Sunday, May 18, 2008

Yummy yarn

As promised, my replacement yarn from Fleece Artist arrived yesterday and it is gorgeous! The colours are light and dark plum, light and dark teal with shades of brown and green. At 80% merino wool and 20% nylon, it feels really soft and I think I'll try my first pair of Monkey Socks using this yarn.

But not just yet. Im half way up my first sleeve on Autumn Rose and have crocheted 7 flowers for my lamp so I'm not allowed to cast-on anything else yet. Oh no, I couldn't possibly start another project..................

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

CraftSanity podcast 78

Shortly after the London marathon I had a lovely chat with Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood from Craft Sanity about my running and knitting exploits. The podcast is now available to download here.

It was great to talk to her and I've really enjoyed listening to some of her previous podcasts.

Friday, May 9, 2008

It ain't half hot mum!

Phewie, the temperature has soared this last week. The horses are still in the process of shedding their winter coats and so they have been getting rather overheated, poor loves. I spent a happy hour pulling massive lumps of hair out of Esther's coat. She's like a woolly teddy bear and has been getting very sweaty. This is the second plant pot I've filled - the other was one emptied quickly by the crows who use it to line their nests. Perhaps I should learn how to spin it. Kizzy's coat is much finer so she hasn't suffered as much but she still loves being brushed.

Well if she doesn't hurry up with our dinner we'll just have to eat the whole tree!

We had 3 little visitors again today. I've named them 'the gang of three" as they seem to be working as a team.

They came right over to the gate towards me and then trotted back across the field to the gap in the hedge. I must put some stock-proof fencing up..........but then again they are rather cute.

The smell from this little hawthorn bush is so sickly sweet but it looks magnificent so I thought it deserved a photo.

While I was in the area, I had to snap the "Green Man" face that we pinned onto the oak tree. We bought him at a England's Medieval Fair last year. It really was a great event and some of the craft stalls were really interesting.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A drop of Guinness and some crochet

Amarilis from Guinness World Records has just sent me some photos from the London Marathon and I love this one at the finish. That's Amarilis on the left and Scott on the right. He no longer works for them full time as he's pursuing his dream of becoming an actor. He still pops along to special events though and it was lovely to see him again.

I like seeing all the detritus in the background - the almost empty wagons that held the runners' kit bags, the discarded space blankets, the Union flag flying. See how easy it is to forget the pain and effort of the event?!

I've started on the first sleeve for Autumn Rose but there's not much point in showing that so here's something else I'm working on. It's one of many crocheted flowers to cover a lampshade. I'm using a pattern from the book Vintage Crochet which I bought with some gift vouchers I received for Christmas.

There are several projects that I want to do (including a design by Nicki from Laughing Hens. I have a lamp in my office with a plain cream shade and the flowers will really brighten it up. Each flower measures about 4.5" across which is larger than the pattern in the book but I'm just using yarn from my stash. In fact, it's a wool/cotton yarn from a Jean Moss kit that I abandoned years ago because I didn't like the pattern so at least I'm using some of it up. The colour variations sadly don't show up in the photo - there are 3 shades of taupe/beige, an olive green and a deep rust.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Excellent Customer Care

These were the first socks I'd ever knitted and I was so proud. I overcame all obstacles, got the fit right, managed Kitchener stitch on the toes and finished them at the beginning of March.

The yarn I used was Fleece Artist Sea Wool and it came with a free sock pattern which I used.

So you can imaging my disappointment when 8 weeks later this is what they look like. One sole has totally worn away and the other is thinning rapidly.

Although the yarn is machine washable I have taken care of them and washed them by hand each time.

This was not a cheap yarn by any stretch of the imagination and it cost £15.93 including postage so I decided to email the manufacturers Fleece Artist in Canada. I also copied the email to Sue at Kangaroo where I bought the yarn.

This is where the excellent customer service bit came in. I had emails from Sue and from Fleece Artist within a few hours. Sue assured me that Fleece Artist are good at after sales service and to let her know what happened. Fleece Artist apologised for the problem, told me they would contact the spinner to find out what had gone wrong and offered to send me a new yarn which has 20% nylon in it (which she reckons should hold up better) free of charge. I'm not sure that the nylon will feel quite as nice but we shall see.

Anyway, I couldn't have asked for better service and now although I'm disappointed that my first ever socks have worn through, at least I feel that my complaint has been dealt with professionally.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Tough One!

Yesterday was the Three Forts Marathon, my 3rd marathon of the year. It's known as 'The Tough One' because of the course profile which is very hilly and it's actually 27.2 miles so a mile longer than the standard marathon.

The start wasn't until 10am so I didn't have to leave at the crack of dawn for a change. The weather forecast was changeable so I had a dilemma of what to wear so had an assortment of running stuff in the boot just in case.

When I arrived at 9am there were already plenty of people milling around and it didn't take long before I spotted One Blue Leg (seen here stuffing her face with pasta) -sorry, I couldn't resist! I had to register and get my number, 81, then headed off to find the toilets (an essential pre-race ritual).

Having been around the downland marathon circuit for a while now there were lots of faces I recognised and several forumites to say hello to - Plum, Tall Mark, WackyRacer, HilllyLaneStrider. I also met Sherpa Sheep for the first time and her children were out on the course handing out jelly babies.

