The last four weeks…

Time would appear to have marched on and a bunch of stuff has happened in both the knitting and the running which have meant I’ve fallen behind with blogging.

Lets start with the knitting, as that will explain my lack of time to blog about the running! This time of the year is busy but one of my favourite times on Ravelry.com as it is the annual Indie Design Gift-along. It’s basically a six-week-long festival of crafting, based on getting gift knitting done for whatever winter holiday you celebrate but also about celebrating independent pattern designers in knit and crochet (of which I am one as a hobby business). There are games and prizes and chat and a whole lot of knitting and crocheting going on, culminating in a huge online New Year’s Eve party. This is my fifth year participating and it’s a blast but also very time consuming. So far I have made a headband which will keep my ears warm on winter runs, and I’m finishing up a scarf.

As for the running, since my last post I’ve got a new Dartford Parkrun PB, knocking a minute and a half off my previous time for that course. New Dartford PB is 26:23, and achieved in large part by running with a faster friend that day who really encouraged me to push myself and keep going. I’ve also taken part in the Kent Veterans cross country championships. Another 5K cross country team event, my fastest cross country race so far, my first time running in spikes, and while my own time wasn’t fast enough to score, my team finished in fourth place which was a great achievement for us.

Finally this week I had a rather random running accident. Anyone can pull a muscle or twist an ankle but it takes a special kind of person to nearly break their nose running! Short version goes like this: track interval training, we start an interval, the runner in front of me drops his mobile phone and instead of leaving it or stepping off the track, he stops dead and turns to go back for it. I was accelerating and didn’t have enough room to stop nor to run round him. Instead I smashed straight into him and the discrepancy in our heights meant my nose met his sternum at speed. Cue bleeding nose, not helped by my being a glasses-wearer so they crashed down into the bridge of my nose. Thankfully no damage to the glasses but I did spend the rest of the session in the clubhouse with an ice pack on my face. Four days on and my nose is still tender but, thanks to quick thinking by my coach and lots of ice, no bruising, minimal swelling, and I’m back running. Yesterday’s Parkrun was harder than it probably ought to have been but I managed to run 5.4 miles in 51 minutes this morning including a couple of nasty hills so I’m definitely down but not out!

Half a pair of socks

8FC56061-B952-47CC-B9E9-EA7CCE6FAECC.jpegWe have half a pair of socks! I haven’t knitted my kids socks in a while but they both chose multicoloured sock yarn in a shop in Devon over the summer and, with the weather cooling, it seemed a good time to make use of it. It seems a little silly that this one plain vanilla sock has taken me over a week to knit. I did manage to turn the heel while marshalling at Parkrun last Saturday! It’s surprisingly hard to clap and knit at the same time so the sock spent a lot of time hanging from my wrist between laps of the course. The yarn, for those interested, is an Opal 4-ply sock yarn in a colourway called Sunrise that I would never have chosen myself but clearly appealed to my 9-year-old. I just need to make the second one now, while pondering the thought that my children will soon be needing socks that are bigger than mine!

Heartwood Forest parkrun, hello and goodbye

55EA2296-450C-48D2-A1C3-1C03F3782630.jpegI am not an early riser by nature and certainly not on the weekends, so I was not best pleased when my husband woke me at 6.30am this Saturday even though I knew it would happen. The reason? Parkrun tourism! He had read online that Heartwood Forest parkrun was going to be closing down and had decided that he wanted to run it while he still could. The fact that he had never heard of Heartwood Forest until that point and didn’t even know where it was didn’t seem to matter to him! Luckily it isn’t too far away, about an hour or so’s drive, but it still meant leaving around 7.20am to give us time to get there, to find somewhere to park, and then to walk the half-mile that the Parkrun website advised was the distance between the nearest parking area and the start. Hence the 6.30 alarm call.

On long journeys, he drives and I knit, but at that time in the morning all I am capable of is simple knitting and I have a garter stitch blanket that I work on when I don’t have the brain power for anything else. I got a fair amount done on the round trip! The car journey went smoothly and we found the village hall car park which was the suggested place to stop. Then it was just a case of following all the other people in running gear along the farm track and footpath to the forest and the start.

