Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Happy New Year

May 2020 be the decade that brings more love and kindness throughout the whole world.

New Year, new goals. I love making lists of things to do as Mike will attest!

* Of course I have more fund-raising for ARUK planned, with another 100 mile event in the Summer and lots of marathons and ultra-marathons as training runs.

* I also have big plans for the garden, which needs a major re-design.

* In early January I'll be embarking on another wave of the Six Pack Revolution (SPR) which has had a refresh and the orginal 90 day plan has been cut to 75 days whilst still achieving the same amazing results. I did the 'Intensive' plan during the time I was absent from here and although it was much harder physically I really enjoyed it.

* As usual I'm doing RED January (ie Run Every Day a minimum of 5k) and no alcohol until after SPR has finished.

* Knitting - I'm swatching for a lovely Kimono from Amirisu magazine at the moment.

* Crochet. I'm gathering colour ideas for the Kaleidoscope Cal which starts soon. I'm using Rowan Summer Tweed from stash and these are my proposed colours so far:

Interesting to see how much the colours change in artifical light and daylight.

I also started playing with the colours using the handy planner provided:

* But to start the year well I need to get out for a run now! I was supposed to be doing a marathon last week but Mike was unwell so I stayed close to home.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Last post of the year


I've always fancied having a go at paper-cutting but thought it might be too fiddly for someone as clumsy as me. Then an email dropped into my inbox inviting me to join a 3 day course in a gallery a few miles from home. It's a quirky little gallery almost in the middle of nowhere and I came across it by accident when I was out running when it had just opened 10 years ago.

The Black Shed Gallery is part a small group of old farm buildings which have been converted into different business units. Kenton, the gallery owner and curator also runs a picture-framing business from the gallery.

Now for the paper-cutting.  The short course was taught by Ian Penney who, I found out, lives in a neighbouring village! His work is extraordinary so please click on his name to see some of his amazing work on his website. His current exhibition is entitled 'Galapagos' and features pieces inspired by the travels of Charles Darwin on the Beagle. You can see some examples on the Black Shed gallery page until February but I took a few photos of his other work:

Imagine how patient you have to be to cut out all those individual leaves

Just look at the writing.  He cut it so finely and neatly!

The shadows form part of the pattern in this charming piece

Well I just had to sign up to have go now didn't I!

Each session was 2 hours long and the time went in a flash because it was so absorbing. Ian taught us all the basic skills we'd need and then it was over to our own imaginations. I really liked the idea of some writing but felt it was too advanced for a complete beginner so decided on a Christmas theme complete with a rabbit (bunnies frequently make an appearance in my craft work).

Once we'd drawn our chosen design we had to copy it onto paper. I dithered between green and red, both Chritmassy colours, but settled on a jolly shade of red.


Then it was time to start cutting and that was really nerve-wracking at first. I couldn't stay right until the end of the final session so Ian went through the mounting process with me and gave me the necessary pins to do it myself (gulp!).

When I'd finished my first round of cutting I then went back and tidied it up a bit 'cos my hand had been rather wobbly and hesitant when I started it but I grew in confidence as time went by. I used my patchwork-cutting board which was perfect for the task. It did take a while to get used to the feel of the scalpel and I found it strange to begin with, especially as I have shaky hands.

So here is my Christmas bunny just waiting to be mounted in his frame. I'm quite pleased with him as a first attempt and I've already chosen some more paper to explore paper-cutting in more detail.

I nearly forgot Yoda!

Forgetful, I am.

I had an email from my running friend Kirsty, who's appeared on here many times and will definitely be making another appearance in 2020 as we have a cunning plan bubbling away until Summer! She wanted something to cheer up our lovely friend Gemma who was really down in the dumps and had lost her little Yoda keepsake.

"Could you crochet one for her?" asked Kirsty.

Well of course I could so I scoured the internet for a suitable pattern that wasn't too big and came across this free amigurumi pattern on Ravelry. Perfect I thought, and rummaged through my stash. I showed Kirsty many different colour choices and we settled on some leftover Rowan Cotton Glace.

Shelley decided I needed her guidance

She helped throughout the whole process!

I used some old beads as I didn't have any safety eyes. I didn't give him much hair as putting it across the back of his head made him look like a Monk so I went for some of his stuffing stitched on using Kid Silk Haze. I stuffed him with some old pillow filling.

Super-cute pattern, although fiddly in parts as you'd expect, and Gemma loves the end result. He went for his first adventure as soon as she received him.

He now sits on her dashboard and goes to marathons with her

Just like buses........my blog posts are coming all at once!

So here I present catch-up day 3.

Looking Back

I've been looking back through my photos and there's so much that I could share but not really enough hours in the day so I've been selective and chosen some highs and lows - one day had both in true pleasure/pain style! I think I'll start with that one.

It was the inaugural staging of this event, the Green Chain marathon, organised by a fellow 100 marathon club member Gareth, who created 1miletogo events, and was held in area I used to know quite well just outside Croydon. This was only my second time running one of Gareth's events, my first being the Vanguard Way marathon back in August.

