Janathon day three: asleep

Last night I asked twitter if I should run in the dark in the morning, or run in the dark in the evening. Turns out that I needn’t have bothered asking anyone because at half five this morning, I was physically incapable of opening my eyes let alone getting out of bed, getting dressed and getting out for a run.

After work, I had a cracking headache and it was one of those “if it wasn’t for Janathon, I would be at home on the couch with a brew” moments. I split the difference between a token one mile and a respectable three miles, notching up an acceptable two at a pace that I was quite happy with (I am chosing to ignore that the first half was downhill). It wasn’t an exciting run by anyone’s standards.

When I was home, I asked twitter if it was acceptable to blog about knitting during Janathon (I have days where I am incapable of making decisions without the aid of twitter – you people have no idea how much power you wield over me, do not abuse it). The answer was a resounding YES. Part of the reason that I asked is that I’ve been mulling over the idea of having two separate blogs for running and knitting, but fear that I would end up with two blogs that I neglect equally. And while there is such a vast overlap in the venn diagram of knitters and runners, I think I can get away with the odd woolly post.

The question that I struggle with the most is “what are you knitting at the moment?”. It should be simple. I should answer “sock” (well it’s been true for the last two years). I was asked the question last week and my answer was something like “well, I’m merging two patterns, one for a little woolly Woody Allen and one for a little woolly Holly Golightly and am turning them into a little woolly roller skating hot pant wearing granny with her arm in plaster”.

Roller derby granny

Roller derby granny

I am very proud of her bun

I am very proud of her bun

I should have said sock.

The basic pattern is for a Knit New Yorker from Lauren O’Farrell’s (aka @deadlyknitshade) latest amazing book Stitch New York. It is just as wonderful as Stitch London and I was very pleased to find it under the Christmas tree!

It was a good haul under the tree

It was a good haul under the tree

Runners may not give a hoot about this post

This is one of my purely knitting posts.

She doesn’t know it, but I owe a  debt of gratitude to the lovely Hels for bringing on my knitting skills over the past month. It started when she asked me to knit two garish hats for some newly arrived twins. Although I’ve knitted in the round using double pointed needles and I’ve knitted straight using circular needles, I’d never actually knitted in the round on circular needles (which seems silly now I think about it). To knit the teeny tiny hats (from this pattern), I mastered the ways of the magic loop method. Whilst I did like using DPNs, it’s a little bit like wrestling with an angry hedgehog at times and I suspect that this is one of the reasons that my ongoing sock project has remained ongoing for nearly three years now.

I have discovered that one of the downsides of having big feet is that the foot of the sock takes even longer to knit

Armed with the skills of the magic loop, I announced my intention to knit a Kindle cosy. Now, it might be a hangover from the time I served with the Brownies, but I do like an owl and owls seemed appropriately bookish for this project. Searching Ravelry for a bit of guidance, I ended up going for an amalgamation of this cabled Kindle sleeve and this owl coffee cosy. However, to do this I needed some more new knitting skills – how to do a magic cast on to join the ends of the sleeve and how to cable without using a cable needle (I can barely cable using a cable needle…).

Cabled reverse, no owls. The cosy is nice and stretchy, the flap needed a little bit of blocking to get the correct shape

 

So not only do I have an owlish cosy for my Kindle, but I also have a little stash of new knitting skills to add to my bag.

Completed cover with owl

Oh, and having learned to love magic loop, I went to my nearby lovely wool shop to get some 2.5mm needles only to find that they were out of the long length that I would need. The end result of this is that the owner showed me yet another technique that I had never understood in the past – how to knit in the round using two short circular needles. I did suspect that this may be a ruse to sell me twice as many needles, but it’s so easy that I have actually finished my sock!

One done, one cast on.

I aim to have finished the pair before 2015.

It must be glove

I have really rubbish circulation in my hands. I’ve had it for years and eventually mentioned it to the doctor on a visit a few months ago. The conversation went something like this.

