Tuesday, October 29, 2013


We managed to survive the massive storm the other night relatively unscathed.  More about that in another post but I just wanted to get these photos on my blog before I head out into the sunshine for a run.

I finished sewing my jumper together and I'm really pleased with everything about it. My gauge was spot on and the adjustment I made to the length is perfect. I've managed to get exactly the fit that I wanted too. Usually I think, "oh, I wish I'd done......" or "maybe I should have....." but not this time.

So here's the gallery:

Front view showing waist shaping and a generous length (I didn't want another sweater that finished just below my waist, sometimes I like a bit more length)

Back view showing the simple ballerina neckline.  I had thought I might do some crochet around the neckline but I rather like the raw edge.  I love the way the shadows from my arms make it look as if I've got an hourglass figure with a real waistline (in my dreams!)

Neck edge and raglan.  Again, I had thought of crocheting a chain stitch along the join but I think I'll leave it.

Notes about the pattern:

Pattern: Rosehip by Kim Hargreaves from Rowan's The Summer Tweed Collection.  It's a very simple and quick knit.  Ideal for knitting whilst watching TV!

Yarn: Rowan Summer Tweed x 7 balls exactly.

Needles: I always use a size smaller needles for Summer Tweed as I don't like the fabric produced on larger needles.  The pattern called for 4.5mm and 5mm but I used 4mm and 4.5mm and my gauge was spot on when the pieces were blocked.

Modifications: I added 10 rows of straight knitting at the start to give me just under 2" extra length. I knit the sleeves 1cm shorter than specified as I know that Summer Tweed has a tendency to grow and I didn't want to end up with arms like an orang-utan! 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Aaaaaaargh, asthma!

I have a lot to write about dementia in the lead-up to the G8 Dementia Summit in December but that deserves a post all of its own so I'll wait until next time.

Training and asthma

I thought it was all going too well as asthma has left me alone for a while and just lurked in the background of my healthiness.  But it couldn't resist rearing its ugly head the other day when I attempted a speed session on the treadmill could it, oh no!

I started with my usual format of 1 mile warm-up at an easy pace before upping the pace to do some intervals of faster running over a specified distance. The first one always takes my breath away a bit and I have to settle into it but this time I didn't even manage to complete the first interval of 400 metres before the coughing started. My chest felt full of gunk and although I did try again after the coughing abated it became obvious that I was not going to win the battle so I stopped and just wrote it off as a bad day.

The weather forecast for the next few days is pretty grim with damaging winds and torrential rain forecast so I thought I'd take advantage of it being dry today. I headed out on a hilly route of just over 5 miles and the wind literally took my breath away. Whichever way I turned, I was either running into it or being blown from the side and I really did struggle to catch my breath.

I checked my peak-flow when I got home and it's much lower than usual so I'm just putting it down to the weather and trying to ignore it; but I shall be mightily annoyed if it spoils all my training for the Brighton 10k which is in 3 weeks!

It wasn't all bad on my run as I did manage to take a few photos.

Sun streaming through the trees (it didn't stay out very long though!)
Lanes lined with gold and green

I wish I could have captured the whole scene in this next photo.  I just glanced to my right and saw a string of ducks wending their was across the field. The field was about 20 acres and the line of ducks was about 400 metres long! They were marching off to get their feed in the next field.

Marching ducks

Knitting/crochet update

Sorry, but I can't show any crochet at the moment as it's all Christmassy stuff!


I finished knitting the Summer Tweed jumper a few days ago and the pieces have been blocked and are drying off before I join them together. It's been a welcome break from fiddly Christmas knitting!

Double knitting

I finished the first swatch from my double-knitting course and I thought I'd show it as it demonstrates where I had a problem with twisting the yarn at one end of the row. On the lighter side it shows on the righthand side and on the darker side it's on the left.

It doesn't matter that it didn't work out first time - that's the whole point of the exercise. Now I'll just knit it again concentrating on the areas with which I had difficulty.

I quite like the way that Alasdair ends each row by slipping the last pair of stitches and then twisting the yarn between them on the next row as it looks really neat. The only thing I don't like is that it means one side has a dark edge and the other has a light edge. Of course this wouldn't be an issue if knitting in the round.

I love the bind-off as the 2 colours  create a very attractive braided effect.

