Thursday, May 24, 2012

The sun has got his hat on!

Everything in the garden has suddenly spurted upwards, including the weeds which is hardly surprising given the amount of rain we've had in the last few weeks.

Angelica Gigas living up to its name!

Granny's bonnets (not the crocheted ones)

The exquisite flowers of Quince 'Vranga'

Acid yellow spider

Friend and foe hiding together in the undergrowth - how come the toad hasn't eaten the slug?!!!

Of course now I'm complaining that it's too hot and our clay soil will soon be like concrete and impossible to dig.  We Brits do like to complain about the weather - at least it takes one's mind off the gloomy economic outlook!

Entrelac test
I decided to have a go at the Harlequin shawlette from Jean's book.  I've never tried entrelac knitting before and so it's interesting to try a new technique.  As I had some Rowan Summer Tweed lying around I grabbed that and some 4.5mm needles and started to play.

Concentrating hard on entrelac
As you can see, I had to concentrate quite hard to begin with!  However, once I'd got the basic concept into my head I relaxed into and found it very absorbing.

Purple and green Harlequin in progress
 From the test piece I knitted I worked out how many base triangles I needed and off I went using one of my favourite colour combinations - purple and green.  As it's going to be quite drapey it will have quite a different look from the one in the book plus I've got some ideas for embellishment.
Blocked grannies
Finally, here are the grannies all blocked and ready to be sewn together.  You can see what a difference blocking has made and thankfully they all fit together OK (phew!).

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The good, the bad and the ugly

The good

Good thing number 1

Sweet Shawlettes by Jean Moss
I won this fabulous book as a prize in a draw at This is Knit's blog.  This is very exciting as I am not known for being lucky in draws!

There are some lovely designs in here just asking to be knit even though I have several projects on the go as usual.  You can see the whole collection here on Jean's page and the ones I really like are Evergreen (a string of dangly leaves), Harlequin (knit in entrelac, which I've never tried before), Penumbra (an interesting looking cowl), Ceilidh (I just love tartan), Mantilla (such a pretty lace pattern and I have a selection of Kidsilk Haze colours in my stash to choose from).  I just know that I'll end up being naughty and starting something before the other things are off the needles!

Good thing number 2

A tower of grannies

Still continuing with my cushion theme I wanted to make a couple of cushion covers for use outside on the sunloungers.  I used Rowan Summer Tweed again and chose a granny pattern from one of my crochet blocks books.

The fabric that inspired them
I found this piece of fabric in a charity shop and it looked so summery that I thought it would be ideal as the backing fabric.  I took my palette from the colours in the fabric and just added a bright pink and a dark green to make the design pop.

Arranged on the cushion pad
I didn't want a conventional granny square look so I made lots of different sizes based around the measurements of the largest square.  I just made fewer rounds on the smaller ones.

Here are the granny squares blocking ready to be sewn together.  It is so important to block this type of design, especially when using a yarn made of cotton and silk, as I have seen so many misshapen granny squares joined together and it really spoils the finished effect.

I'm going to join them invisibly and then crochet around the edge in a few different colours.

Good thing number 3

A beautiful Bumblebee in a rhododendron flower
We've had more rain.  Lots of it in fact.  So much that I wanted it to stop so I could get out into the garden and deal with the weeds!  Then the sun came out and everything seemed so alive and vibrant.

Wasp on my gardening gloves
There was a gigantic hornet in my shed but in the time it took to get my camera it had disappeared.  This little wasp took a liking to my gardening gloves.

Horses with jackdaws

The horses are getting help from the jackdaws with shedding their winter coats!  There must be lots of nests around here lined with soft hair from Esther and Kizzy.

The bad

I've got a health problem.  For the last couple of years I've been troubled with an ongoing sore throat and runny nose.  Sometimes my throat swells up and I can hardly swallow.  On several occasions I have been unable to breath which is very scary.  Last year I finally went to see the doctor he told me that it was probably just the remains of a cold.  Really?  I think not!

Then this year I had a eureka moment - the really bad throat closing up episodes happen around March/April when the tree pollen is about thus suggesting it could be hayfever.  More specifically, it's when Salix caprea, aka Goat Willow is producing it's copious amounts of bright yellow pollen.