Here's UltraCas (Claire) and her hubby Sergeant Wilson

And here we have Mr Finknottle (Pete) who has appeared on my blog before wearing bright red tights. Here he shows that he does actually have legs underneath!

Claire and I positioned ourselves at the back of the field at the start so that we didn't impede the faster runners. I must explain what Claire is about to do - run an ultra called the Grand Union Canal Race which is 145 miles long and runs from Birmingham down to London. It is an amazing feat and I know that she will do it. There is a time limit of 45 hours and she will be running/walking continuously throughout with just stops for refuelling on pasta etc. Amazing stuff. Anyway, the reason I mention that is because she was using this marathon as a training run and wasn't bothered about a time. Nor was I so we decided to team up and chatted our way round which really helped pass the miles.

Although the weather forecast had been for rain at times it turned out to be rather hot and humid and I was quite surprised to see how sunburnt I was at the end. The temperature caught a lot of people out and they suffered from terrible cramps and dehydration.

My old groin injury started playing up at around mile 11 and was really very uncomfortable. However, our strategy of walking the uphills and running the downhills (plus ibuprofen to numb the pain!) helped get me round relatively unscathed.

As always, the views up on the Downs were fantastic but I didn't take as many photos as usual because I was having difficulty getting the camera in and out of my belt pocket! Once out, I couldn't get my car keys back in and it became easier not to bother. I did manage a few though as it wouldn't be the same without them.

This has to be the biggest quarry I've seen on the Downs. It was massive and looked like a giant scar on the hillside. That's the River Adur snaking it's way through the valley.

Here's a view of part of Devil's Dyke from which you can get a feel for how high up we were. I remember Mike and I visiting here about 15 years ago and we saw a man running up the slope. He told us he was training for a fell race (like the 3 Forts) and I remember that we both thought he was completely mad. Little did I think that many years later I'd be doing exactly the same thing! Somewhere around there we went past Captain Wonderpants who shouted hello to us and showed us that he was a very cheeky boy without his pants!

I'm not sure where this was but it was definitely after mile 15 or so. The marathon is called the '3 forts' because it passes by the 3 ancient hill forts of Cissbury, Chanctonbury (showing the very path we took) and Devil's Dyke, mentioned above.

Although the weather was challenging we had a lovely time and it was really nice to have company all the way round. I did tell Claire to go on ahead when I slowed down because of my groin problems but she was happy to stay and chat. I had planned a finish time of 6:15 as I knew there would be a fair bit of walking up the tougher inclines and I was more than happy to complete it in 6:25. An added bonus was the wonderful welcome we got at the finish line and One Blue Leg (who had finished an hour earlier) had waited around just to see me finish which was very touching indeed. The medal was a good heavyweight one with a special ribbon (I love getting medals much more than a tee shirt or other memento) and this one has gone to join the others in my collection. It was my 14th marathon.

The 2 ladies haven't made an appearance on my blog for a while so I snapped this earlier today as they dozed in the sun. Awwwh. Esther is wearing a bandage on her leg as she pulled a tendon last week and her lower leg was quite puffy and she was limping badly. It's getting much better now but I'm leaving the compression bandage on just to help keep the swelling at bay.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Serves me right!

Oh I am so stupid - I've just gone back and reread Eunny's blog for setting up the steeks and she says exactly what Marina says ie the border stitches should be in the background colour. If only I'd checked that again before I did it. I was just too excited and eager to have a go. Still, at least I've learnt what not to do!

I don't suppose it's the end of the world and don't think it's worth ripping back what I've done - is it?

I was going to start on the sleeves but think I'll leave that for another day. I'd better pay attention this time!

Steek Part 1

OK, so I've set the steek. The instructions told me to slip the middle 31 stitches onto a stitch holder but I decided to use waste yarn as I think a holder might have got in the way.

Then I had to place a stitch marker on the left hand needle and cast on the 10 stitches for the steek then place another marker. This caused a bit of consternation until I realised I should be looking at the needles from the wrong side and so cast on using the cable method. Phew, panic over!

The steek stitches are knit in stripes which I presume is to make them stronger for when it's cut (OMG!!!!!). What I don't know yet is what happens to the strips of steek afterwards. Are they sewn on the wrong side? I'm sure all will be revealed soon. I've just got 3 more rows to go before this is put aside until the sleeves are ready to attach. Hmmm, I bet that will be fun.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Back on track

OK, I'm back on track at last! It's taken a while but I've picked up my knitting again and am ready for the next phase - steeks (eek!). The best description I've found is on Eunny Yang's blog and as she wrote the pattern for Autumn Rose I think I'll give her the benefit of the doubt.

Here's where I'm up to with the sweater. The next row sets the steek for the neckline and begins the decreases either side so I'll take photos of each stage. I've never doen this before; in fact, I'd never even heard of steeks until I started to investigate Fair Isle knitting. In this photo you can see the shaping for the waist (not that I've got a waist any more!). So, tomorrow I shall be attempting my first ever steek.

Here's a gratuitous cute kitty photo (Tinker is so sweet it's hard to believe he massacres bunnies and baby voles!)

This will be my next Fair Isle project. Marina, the doyenne of Fair Isle, tipped me off that Virtual Yarns had restocked so I have finally received my next project (which was going to be my first!).

Finally, I couldn't resist snapping this board outside the newsagent in the next village! My next marathon is on Sunday - the Three Forts Marathon, 27+ miles of hills. Bring it on!!!!