone but for some reason I agreed and I'm so glad I did as it looks lovely on. I tried it with a dark navy denim jacket which also looked amazing and we came away with both items.

I have never, ever, had a denim jacket before but at the grand old age of 59 5/6th I have now acquired one. Get me getting down wiv da yoof (or maybe I look more like mutton dressed as lamb!).


Then of course I had to accessorise it. I already had some navy wedge-heeled sling-backs which work well with the jacket but I decided to pick out the turquoise in the dress as an alternative.

Now I am a rummager and a bargain hunter and am quite happy to buy secondhand from ebay or charity shops and so it was that I found these brand new turquoise suede shoes, unworn and with the labels on, for £5 (price on ticket £60!).  Bargain number one.

Bargain number 2 also came via ebay in the form of this bag by Anthropologie which is apparently an expensive brand. I don't crave handbags and view them as a utility item but given that it cost £10 and they can sell for 100s of £s I'm very happy with my purchase.

When Mike and I had a trip into Brighton to collect my race number, a couple of days before the marathon, I wore my new outfit and several people commented on my frock and outfit which made it feel extra special - I spend most of my life either wearing running gear or scruffy jeans and looking grubby from dealing with the horses or gardening so it's nice to get dressed up and feel a bit more feminine sometimes.

Rummaging around in the charity shops in Brighton I managed to find 2 bracelets with several shades of turquoise beads for £2 and I reckon I can make a nice new bracelet using them, possibly in macrame, and perhaps a necklace too.

Next I received an email from Jane Crowfoot saying that she has some new lace yarn from West Yorkshire Spinners and this beautiful colour is a perfect match and at 800m per skein is perfect for either a shawl or more likely a bolero such as this self-tie-front cardigan from Araucania which is  a free pattern.

I started swatching the Araucania pattern stitch last night and really like it so just need to get gauge and I'll be off. Bolero it is then!

So that's 2 different looks from one dress. A great result all round! Now all I've got to do is make the bolero, bracelet and necklace..........

Copycat crochet

Every so often I spot a design I really like and will save a photo or magazine clipping to check out later. I don't know why, but I find crochet quite easy to copy whereas I never attempt to copy a knitting pattern.

I saw a skirt like this in a Peruvian Connection catalogue years ago and I really loved it but it was far too expensive for me and so I saved the image thinking I might attempt to copy it at a later date. It had a sort of fishtail at the back but with a straight hem at the front and it was lined with a pale pink sateen. 

The body of the skirt was in a cluster stitch which was easy to emulate so I made a paper pattern to match my measurements and then just filled it in, as if doing freeform crochet. The yarn was recycled from this long lacy cardigan (scroll down past the ducklings!) I made yonks ago and is a perle cotton. I had to do lots of weaving-in of ends as the cardigan was mostly motifs but the yarn was still in good condition so it was silly to waste it as I hadn't worn the cardigan for ages.

The lacy bits are made up of several different crochet motifs, some with little raised flowers for interest. I made them all separately and then joined them together with chains.

The edging is a simple picot cluster (note the Tilly cat hair which gets everywhere!)

As I'm having a turquoise moment I think I'll make the underskirt out of a bright sateen lining fabric from my fabric stash (which I know is lurking somewhere in the depths!).

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter!

As it's Easter Sunday I think it's appropriate to show some associated images first.

In the garden everything is bursting into life:

The beautiful Pasque Flower, aka Pulsatilla vulgaris, so-called because it flowers around Easter time

Its silky seedheads are as delightful as its flowers

The ducks and pheasants have been doing what they do (ahem!) at this time of year with a vengeance:

There's lots of stalking, shadowing and displaying from the cock pheasant whilst the hen tries to ignore him!

This young female duck still hasn't mastered the art of nest-building in an appropriate place and I keep finding broken eggs in pots and behind the wheelie bin, bless her.

"Waddya think Donald?"


"I wish she'd let me into the porch!"

But this female, a relative newcomer to us, managed to produce a brood of 8 teeny-weeny ducklings which she marched up from the pond to see us.

She's never brought them up when they are so small and it looked as if they'd only just hatched out because they didn't know what to do when I threw down some grain and they just huddled close to her.

There were lots of predators about (magpies, buzzards & crows) and she seemed very nervous and hardly ate anything before, horror of horrors, she started marching off in the wrong direction towards the horses' field. As it was feeding time the horses were waiting impatiently by the field gate as the ducklings were guided underneath it and into the field whereupon she lead them away towards our next field where there's a larger pond, over 500 metres away.

We kept everything crossed that they were OK and after tea we went down to the nearest pond to see if they'd returned whereupon there was more consternation as there were 3 tiny ducklings swimming around, all alone with no mum in sight. We guessed that they had hatched out after their mum had taken the other 8 away and we really didn't think they'd survive the night, poor wee mites.

The next morning the first thing I did was head down to check on them and was delighted to see that not only had mummy duck returned with her brood of 8, the 3 extra ducklings were there too. However, our joy was short-lived as when she came up for some feed there were only 9 ducklings and the next morning the brood had reduced to 8 again. Nature can be harsh and cruel.