We didn’t have to wait too long for the first-timers briefing, led by a lady with a loudhailer and a tambourine! There were a lot of tourists, there for the same reason we were, I’d guess! She tried to explain the route, came a bit unstuck, and finished with “just follow along, you’ll be fine!”. To be fair, the course was very well marshalled by a local running group so navigation was no trouble at all. The course was not quite two laps and we were walked halfway up the hill to the start. Final briefing delivered and off we went. There was some more uphill to start on a gravel path before we struck out across the grass and then along a bridlepath, all still uphill. At the top of the hill, there was a very sharp turn to the left through an area with long grass and short trees before we ran through a carved wooden archway and back along the bridlepath again. That took us to a gravel path downhill. I was glad I’d worn my trail shoes as I could just trust to gravity and go without worrying about sliding on the loose surface. Then it was another left turn and a short flat stretch before turning left away from the finish to head back up the hill for the second lap.

The hill the second time around was not fun. I’d forgotten we’d walked up half of it to reach the start so that hill seemed to go on and on. It was quite a relief to finally reach the sharp left turn and to know it was downhill all the way from there. Back through the grass and trees, through the carved arch, along the bridlepath and then down that big hill again, where a marshal and another runner complimented me on my bright running leggings!

At the bottom of the hill, the finish came into view and I was pleased I had strength left for a sprint finish. In fact the whole run overall picked up in pace, with the first mile taking 9:13, the second 8:56, and the third 8:30, with the final 0.1 at 6:57/mile pace. My final time was 27:31, not a PB but far faster than I had expected to run it in given that it was both hilly and cross-country which are two things that usually count against me.

The local running club had kindly provided cake and sweets at the finish so I thanked them for a cupcake and a jelly baby, and my husband signed the visitors book. Then it was back to the car for the drive home and more work on my blanket, feeling a bit more awake by then.

A day for running and knitting

One of those rare days when my hobbies actually collide, yesterday saw me coming pretty much as close as you safely can come to running and knitting. My children had been to stay with their grandparents for a few days over the school holidays so yesterday my husband and I drove to fetch them home. Of course, we had to partake of a spot of Parkrun tourism on the way, but that meant driving in our running gear. If we’re both in the car, my husband usually does the driving and I knit! I’m still working on this massive circular shawl (only 21 more rounds to go now). Anyone looking through the window as we travelled would have seen me in my vest top, shorts and trainers (with Parkrun barcode attached!) with my knitting in my lap!

779021BC-DA35-4B6F-9A9C-EC5E82130D02.jpeg

Short rows coming up short!

03B4A7FF-8705-40D2-8309-47D9ED70AA14.jpeg

The scarf I’m designing is really coming along now, and I’m on to the last section, which uses short rows to pull a rectangular scarf into a long crescent shape. I’ve designed and knitted scarves like this before, but clearly with this one I didn’t have my brain engaged when it came to doing the maths. I spent some time with a pencil and a calculator trying to get the right number of rows to make the curve of the crescent just how I wanted it, adding enough extra width to the scarf, not using too much yarn. (It’s handspun so I can’t just buy another ball if I run out. When it’s gone, it’s all gone!) Finally I had got what I thought was the perfect rate of decrease, went to check the numbers one last time, and that was when I realised the mistake in the very first calculation. Because half of 300 is not 105! Doh!