Christmas bits that I can show

I can show this Christmas present as I know that the recipient won't see it, for the simple reason she neither owns, nor uses a computer!

I've been creating lots of little flowers using my crazy-daisy winder and odd bits of yarn.  They are great fun to make and are ideal for decorating scarves/hats/bags/gifts. 

Some of them have been added to this scarf as decoration at each end. Mike wasn't around to take a photo so I improvised by standing in the bath!

The recipient of the scarf loves really long, thin scarves that she can wrap around her neck loads of times and she also loves dangly bits.  I cast on about 200 stitches and then just knit back and forth in   garter stitch changing the yarn at each end and leaving a nice long tail to make the dangly bits for the fringe afterwards. The fringe consists of plaits, twists and some crocheted spirals which I added in to supplement the other danglies. 

I know she'll love it.

Now it's time to crack on with the Christmassy things I can't show. What, it's only how many weeks?!!!.............

Rosehip and Blackberry syrup

I made this last year for the first time by just adapting my own recipe for rosehip syrup and it was really popular so I had to make it again this year.

I prepared the 2 elements separately and then combined their juices before adding the sugar and boiling.

The rosehips were prepared exactly as in my recipe above (1kg of hips plus water) and the liquid reduced by half.

I used 1kg of blackberries and simmered them in 500ml of water and then strained them through the jelly bag.

I combined the 2 juices and then added 1.5kg granulated sugar and treated it just the same as in the recipe for rosehip syrup. I had to boil it slightly longer than in that recipe and that's the only thing you have to watch. 

My way of checking if the syrup will be the consistency we like is to boil it for a few minutes, turn off the heat and then take a spoonful of the liquid and see how it drips from the spoon. It's different from when you're making jelly or jam as you don't want it to get to the 'soft-set' stage; you're trying to catch it just before. When it's how we like it the liquid drips slowly from the spoon and seems gloopy rather than runny.

If you find that the resultant syrup is too runny for your liking when it has cooled, don't worry, just boil it up again for a few more minutes.

It's well worth the effort and tastes wonderful dribbled over ice-cream or pancakes or even used as a cordial diluted with water (or something a little more interesting!).


To end this post I'll just give you a few photos of the wonderful sunsets we've had over the last few days:

Monday, October 21, 2013

Well done David!

A massive well done to David Babcock from Missouri (hope I got that right David!) who ran the Kansas City marathon whilst knitting at the weekend where he smashed my GWR by knitting a mahooooosive scarf measuring 12' 1 3/4". This has yet to be verified officially by the adjudicators at Guinness World Records but that is just a formality.

Whilst there are several people who follow my blog and have made noises about doing it, David is the first to have actually done it and in what style! He's been meticulous in his training, doing knitting on his runs and researching every angle and all his hard work paid off on the day. I only wish that I could have been there to support him on the day but as I live thousands of miles away that was impossible.

When he posted the details of his attempt on Ravelry I was delighted and wished him well, to which he replied:

"I am trying to follow in your footsteps. I am not sure which is harder, the knit/run or the organization and fundraising. You are a great example for both. Starting momentum is rough but I hope I can contribute even a little to awareness and fundraising. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences in your blog. Your Alzheimer’s work goes on way past the races. Thanks for being a crazy redhead, you’re my hero. I remember how emotional I got when I stumbled upon my first marathon spectating experience, seeing all those people working so hard and pushed to their limits. I felt the same way reading about your work, doing hard things for good reasons. I am just one of many that quietly read your blog and am touched by your example."

He was also very generous in crediting me with the original idea and, even better, he dedicated his record attempt to the Alzheimer's Association of America:

"Susie Hewer's Guinness World Records were accomplished while she knit and ran to raise awareness and funding for Alzheimer's research in the UK. In honor of Mrs. Hewer and her record I am supporting the Alzheimer's Association Heart of America Chapter here in the U.S."

When I emailed David to congratulate him I asked him to send me some photos to put on my blog and he very kindly sent me these 2 excellent snaps taken by Jim Barcus of the Kansas City Star:

A few years ago I was asked what I would do if someone broke the record I had set. Would I go out and do it again to beat them? Would I be upset?  

My reply was simply that when, not if (as I knew that someone would be attracted to such a silly record!) someone did it then I hoped that they would use it to do good, not just for self-gratification or the perceived glory of a Guinness World Record.