The birds are busy nesting everywhere you look and Esther is providing her usual nest-lining material. The other day I counted 7 rooks on her back pecking away and she really doesn't mind as it's a symbiotic relationship; getting rid of her winter coat which is all itchy when she's moulting. I gave her a really good brushing and left the hair in a big plant pot for them to take.

We've been doing a lot of clearing around the nearest pond and whilst I was looking out of the window to check the bonfire was OK I spotted a pair of ears sticking up in the distance:

Mrs Bunny was busy gathering dried grass to line her nest inside a hole in the bank!

This being Easter weekend I made our traditional hot cross buns, spiced to our liking, full of dried fruit and really scrummy.

I had a couple of number-geek moments when I was dividing the dough (sorry, I can't help myself!):

The only bit I dread is icing the cross on the top as my piping skills are limited and there are usually lots of dribbles or thick lumps when I've pressed too hard on the bag. This time I was rather pleased with how they turned out:

My best ever attempt with only a few slight wiggles!

Yum! They freeze and keep really well and are great eaten both fresh or toasted.

Another marathon

Last weekend saw me return to the Brighton marathon after a break of a few years.  I'd left it until the last minute to decided if I would run it because of all the health issues we've got going on at present and ARUK very kindly gave me a charity place a few weeks beforehand which was great. The only downside was that all the nice cheap 'park and ride' spaces, where you leave your car outside the city and are transported to the start and back again by coach,  had been taken and so I had to park in central Brighton ("ouch", said my purse!) and had to leave home at silly o'clock because they closed loads of the city centre roads at 6am so I found myself sitting in a car park very, very early last Sunday morning. It was fine though as I'd had the foresight to make up a flask of coffee and bought a newspaper to read to while away the time before I headed off to the park where it starts.

Now, although I thought I'd been exceedingly organised I had a niggling feeling that I'd forgotten something which troubled me throughout my journey there. When I went to the car boot to gather my things I realised I hadn't got my sunglasses (I was sure I'd left them in there but had forgotten that I'd worn them for a training run a few days earlier, doh!). Never mind, I thought, and phoned Mike to tell him whereupon he told me off because the forecast was for wall-to-wall sunshine but as I had my peaked cap it wasn't a huge issue really. By this time I was walking along the road towards the start and I decided not to mention that I'd also forgotten to apply suncream even though I had that in the car (oh dear!) as I knew one of my more organised running chums would have some so I wasn't worried about that.

Good start hey?!

I'd arranged to meet some 100 Club member by the clock tower in the park and I looked at my GPS watch to check the time only to find.......I wasn't wearing it. OK so that's the 3 things gone wrong and it was actually very liberating to just run at whatever pace felt comfortable. I deliberately didn't take my camera with me (no, really, I didn't forget it!) as I didn't want any extra weight and I'm glad because it was hot, HoT, HOT.

First I met Sunny and Theresa. Look at all the rubbish on the ground behind us - there had been an event on the night before and the rubbish hadn't been cleared away.

More people arrived in dribs and drabs and Julia very kindly plastered me in sun cream although I did still get rather burnt as it was surprisingly hot all day.

Some of the motley crew - I wonder how many marathons were have completed between us?

ARUK had cheering groups all along the route but most sections were so crowded that it was really hard to spot people although I did spot 2 supporters at around mile 6. I have to say the crowd support was amazing all along the route and I thoroughly enjoyed it (although I know some of the slower runners had issues as they ran out of water at one point).

I saw so many running chums both at the start and en-route and had a fab time despite the heat (I have some great comedy tan-lines!

Here are my favourite bits in no particular order:

Getting shout-outs from supporters and spotting chums on the out-and-back sections. Being overtaken by someone in a badger costume and shouting "well done badger" and have him reply "is that you Susie?" then finding out it was Russell a running chum and Race Director (what a star he was for wearing such a massive costume in that heat). Chatting with Mike the Mod who was running inside a huge model scooter - his feet were hurting like heck and his arms were numb from holding onto the handlebars (brilliant effort for a great cause - Teenage Cancer Trust). Banter with the crowd (awesome support).

Sneaking in just under 5 hours (4:59:45) which was great considering how hot it had been.

We were given a useful size of cloth bag and a decent enough tee shirt (which will be useful for yoga) and some savoury nibbles which I devoured immediately as I needed the salt.

Tee shirt front

Tee shirt back

I had a good journey home and the day ended sharing a bottle of Prosecco with Mike whilst watching the sunset. Bliss.

I have another marathon next weekend (not the London marathon but the St George's Day marathon) but after that things are a bit up in the air as I have to have an operation on my eyes and I don't know how soon I'll be able to run after that so I'll have to get my updates done pdq in anticipation - there's a completed new jumper to show, some crochet and so many other things...........I'd better get my act together!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

.....and there's more......

A tea party

Something lovely happened a few weeks ago and it really lifted our spirits. This pretty little card arrived in the post.