I didn't seem to react quite as badly this year but then over the weekend I had another scary throat-closing up incident without any tree pollen in sight.  What was around though, and in great abundance was Oil seed rape.  Horrible, stinky stuff which I try to avoid as the smell of the pollen always gives me a headache.  This time though I felt really ghastly all evening and the following morning I felt no better so I took myself back to see the doctor.

The ugly

The doctor listened to my symptoms and agreed with my self-diagnosis, prescribing antihistamine tablets to help with the hayfever.  I also told her about my marathon running and that afterwards I feel as if my chest is a bit gunky, as if something's been shaken up inside my lungs (yuk!).

However, she also felt that I might be asthmatic.  What?  No way, that's not part of the plan at all thank you very much.  She made me do a breath test where I had to exhale into a contraption that measured my exhalation rate.  Then she made me do it several times more because she was very surprised that my reading was so low, especially for someone who runs marathons.

Flow measure and inhaler
So instead of just a remedy for hayfever I came away with an asthma inhaler, a flow measure, a chart to record my breath flow and an appointment for a Spirometry test next week.  Fantastic!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Three Forts Challenge

The weather had not been good all week.  It rained, then it rained and then it rained again for good measure.  It was, therefore, no surprise to find that on the morning of the Three Forts Challenge it was raining.

The good news was that it was nothing like as heavy as the last time I'd run it.

The bad news was that the tracks would be slippery and I was a bit anxious as I had a nasty fall in the final couple of miles the last time I did it.

In common with most trail marathons it's a lovely friendly sort of race with runners of all abilities.  Being a back-of-the-pack runner I enjoy seeing the speedy whippets dash off and on this course there is an out and back section so you get to see both the people in front of you and those behind too.

I'd taken a variety of outfits with me so that I could make a final decision when I saw the conditions.  It was cold and wet so I opted for long tights and long-sleeved top and I didn't regret that decision at all as it got quite cold up on the hilltops.  Someone told me that the total ascents were around 4000ft.  

Here I was snapped by the lovely Anthony from Sussex Sports Photography as I ran up one of the many hills!

As I'm not a sure-footed runner I took great care on the slippery bits.  Even so I managed to do the splits on one of the claggy uphill sections.  I chatted to several runners en-route which always helps to pass the time.  The marshalls were very friendly and supportive and provided us with water, squash, cake and biscuits.

Although I was aiming to beat my previous time I wasn't unduly concerned as I was feeling strong and when I reached the last 2 miles I still had 45 minutes in which to beat it.  However, there was no time for complacency as these 2 miles were all downhill and I was scared of falling over again.  So, I let the cluster of 5 runners who were around me go ahead and I watched them hurtling down with gay abandon.  I didn't!  I picked my way down really slowly and still managed to slip and slide although I didn't go right over again.  

However, my extra caution meant I took 30 minutes for that last section and one of the ladies I'd told to go ahead without me had waited around to check I was OK as she was worried that I might have fallen over again.  How kind!

Still smiling after 27 miles of mud, grass, loose flints, chalk, rutted tracks and a few hills.

My time?  

Oh yes, 6:07:03 - 14 minutes faster than before.  


Marathon 26 done and dusted.

Now for marathon 27 in a few weeks.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Cushion craft

At last, the finished cushion for the dining room. I used a beautiful suede effect fabric as the base and attached the crochet front to it which has made it nice and firm.

I decided on a knitted i-cord edging as everything else looked too fussy. I used a strand of each of the back-ground colour yarns held together.

Here it is against the curtain. I'm really pleased with the finished cushion.

Another room and more cushions. One bargello, the other patchwork. I'm really having a cushion phase at the moment and I think it's because we've been renovating the house for so many years that now it's finished it's a relief to be adding some finishing touches!

I've got another cushion cover on the go but this one's for the sun-lounger and was inspired by a piece of fabric I found in a charity shop. I'm crocheting squares in different sizes using the colours in the fabric. I've only got a couple more squares to do.

This weekend is marathon number 2 of 5 and so far the weather forecast has been dire so I expect I'll be getting wet for 27 miles up on the South Downs!