Tuesday, August 27, 2013

One down and more to come

Crochet chair-back

It's finished and I'm rather pleased with it too.

First I went all around the outer edge with the green slate, incorporating alternate red and turquoise beads every other stitch - I didn't like some of the pieces that had beads on every stitch as I felt it looked a bit too heavy.

For the top, I used rows of dc and trebles to make a flap to tuck over the top of the chair to hold it in place.

For the lower edge, I'd planned to use one or another fancy edgings from Nicky Epstein's book but each version I tried looked too fussy. I did some careful calculations to make sure I had the right number of stitches and started off with a really elaborate, dangly one which looked OK but I felt it distracted the eye from the main pattern which is not what I wanted. The next one I tried was much smaller but it was still hogging the limelight. Of course I was too eager to rip them back so forgot to take photos to illustrate my point!

Then finally I realised that less is more and just did a very simple pattern I devised without reference to a pattern - (dc, half dc, treble, half dc, dc) into one stitch, miss 1 stitch then 1dc into next 2 stitches. It gave a nice simple pointy edge which doesn't interfere with the main body of the crochet and gives it a nice balanced look.

So here it is, blocked and in situ. I'm waiting to see if it will droop at all as it's cotton and the central motif is quite gappy. If it does then I'll mount it on some linen cloth.

The next thing I'm going to make using my crochet club patterns will be a mat for the top of the grand piano but in the meantime I'll be finishing off my latest knitting project (the Louisa Harding top).

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What a week!

The Pride of Britain Awards

The week started well when Alzheimer's Research UK nominated me for a Pride of Britain award. I was humbled to have been put forward but thought no more about as there will have been thousands of nominations from all over the country. Little did any of us know where it was going to take us!

Then the phone rang and I did an interview with the Daily Mirror for an article entitled 'Wacky Raisers' (a pun on the old American TV show Wacky Races - I used to love Muttley!). So there I was, in the middle of the paper, a silly middle-aged woman with her knitting, next to a man who runs marathons with a fridge on his back and other amazing people.

The same morning that the article appeared, Chris Evans mentioned me on  BBC Radio 2 - how cool was that?! It's at 2 hours 22 minutes 24 seconds if you want to listen (it stays on there for 7 days).

Then the latest edition of Yarnwise magazine arrived in which there is an interview I'd done earlier in the year. It was a great article and Helen had included the details of ARUK.

ARUK then put a call-out on Facebook asking people to go and nominate me to help me get to the next stage by  completing a nomination form here.

Then the lovely people at the Virgin London Marathon put the details on their Facebook page too.

I've just taken a phonecall from BBC Radio Sussex asking for an interview early next week - oh go on then!

There are so many amazing people who do goods things for charity that the chance of me getting any further are very slight but we are getting some great publicity for ARUK which is the whole point after all.

Crochet progress

This is where I'm up to with the first chairback drape:

I've done 2 rows of double crochet all around in blood orange and poppy red:

I like the effect of the 2 shades of red combined with the brown as I think they anchor the motifs in place and show them off nicely. 

I've just been deciding the final edging detail so I looked at it on the carpet then against the chair itself.  I had to fold the top edge over the chair to keep it in place but it won't be like that eventually.

The poppy red shows up nicely

But the green slate combined with blood orange really zings!
Having decided on the colours I shall be doing 1 row of blood orange and 1 of green slate all the way round. I will add some red beads into the final round.

Then I'll be adding a fancy border to the bottom and a plain border at the top.  The top will be tucked in over the top of the chair so that the whole of the motifs are displayed against the back of the chair.

I've been looking through Nicky Epsteins book and have found 2 that I like but will probably end up adapting them to suit as I don't want anything too fussy.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I did it!

My Running Streak for Alzheimer's Research UK

It's finished.

111 days of running every day - a minimum of 5.5 days for 55 days starting with the London marathon back in April until my 56th birthday when it changed to a minimum of 5.6 miles a day for a further 56 days.  That's 1 day short of 4 months.

Oh my!

I can hardly believe I did it, but I did.  681.22 miles run during my streak and my year to date mileage is 1128.72.

This is my happy last run-of-the-streak face!

It wasn't all easy-going.  Some days I really had to push myself to go out for a run, especially when my asthma was really bad (and there were a lot of bad asthma days with the pollen count being sky-high this year!) but mostly I just got on with it.  There were times when I had to go out for a run at 5am in order to fit it in with what was going on during the day.  Other times I had to run in the evening which I really don't like doing.  I still can't believe that I managed not to injure myself and am amazed that my creaky old body held up well throughout.