The start and finish were in Mottingham Sport Centre and the 4 lap route took us alongside playing fields, along part of the Green Chain Way, which is a series of public footpaths through woods & semi-rural areas, and along residential streets. There were 3 distances to choose from : 10k, 1/2 marathon and full marathon. There were a few people I knew there and it was lovely to catch up with some I hadn't seen for a while.

Now this event was an excellent example of the Pleasure Principle, or rather the pleasure-pain principle in this instance:

Pleasure - I love running 
Pain - I don't like falling over

I'll start with the 'pain' part and it's really one of those "what the @3!%" ones! I completed Lap 1 in a good time and was delighted to find I was running well, no breathing issues and feeling strong. I set off on Lap 2 and I noticed that the Playing fields were now getting busy with several football matches taking place, lots of spectators and many dog walkers out enjoying the lovely weather. Although the path was getting busy there was still plenty of room to pass people. 

Then it happened.

I ran past an elderly lady with a small yappy dog on one of those really long extending leads. I thought she had little or rather no control over the dog and almost exactly at the moment I had that thought the dog rushed across my path causing me to trip over the long lead, stumble (trying to stay upright), stumble (I don't think I can save this), stumble (I'm going to fall), fall. I landed head-first on top of one of those metal bike racks. 


Thankfully it was on grass as it could have been much worse on the tarmac. I picked myself up and then carried on. The old lady was completely oblivious to any of this as she was about 20 feet behind and looking the other way, watching the football. My forehead felt a bit sore but I didn't feel concussed so I just settled back into a slightly slower place to let myself recover. 

Here I am after Lap 2, still smiling (silly woman!).

....and there's more!

On Lap 3 I was running through a wooded area which had a few low-lying branches at head-height so you had to be careful not to prang them back onto anyone running behind you. Unfortunately, I was running behind a young woman who had headphones on and was unaware of what was going on around her. Yep, she pranged a big branch back onto me and it whacked me across my nose. She continued her self-centred run completely aware of what had happened. As these sort of things come in 3s I spent the last lap avoiding everyone!

So let's get rid of the 'pain' bit first because I'm delighted to say that there was a 'pleasure' part to this sorry tale.

I had my cap on which hid a lot of my forehead and cast a shadow over my nose so I had no idea what I looked like until I got back to my car. I could feel a slight bump on my forehead and my nose felt a bit sore on the bridge. It didn't look too bad in the car mirror but 3 hours later when I'd bathed and changed the bruising had developed nicely and it looked like this:

Poor Mike was horrified and said it looked as if I'd been beaten-up! Thankfully, the bruising on my nose disappeared after a couple of days but the bruising on my forehead persisted for about 10 days so I wore a headband which covered most of it.

So what's the 'pleasure' part of this incident? Here I am heading for the finish line, still smiling:

I got a nice goody bag and a medal but better still I got a prize for being 2nd Lady!

In a similar incident a few week later, my poor friend Ruth took a horrible tumble down at Samphire Hoe on a rough and very gritty track. This was another incident of thoughtless dog walkers who had their dog on a really long lead whilst chatting away completely oblivious to what it was doing. The dog wrapped the lead around her legs and the poor girl went flat on her face. 

At the time it looked much worse than this as there was soooooo much blood. Being a true warrior though she got herself cleaned up and carried on.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Yarn-Thief!

Shelley is well and truly settled here with us now and she is an absolute delight, full of beans and always ready to play. We still haven't let her out yet as having been feral in suburbia for the first year of her life we want her to be fully comfortable in her new surroundings before she ventures out into the expanse of countryside where she lives now.

She definitely likes my yarn though, especially the really sheepy sort of yarn, and she can sniff it out as soon as something new appears.

A few weeks ago I finally took the plunge and bought a rigid heddle loom I'd wanted for ages as I've always wanted to experiment with weaving.  I searched and researched and decided on an Ashford 16" rigid heddle table loom from Weft Blown in Scotland who were very helpful and delivered my loom promptly. It came complete with a 7dpi reed, 2 shuttles, threading hook, warping peg and clamp and an instruction book. There was a handy video on the website which showed how to  warp the loom.

They recommended a light waxing for the wood to protect it so I did that a soon as I'd unpacked it and was raring to go the next day. The first step was to 'warp' the loom - the warp is the thread running from top to bottom and the weft is the thread that goes across. A peg was supplied attached to a clamp  so that you could wind the warp thread around it but our dining table was took thick to attach the clamp. Mike came to the rescue and attached the peg to a flat piece of wood which I then clamped to the table using his adjustable clamps. Phew! You can see it in action in the 2nd photo below.

I watched the video about 3 times before I plucked up the courage to make a start on the warping. It got easier as I found my rhythm.

I decided to just do a sample to get the feel of the movement, try different yarns etc and somebody was very interested in my bag full of yarny goodies!

Having set up the warp I decided to go for a short run inbetween the heavy rain showers and whilst I was out our little yarn thief went into action. She was only caught out when Mike was heading downstairs to get a drink. She'd ripped open the bag and started to take the balls upstairs one at a time!

He just managed to reach for the camera and caught her bringing another one up (it's a bit fuzzy but you get the gist)!