David has most definitely ticked the box on that score and I was very moved that he chose to support an Alzheimer's charity.

I did my first running and knitting stunt back in 2007 as part of my 50th birthday challenge and I think we have had some good mileage (apologies for the pun!) in the publicity for ARUK from it already.  I never expected that we'd get much attention at all. I've done it 4 times now.

I also said that I would not be doing it again after the London marathon earlier this year as it really does hurt my neck a lot (the result of a car crash  a few years ago) and if I do knit and run again it will only be for show, not for the GWR. I have no intention of trying to better David's length of scarf because in order to do that I'd have to practice and I have enough trouble keeping this old body marathon-fit without adding knitting into the equation! 

For me, knitting whilst running has only ever been as a publicity stunt to attract attention to Alzheimer's Research UK and that's the way it will stay.

Am I upset that he's beaten me?  Heck no, I'm just mightily impressed at what he's achieved and he thoroughly deserves the record.

I've been chuckling whilst reading some of the comments about it on Vogue Knitting's Facebook page.  Lots of people have posted their own ways of multi-tasking with their knitting, for example whilst walking or waiting in queues.  Others talk about knitting whilst using gym equipment, which seems odd as that means you wouldn't be putting your full effort into the exercise and could risk  personal injury. But the comments that made me exclaim 'you cannot be serious'  are where people have said that they knit whilst driving which is clearly dangerous to themselves and to other road users!

Very well done David.  You rock!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Exciting times

G8 Dementia Summit

On 11th December London will host the first ever G8 Dementia Summit to "develop co-ordinated global action on dementia."  

I am very excited by this prospect as I firmly believe that science and innovation hold the key to beating this devastating disease and sharing ideas and discoveries across the world can only be a good thing.

The discussion will also cover the human side too so they will be looking at ways of improving the lives of those already suffering from dementia and there are some wonderful ideas flying around already.

From my own perspective I am thrilled to see dementia given such a high profile as when I first started speaking out about the effect it had on mum there was still this dreadful stigma attached to it - as with any form of mental illness it was spoken about it hushed tones, as if the person had somehow brought it upon themselves or it was some kind of weakness (which is one of the reasons so many people who suffer from depression never talk about it).  I feel very strongly about the way people with mental illness are viewed and it would be wonderful if this marks a change in attitudes.

I have written a separate blog about this and will post a link when it goes on the website.


A new flock of sheep arrived the other day.  They'll stay with us for a few months now.  Such sweet faces and just look at the lovely round tummy on the one at the back!

I've finished the back and front of my jumper and will be starting the sleeves this evening.

I think it's about time I knit some new heavy-duty fingerless gloves for outdoor stuff. The one shown below was knit for me by my mum when I was a teenager for when I was out with the horses. It's an uncomfortable yarn as it's one of those scratchy acrylic yarns from the 1970s but it's certainly hard-wearing. It's hard to believe that it could have lasted this long (ie at least 40 years!!!!) but it has.  

There were originally 2 pairs but now this is the only one that remains intact. The one I use with it is hanging onto life by a thread so I think it's time for action.

What I like most about them is that only the very tips of my fingers aren't covered and each one is a different length - just like full-fingered gloves. Most patterns these days finish at the base of your fingers which means they aren't so warm.

What I will change is the length of the cuff as I like my gloves to come further up my arms and sometimes I like to crumple them down around my wrists. This will be my project for when I've finished the jumper.  I've got plenty of different yarns that will work well but I think I'll go for a 4ply wool as I've got some nice dark tweedy blends I can use.

In other knitting news I've just started a Craftsy course on double knitting. Tinker has been supervising and laughing at the number of times I've had to undo my sample!  It's hard to get a photo of him now without the fibrosarcoma lumps showing, poor little mite. They are massive and yet he's still OK within himself and gets about well enough for the moment. The vet told us that he will let us know when he can't cope any more and I get all teary just thinking about that time.

For anyone who doesn't know what double-kntting is, you use 2 threads of yarn to create a double-thickness fabric so it's an excellent technique for scarves/ hats/ or even afghans (if you're feeling brave enough).

