Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Virtual Running - part 1

I really like running.
I like the way it gives me space to think about nothing.
I like the control it gives me over my body, allowing me to eat cake if I want to.
I like finding out what my body can do and how far I can push myself.
I’ve run 5k, 10k, 10 miles, half and full marathon distances and have some PBs that I am very pleased with.
But I don’t think running should be just about how fast you go.

Over 2019 I decided to challenge myself to do at least 10,000 steps every day.  Going for a 30 minute run and taking the dog for a walk most days made this totally possible and I managed 172 days (5.6 months) before I had to take a trip to Leeds for work and missed it by 2000 steps.  I then managed another streak of 75 days which would have given me 247 days (about 8 months) if I hadn’t had to go to Leeds.
I’m now in a job where hitting 10,000 every single day is a bit harder so I wondered what other challenge I could give myself to help motivate me to get out of the door.

Totally by chance, I came across a virtual challenge that really inspired me.
Virtual running (or walking, swimming and cycling) mean you log your distance with an activity tracker then send the results to the organiser.  If you meet your target you get a nice shiny medal. This means you could do a challenge like running from London to Paris without actually having to leave the country, and in a time frame of your choosing.
Doing a monthly challenge doesn’t really motivate me as too many things could go wrong within the month to mean you don’t hit your target which means I probably wouldn’t be as ambitious as I could be.
But what about over the course of a whole year?  Then if you have a bad month, you can make it up later.

So imagine my excitement when I came across a set of challenges to complete over 2020.  
The challenge is to run 220 miles ‘along’ the River Severn; 291 miles ‘along’ the Cambrian Way; 214 miles London to Paris and 277 miles ‘along’ the Grand Canyon.  Added together they make 1002 miles to run in 12 months.

If I make it I will have 5 shiny medals (the 4 above and one for 1000 miles) to add to my collection but I will also have had a nice way to motivate myself when it’s cold outside and I’d rather get the tube than run across London to the office.

Based on what I’ve done this year I think it is possible, but I’m looking forward to seeing how far I can go rather than how fast.

Monday, 30 December 2019

Floral Finch Cushion

At the beginning of June this year I went to the Farnham Maltings festival of textiles - Thread.  So many lovely things to choose from, so along with some lovely buttons I bought myself a cross stitch kit to make a cushion.

I've used aida before, but never linen, so I was a little nervous, but I loved the look of it so had to have a go.  The kit was from bobostitch and had everything I could possibly want including a little booklet explaining all the stitches and how to read the pattern etc.
Once I got started it was really straight forward, so I've just been plugging away at it in between all the other things that have been going on.

While I loved the cross stitch I didn't enjoy the outlining so much.  However the finished cushion looks amazing and I'm so pleased with it.  It sits very nicely with my chicken cushion in the big arm chair.

It's a lovely way to finish the year, and I'm looking forward to deciding what project to start 2020 with.

Saturday, 14 December 2019

A Pair of Bears

This summer I met up with some old friends who I haven't seen for ages.  
One of them bought her 2 little boys, Dylan and Franklyn, with her.  I'm not really a kids sort of person, but I was really impressed with them.  They were very well behaved considering they had had quite a journey to get to us and then had to sit with 5 ladies that they didn't know, talking about boring adult stuff.

So I decided to knit them a pair of Herman bears.  I choose 2 dark colours as I know what can happen with a loved toy and I don't want them to be put away and not played with because they 'might get dirty'. 

To try and make the noses a bit better I used triangles of felt.  Better than my other attempts but still not quite right.
I sent them off this week.  I hope they will arrive in time for Christmas and they like them.

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Paprika Mustard Classic Knitted Cardigan in Platinum

So earlier this year I knitted myself a cardigan.  It went well but I wasn't sure about the colour and then my Mum saw it so it found another home.  But I still wanted a cardigan, and with a new job coming up and a little time off I suddenly had some time to have another go.

This time I used King Cole Glitz Chunky in platinum.  It's a lovely light grey with silver flecks and it's really soft.  Going up from Aran to Chunky made the cardigan a little bigger too, which I love.  

At the last Thread festival at the Farnham Maltings I had come across some beautiful butterfly buttons by Kate Holliday.  They are ceramic with butterflies printed? on them.  They are so wonderful I bought 8 with this cardigan project in mind.