I gave her this really tangled bit to play with and she took it everywhere for a few days, bless her.

I'm coming to help you now mum!

"Don't worry mum, I'm, here!"

And so began my new adventure and I learnt such a lot just from playing! I spotted my warping mistake immediately - you'll see it clearer in the next photo..... 

Here's my warp error - see the 2 darker lines in the middle where I'd warped the thread twice in the same hole. However, it made me realise the possibilities of different thicknesses to highlight sections. I really enjoyed playing with the different weights of yarn and getting used to the feel of the shuttle.

The warp is 4ply sock yarn and the stripey part of the weft is the same but the pale blue is dk weight wool/silk and I love how the warp shows up against it.

This was a dk weight silk/wool with a sticky thick and thin dk/aran weight wool

The thick/thin yarn got really fuzzy going through the holes.

My first project is going to be a scarf for Mike and so we chose some Fyberspates Scrumptious 4ply to experiment with as he liked the dark colours.

After I'd soaked and blocked it I wrote down what I'd used for each section.

I suggested we introduce some vertical stripes just and inch or so in from the edges to break it up a bit so that will be my next sample. I'm loving the possibilities of the loom already.

As I'm typing this, Shelley has settled in my paper recycling bag under my desk!

What I noticed when making my small samples was that it wasted an awful lot of yarn and so I went onto a forum and asked what other people do. Many suggested a small sample loom which cost about £40 and comes from Canada but, as you can imagine, the postage was prohibitive.

Then I went onto eBay and found this little weaving loom in excellent condition and with all the parts in place, including the original pattern book.  I paid £15 for it, plus postage, and it arrived packed beautifully.

It measures 21cm x 30cm so will be perfect for trying out stitches and patterns without wasting lots of yarn on the larger loom.

I'll end this post with a photo of my festive running outfit for Christmas Eve/Christmas Day/Boxing Day. It was so mild and sunny that I had to strip off a layer after 10 minutes!

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Peeping out again.......

Thank you so much to everyone who's taken the time to email me to check I'm OK. You're so kind. I just haven't felt like blogging as we've had so much sad news recently that I felt the need to withdraw for a while. The other thing is that although I've completed a further 4 marathons since my last post, I've been struggling with my asthma and have had to withdraw from 3 others. Hopefully I'm back on track now and ready for my 2020 challenges for Alzheimer's Research UK!

I do have a lot of new craft/wildlife/Shelley/knitting/embroidery projects to share but I'll have to add them bit by bit or each post will be far too long. Plus in the time I've been absent I've completed another round of the Six Pack Revolution and am about to start another session in the next few weeks.

I've been tidying my craft room and finishing a few projects that have been lying around for ages so I'll start with an embroidery project, Hester the hare. Started in 2013 but not finished and put aside for whatever reason.

She came on a printed tea towel and you could leave her like that or make her into a doorstop or soft toy. I remember thinking that she needed some embellishment so had started work on the side I wanted to prettify.

I'd already done a few bits of embroidery

She definitely needed much more than that!

Once I was happy with the level of embellishment I joined both sides together and stuffed her nice and firmly so she'd stand up OK


I left the reverse side plain

There's been knitting too - a jumper and a cardigan. Plus I cut and re-knitted part of my Carbeth jumper because I wanted it to sit on my waist rather than higher up. When I made it I had planned to use it mostly with dresses but I found I preferred to wear it with jeans/trousers which left a cold draughty bit just above my waistline so I'd stopped wearing it.

Thankfully I had plenty of the yarn left (Artesano alpaca) so all I had to do was pick up the row of stitches above the ribbing and then cut off the ribbing (eek!). I lengthened the body by 3" then re-did the rib and now it's perfect. You can see the original rib-line in the photo below and the colour looked slightly different until I soaked and blocked it again and now you can't see it at all.

Now for the jumper, Kapua from Amirisu Summer 2019 magazine. I used some beautiful 4ply yarn from Ella Rae and when I did my swatch I really wasn't sure about it as I thought it looked like camouflage fabric!

I went ahead with it anyway and I'm so glad I did as I was delighted with the result:

I loved doing the pattern on the sleeves and although the tiny pompoms seemed fiddly to begin with I quickly got into a rhythm with them.

The only changes I made were to the finishing of the neck and sleeves: for the neckline I used a 2 stitch icord bind-off as I felt they looked better than just casting off loosely and for the sleeves I bound off using Elizabeth Zimmermanns 3 stitch icord bind-off.

Then there was the cardigan, Ystava from Laine magazine. I must be having a green colour phase as I chose to use green Rowan Mohair Haze and Rowan Fine Lace held together (both from Stash). It was such a lovely knit and the words I used to describe it on Ravelry were "absorbing', "meditative" and "comfy" and it's already a firm favourite.

I marked the position of the buttonholes on the buttonband using tailors tacks - you can tell I have a background in dressmaking!

The buttons were a chance find in a small local shop!

There's much more to add but tempus fugit and I have other things to attend to but I'll be back; methinks I'll need a few sessions to catch-up completely!