Oooh, a tea party!

The invitations were so beautiful and were created by Tracey who enjoys card-making (although it's hard to believe that she's only just started as they were gorgeous!)
A week before the event Maggie, my neighbour and fellow Village-in-Bloomer, phoned to ask me if I'd like to accompany her to the event; neither of us knew the other had been invited so she came along with us and we had a good old catch-up.

The event was held in the village hall at Horam which isn't too far away and when we arrived we were presented with a booklet and these pretty badges with flowers for the ladies and a ladybird for the gentlemen.

Inside were details about all the guests and why they had been invited and we were encouraged to mix with everyone else. It was lovely to discover that 3 other people from our village (beneath my name) had been invited too.

Maggie and me posing. That's my latest shawl but by the time the photo was taken I'd been hugged several times and it had moved around so you can't see all the lovely lacy detail (it got lots of nice comments though).

I got another nice surprise after I'd finished all the yummy goodies - I even had some cream with my scone and jam, which is most unusual for me as I try to avoid it as it exacerbates my asthma, and my goodness it was a real treat! I was sitting chatting with the lady next to me when someone came and squatted down beside me. His face was familiar but I couldn't quite place him until he said he'd seen my name in the programme and that he was a photographer I last saw back in 2007 just before the first time I ran and knit at London marathon.

A face from the past

All in all a most enjoyable afternoon and Anthony very kindly made a donation to my fund-raising which was a lovely surprise

A bit of crochet

I needed a new mat for one of the bedside tables so I had a rummage around in my old crochet patterns and found one that suited the size perfectly.

The yarn is some cotton I've had for years. Not quite as fine as the stuff we used for the really intricate doilies but not far off. It's actually more beige than it looks in the photo and I was very pleased I could still actually hold and work with a 1.5mm crochet hook!

It still needs to be blocked and starched but I thought I'd show it now as it's finished.

A very pleasing pattern to work

The flowers that bloom in the Spring, tra la

Isn't it lovely when the the Spring flowers start peeping out. Their bright and cheerful freshness really lifts ones spirits. I planted lots of Leucojums and Daffodils in the orchard so that we can have their pretty blooms in the house.

Leucojum vernum aka Spring Snowflake is often mistaken for a giant Snowdrop although it's actually related to the Amaryllis

Combined here with beautiful Euphorbia 'White Swan' and an unknown daffodil

Isn't that a pretty Daffodil. There's only 1 and I have no idea what it is but it must have sneaked in with the pale yellow ones I planted.

Another day, another arrangement. This time it's zingy yellow daffs combined with my favourite Hellebore (see below) with some twigs of Dogwood, Euonymus and ivy.

Isn't the Hellebore a yummy colour. It's Helleborus purpurascens.

Walkies (with a bit of running occasionally)

I wasn't sure I would be able to take part in the Sevenoaks Circular LDWA event this year and left my entry until the very last minute whereupon I discovered it was full. Hey ho, I thought, then nil desperandum and contacted the organisers to ask if they'd had any cancellations. A few days later they confirmed that there was a place for me which made my day as it was a chance to catch up with lots of my running chums who I've hardly seen in the last few months.

It was never going to be a quick one as there was lots of chatting and photos and eating at the checkpoints. To make it even more of an adventure we misread the instructions at one point and missed a left turn which meant we had to retrace our steps (up a massive hill!) which added 2 miles onto the route. I was very glad I'd taken my walking poles with me as they really help on the steep uphill sections.

Cue lots of photos of seriously not serious runners, most of us with over 100 marathons under our belts, having a jolly good day out:

Bryan, me, Emine (rocking the Pocahontas look) and Kirsty

OK, who took that - you're in big trouble!!!

The team assembles. From left to right: Emine, Kirsty, me, Bryan, Carl and Rachael

The first section of the route took us through the grounds of beautiful Knole Park

Not sure who took this but we've been joined, briefly, by Anna (far left) and Dave (far right and Chairman of the 100 marathon club with over 600 marathons to his name!)

There were plenty of deer about and we heard the parakeets screeching in the trees.

There were several checkpoints en-route and even though we were very slow after our little detour there was still enough  left for us.

The route took us across very varied terrains - ploughed fields, grass, narrow or enclosed footpaths, through villages, up steep hills which rewarded us with fabulous views from their summit, through churchyards, past very expensive houses and along high hills which fell away steeply to one side.

What I enjoy most about these LDWA events is that you get to see places you would probably never see otherwise. We had such a lovely time full of fun and laughter and no worries about how fast or slow we were so there were lots of opportunities for very silly photos:

What a lot of silly-billies (except for David in the white shirt, yet another legend with over 600 marathons to his name)

Thanks to our little diversion we were much slower than expected and Mike phoned after 9 hours to check I was OK as he was getting worried that he hadn't heard from me.

Back in Knole Park for the last couple of miles. This tree had the most amazing trunk.

Even slower than last year and getting dangerously close to the 10 hour cut-off. Oops!

All in all a grand day out.