After my last run we went into Rye for a wander around and for lunch at The Ambrette to celebrate which was most enjoyable.  Of course, there was also some champagne in the evening.

Now I've got to start writing my thank you letters to everyone who supported me.  So far my total raised this year is £2600 which is wonderful, but it will be even higher by the end of the year.

For the next few weeks I'll potter around with gentle runs just for sheer enjoyment to let my body recover a bit before I start gearing up for my 2014 challenge.  Yes, I do need to start thinking about it so soon as it's going to be another tough challenge!

Arthritis rears its ugly head

There has been no knitting for ages.  Quite apart from being so busy in the garden that I haven't felt like it, I have had a problem with my hands. Arthritis. Oh yes, that has been a real pain in the hands.  I think it's been aggravated by the gardening, in particular weeding and pruning.  

I'm having trouble gripping things with my  left hand and seem to have lost some strength too.  That won't do at all so I've been trying to do some strengthening exercises to help keep my hands supple and to try to regain some strength.  

There are some very useful stretches here and the other thing I've been doing is squeezing the ARUK stress buster brain.  It's one of those rubbery executive toy type thingies but it's actually rather useful and has helped to strengthen the muscles around my thumb.

I have, however been able to do plenty of crochet as that doesn't seem to bother my hands quite as much thank goodness.

Knitting projects

As always, the end of season yarn sales have been a happy hunting ground. I couldn't resist this gorgeous Colline yarn by Louisa Harding. It is a blend of 80% cotton 20% alpaca and it feels so soft. Oh and those glorious, jewel-bright colours.  How could I resist?  

I've swatched and am ready to go on this -

This is the top I'm going to make
Then the lovely people at deramores were offering 30% off all Rowan yarn. Well, what is a girl to do but stock up her stash!  I stocked up on some shades of cotton glace, which I sometimes use for crochet and I also splashed out on the new angora haze yarn in shade 'hug', a gentle green. I'm going to make the audrey cardigan.

Crochet club

I was pottering along with my crochet club patterns when the final instructions arrived together with the big reveal of the design.

When I first saw it I was rather underwhelmed as I don't think that it hangs together very well and some of the components look as if they could do with a jolly good blocking as they are rather stretched out of shape! Also, I really don't like the gappiness around the central motif as those little squares in the corners look strange and are pulling out of shape (I know some people have filled them in with circles or large triangles which are good solutions).  

Then I wondered what had happened to the border as you can hardly see it and looks rather mean. I think it needs a generous border to tie it all together and quieten down the busy patterns in the squares. I can only assume that the yarn usage was kept to a bare minimum to keep the cost of the project down.

Now that all sounds rather negative doesn't it which is a bit unfair so I stopped to have a good think about it.

There are many elements that I love - I think the colours are wonderful and most of the patterns are gorgeous as Jane is a talented designer.  So I had a good look at the pieces I've completed already and thought about how I could use them in smaller groups rather than as the whole blanket.

Gradually a plan started to come together.

I'd been thinking about draping the finished blanket over the back of one of the chairs in the music room as they are just an expanse of plain colour so why not use some of the motifs to make smaller drapes for each chair?

Then I looked at the central motif of the blanket but without the blue/green triangles around the edge.  Now that would look amazing displayed in top of the grand piano as the colours would really zing against the glossy black casing.

On a roll by then I realised that I could make a beautiful runner for the dining table with the remaining motifs with a few bits and bobs of my own.

Excellent, I have a plan of action!

The first motif I worked on was this beauty.  But what I'd noticed was that even after blocking it still wasn't quite square.  So I just worked another round using double crochet with half trebles and trebles filling in the hollows.

Hollow in the middle
Straighter edge
Then I started joining motifs together.  Should I sew them, which uses less yarn, or join with crochet?  Seam on the front or the back?

Aftert trying each option, I chose to join them with double crochet leaving the seam on the back.  I do sometimes like seeing the seam on the front as it can make a nice decorative feature.

Although there is a ridge on the back, the front is completely smooth and the stitches blend into the pattern.

At the moment I'm debating the border colours and stitches.  To add a fringe?  A decorative edge along the bottom of the piece?

Decisions, decisions!