 While I was happy with the purple cardigan, I absolutely LOVE this one.  Its exactly what I was aiming for and it's soft, warm and comfortable and will look great over a dress or jeans.  I am so glad I had another go.

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Another Knitting Thimble

Last year I created myself a knitting thimble to protect my poor finger while knitting a big project.  It's been invaluable, but I've finally knitted through it and needed to create myself a new one. 
The original had used old chamois leather but I had run out so I bought a new chamois leather and tried that.  But while it was soft and beautiful, it was also very thin, distorted easily and didn't offer much protection.

So I had a little think and wondered if I combined the leather with some fabric if that would do it? I used a little off cut of cord fabric from some trousers I made a couple of years ago.  I used PVA to stick them together then sewed it to the right size.
It works like a dream.  And being a little stiffer if doesn't keep falling off my finger.
I need to use it a bit more to see how it changes as I use it, but I think I've found a good combination.  And my finger is happy again.

Sunday, 20 October 2019

A Matching Cardigan and Bear

In August I finally finished knitting myself a cardigan.  I wasn't sure about the colour, but then my Mum saw it and she was sold!  So I got it finished off in time for her birthday.   

Of course it needed buttons, but what it really needed was a little bear to hide in the pocket. I've finally worked out how to knit him in the round without having to turn him inside out.  I just need to work on my bear faces now.  They are a bit hit and miss.

She was absolutely delighted, especially when she put her hand in the pocket and came across a little purple bear.  Everyone loves a bear.

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Lino Printing

At the beginning of the summer I was taking the rubbish out when the front door slammed shut behind me.  I didn't have a key and my phone was inside.  Doh!  'im outdoors has just left on an errand and I wasn't sure when he would be back.  So what to do?  There isn't any side access to the house, but I wondered if I could get into the garden from next door?  I rang their bell and hoped someone was in.
June answered.  Of course I could try her back gate.  But that didn't work.  Maybe her husband could help but he was out walking the dog.  While we waited for him to get back we chatted and she ended up showing me her sheds.
June was a fabric artist who was also a printer.  She doesn't do so much now but she showed me all her stuff and I was quite jealous. 
(her husband was able to get me back into my garden and so into the house.)

I'd told June about my paper making, so a couple of weeks later I put some of my paper through her door as she'd sounded interested.  She thought it was amazing and asked if I'd like to try some printing.  I jumped at the chance.
We finally found a date that worked for us both and she told me to bring some simple line drawings that we could turn into a print.

As it was my Mum's birthday that week and she lives by the sea, I was inspired to try and make a print for a birthday card featuring a seagull.
We went down to Junes shed and she showed me her equipment and what to do.  Her shed is perfect.  It smells like an art shop, full of ink and paper and tools and odds and ends.  I have a room that is trying to be like this but I have a way to go before it is as good as June's shed.

We started by preparing the lino square with a light sanding.  I then drew my design on in pencil.  This requires some thought as you have to think hard about what you want to show in black (or whatever colour you are using) and what should be white.  Also any lettering has to be the wrong way round to come out right in the print.

With the lino all cut away then came the messy part - printing.
First we had to decide which ink to use.  Damp and heat and cold can all change how an ink behaves so it's a bit trial and error.
We also had to decide how to press the print.  We could use a big press or hand burnish it.  Both have their pros and cons.
After a couple of test prints we got the combination right and printed my square.

First we used a piece of plain white paper.  Then we tried some of my garlic paper, lastly a piece of paper with a different texture.
I can't believe how well it came out.  The letters read fine, the bird looks great and the textured background puts me in mind of sea and wind.  Its such a clear print, I keep having to look at it again and remind myself - I made that.  
Once the ink was dry I cut the paper down and stuck it to a bigger piece of card to make a birthday card.  My Mum loved it.
I'm really inspired now and I'm starting to think about what else I could do like this.  Christmas cards maybe?  (but not this year!)

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Garlic Paper part 2

In 2015 I made my first batch of paper using garlic skins.  I loved it so much I started collecting them again straight away so I could make some more at some point - garlic skins being very small and fine you need a lot of them to make paper and collecting that amount takes some time. So some 3 1/2 years later, with a big bag full, I decided it was time to try again.

It really is beautiful stuff.  I love the look and feel. I made a good batch this time and just need to press it flat before I can use it.  I made a mixture of A4, A5 and A6 sheets, so I should be able to find some uses for it.