Unknitting at the running track

0C5B3FC6-EB6B-485D-8855-1E38C086FE10

Whoa! Enormous photo alert! But basically I spent the kids’ athletics session this morning knitting the same round twice. Not even that much. When you’ve got over 600 stitches on your needles in the first place, you expect progress to be slow. What I didn’t expect was to get halfway around the round (it’s a circular shawl, for those wondering) before I realised that I had made a mistake in the very first stitch. Instead of k1, I had managed to work k2 just that once, but it meant the whole of that round was offset by one stitch relative to the stitches below so, of course, the pattern won’t line up. Nothing for it but to unpick it stitch by stitch back to the start of the round and try again. Mutter mutter mutter. Knit ONE this time (not two), and surprise surprise when you actually follow the instructions correctly you get what you’re supposed to get! That’ll teach me to try to knit lace and watch my children doing the long jump at the same time. I’d just got back to where I realised my error by the time they finished. It was like some sort of bad homework question. “If Mummy knits 300 stitches, then unpicks them all and then knits them all again, how many stitches has she worked? Calculate the probability of her making this error again”.

Learning a new cast-on

93B3EEFD-C337-4174-B97A-2BDD2AD0DC15

This week, I have learned a new knitting cast-on. I’m designing a new scarf pattern that really needs a stretchy cast-on edge. Usually I’d use a long-tail cast-on but, out of curiosity, I decided to search online for alternatives to see if any might suit the project better and my search came up with Jeny’s Stretchy Slipknot Cast-on. As the name suggests, it is basically a close-worked series of slipknots and it seems to lend itself equally well to ribbed, stocking stitch or other edgings.

The cast-on can be found on Jeny’s blog, Curious Knitter, where a video tutorial is available. I often struggle to learn new skills from videos, because pausing them is awkward, and not pausing means I miss the next stage because I’m still working the last. On the whole I prefer photos as they don’t move on without you but I found the video for this one really easy to follow. Once I’d got the knack, casting on over 300 stitches was a breeze, and they’re definitely forming a lovely stretchy edge. If you need a cast-on with a good amount of give in it, you could try that one.

 

Scrap blanket

4A8C6BED-7C3F-43F6-A748-0BC33607B645I tend not to knit “scrap” projects. On the whole, they are not to my taste. I know the whole point of them is to use up the leftovers, but to my mind that’s what they look like, like you’re just making them to use up the bits and not to actually make the project for its own sake. If the leftovers go together in some way, fair enough. Perhaps they might make a colour gradient or be shades and tones of the same colour, in which case putting them together can look intentional. What isn’t to my taste is the bits-of-everything nature of so many scrap yarn projects.

I do have one scrappy project that I’m working on though, and it is this sock yarn (mostly) blanket. I had a lot more odds and ends in my stash before my younger son was born and some of them were used to make him two baby blankets, one ten-stitch blanket and one log-cabin block blanket. They’ve had a lot of use, still get used as lap blankets and car blankets. After five years of actively controlling my yarn stash I have a lot less in the way of oddments now, and most of what I have had has been used making blanket squares, hats and hand-warmers for South African charity Knit-A-Square. None the less, I still have some oddments that have sentimental value (left from special projects, souvenir yarn from trips abroad, even some handspun, that I wanted to keep as well as to use up, so I decided to make one large sofa throw that we can all snuggle under in cooler weather.

It’s taking a while. I started last August and it’s about one metre across now, but there’s no rush. I just add bits in as they get left over from other things. One day it might actually be big enough to use!

Walking with pointy sticks

E8D9233E-E843-4745-B36F-9AB43A70E95A

A knitting post today! Despite the title of this blog, I do not advocate trying to run and knit simultaneously. Quite aside from the safety aspect, the risk of dropping stitches just isn’t worth it!

I can, however, walk and knit. The photo above was grabbed on my phone while on the way to collect my children from school. To be fair, I don’t usually walk and knit, but I had had an appointment just before the afternoon school run and had taken my knitting along in case of a wait beforehand. I’m not good at sitting in waiting rooms. Knitting keeps my hands and mind occupied; I think of it as productive fidgeting. Anyway, appointment completed I set off around to the school with my knitting still in my hands. My son’s teacher was somewhat surprised to open the classroom door and find me knitting while waiting outside, and even more surprised when I continued to knit while talking to her and without looking at my hands! It’s a fun party trick, that one!

The knitted item in question is just a basic plain sock, and the yarn is my own handspun, and the pair of socks is now almost finished.