The sample I'm trying to knit uses 2 colours and you can see that one side shows the light colour and the other side the dark colour. I've just started the pattern rows which appear as the contrast colour on each side.

I haven't quite worked out how to hold my yarn in a way that works with how I knit but I'm sure I'll work it out eventually.  For ordinary knitting I knit in the English way and throw my yarn, but for colourwork I use 2 hands and throw the right hand yarn whilst picking the lefthand yarn.

It's not looking very elegant so far as I haven't mastered my tension yet! I love learning new techniques.

More outdoorsy stuff

I spotted someone seeking sanctuary on our fence the other morning. We always get lots of pheasants when the shooting season starts and there are always lots of them running along the lanes.  Some of them stay through the winter.

Mrs Pheasant looking nervous
Not a partridge in a pear tree but a pheasant in  a clematis!

The garden is looking beautifully autumnal now with the plumes of pampas grass waving in the breeze.  This morning I spotted a tiny wren clinging to one of the stems but unforunately I didn't have my camera with me at the time.

Dogwood in the foreground, Euonymous alatus in the middle and Acer palmatum senkaki behind

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Knitting, Running and Fungi just for fun!


I needed a break from all the Christmas knitting which for some reason all seems to be fiddly and knitted on teeny-weeny needles this year.

A quick rummage unearthed just the right mind-numbingly simple pattern using one of my favourite yarns; Rowan Summer Tweed in the colour 'Swirl' which is a blend of very pale blues. It's one of those yarns you either love or hate as it has a very dry handle so can be hard on your hands. However, once washed and worn it is beautifully soft and I love the range of colours, many of which are flecked with matching bits that tone so well with all the other shades.

I've knit several jumpers from this book but I've also used this yarn for crochet  
A nice, simple stocking stitch jumper with raglan sleeves and a ballerina neckline

In crochet, I've made several pairs of these super-cute booteesmy crochet manadala and cushion, and one of my favourite blankies, the woven crochet afghan.

I made the knitted entrelac shawlette from Jean Moss's book 'Simple Shawlettes' using 2 shades and I made a sweet little scarf too but I can't find a photo of that. This little top named Sunshine by Marie Wallin is one of my favourites.

Running update

So far so good.  Several silly asthma attacks whilst doing speedwork and one which seemed to be brought on by this pretty flower:

Impatiens Glandulifera aka Himalayan  Balsam
Although it is very pretty, and is loved by bees and insects alike, it has become a pest along our waterways where it shades out our beautiful native plants such as marsh marigolds.  

It has a brilliant mechanism for distributing its seeds.

Seedheads with coiled spring mechanism
When the seeds are ripe, the merest touch to any part of the plant causes the pods to burst open and a very clever spring mechanism broadcasts the seeds far and wide.

The reason I know it was this that caused my problem was the overpoweringly sickly smell of the pollen which always makes my nose run and my throat starts to close up.

Apart from that I seem to be running well (touch wood) and am hoping that I can make a good showing at the Brighton 10k in November.  I still haven't finalised my fund-raising plans for 2014 though so I need to get my thinking cap on pdq!


OK, it's that time of year again; the time when I take loads of photos of all the beautiful and/or unusual fungi I see out on my runs.

I'm going to try not to show any I've shown before which is easy because I've seen loads of different ones this year, although the Scarlet Elf Cup I spotted last year is still one of my favourite finds.

I think it's a newly emerging Parasol Mushroom
The Blusher (Amanita rubescens)
A Common Earthball growing on a mossy bank in mixed broadleaf woodland
Don't know what these are
Armillaria, aka Honey Fungus, of some sort growing on a rotting tree stump

A slightly out of focus Hare's Foot Inkcap - it looks completely different when it first emerges
Sulphur Tuft on coppiced Sweet Chestnut
I have no idea what this massive fungus is - it was growing low down on a Birch tree
It looked like a giant oozing sponge close-up!
Boletus in grass under Oak trees
I found one nearby which had been knocked over and like many of the Boletus, it's flesh had become slightly blue upon cutting
Shaggy Inkcap
In decay in should be re-named stinkcap as it really did pong when deliquescing! 
Fairy Ring Champignons, loathed by those who like a neat swath of grass, growing near an old manure heap
Beautifully sculptural gills
Trametes versicolor, a stunning bracket fungus, on a pear tree
Coral Spot