ME: Um, and I think I might have Raynaud’s phenomenon. Hang on… (fumbles in bag for phone, finds photo of scarily white fingers, shows doctor)
DR: Yes, that definitely looks like it. Do you want to take anything for it?
ME: Not really. I’ll go and knit myself some gloves.
DR: Good idea.

I paraphrase somewhat (mainly so my GP doesn’t get struck off) but that was the gist of it.

I’ve always been somewhat suspicious of fingerless gloves until I tried on a pair of Ginge’s and found that I could still type and do stuff, but without my fingers going numb. With this in mind, I got searching for a pattern. Whilst I can knit on dpns, sometimes I can’t be bothered and I was relieved to find a Sirdar pattern for mittens/gloves/fingerless gloves that is knitted on straight needles. It’s also knitted with 4 ply yarn meaning that I can either put a dent in my stash of sock yarn (I love sock yarn but don’t knit socks) or I have an excuse to knit to buy more sock yarn (did I mention that I love sock yarn but don’t knit socks?).

I bought some gorgeous wool from Knitty City on our trip to New York last May.

The ball on the right became mittens, the ball on the left is a pub knitting work in progress

My plan was to knit something special to remember the holiday and when we got home, I launched myself into a shawl pattern from the book in the photo. I’m not sure what possessed me to knit a shawl and I’m not sure when I would ever wear a shawl, but let’s not worry about that. It was a fairly straightforward pattern repeat and yet I couldn’t get going with it. I’d do a bit, cock it up, start it again, do some more, make a really stupid mistake (like knitting it on completely the wrong size needles for a while), start again… I kept persevering until I had a moment of clarity.

This is as far as I got with the shawl on the nth attempt…

Even though the yarn was lovely and the pattern was lovely, it wasn’t coming together. With knitting, just as in life, sometimes the individual parts are right, but together they just don’t work and no amount of perseverance will force them to do so. What I love about knitting is that you can do this…

Riiiiiiiiiip it right back…

A day or so after I frogged the shawl, I found the glove pattern and thought ‘ah ha!’. Not so long later (it’s a really simple pattern) I had myself a pair of gloves. One is a slightly looser tension because I knitted it straight but on circular needles (to make it more portable), but not so you’d notice. They’re a lovely fit, despite the fact that I have quite big hands (on photos I end up with really long fingers like Nosferatu) and I think they show off the wool much better than the shawl ever would.

Like a woolly Nosferatu

Glovely!

The sweet irony is that when I finished these, I thought it would be a bit unseasonal to blog about them in June (especially as I have some lovely Polaroid sunglasses waiting for a review). However since then, I have worn gloves more than sunnies. In June.

I would like to register a complaint about this.

Wrap Up and Run

I feel that there been a lovely symmetry to this week. On Friday, I finished a spectacular piece of knitting, namely my Scarf of Doom. The Scarf of Doom is the work of graffiti knitter Deadly Knitshade who was invited onto BBC Breakfast to talk about knitting a few weeks ago. She was asked to knit a bright, chunky scarf while she talked, which she did, only for elements of the online knitting community to be hypercritical of, well, pretty much every aspect of her telly appearance. Her response was one of the most graceful, humorous and quite frankly bloody marvellous things that I’ve ever read (you can read the full story here, please do – my summary doesn’t do it justice).

Knitted with two strands of double-knit on 15mm needles. The wool is from my stash (from the top it was bought for a tea cosy, the same tea cosy, pizza bases, various vegetables, flower petals and beaks, grapes/aubergine)

As someone who responds to the question “So what kind of things do you knit?” with some slightly embarrassed foot shuffling and “Um. Dinosaurs. And um, chickens. And peas. And tiny hats. And stuff….”, I was liberated by Deadly Knitshade’s definition of ‘squeeeee knitting’ (it might be made out of scratchy, fluorescent acrylic yarn, but people look at it, want it and go ‘squeeeeee’). In the spirit of solidarity, it seemed only fitting that I should knit a Scarf of Doom. Also, Deadly Knitshade promised a medal for those who made one. As Ginge will testify, I have a Muttley-like love of medals and the lure of something shiny is all that I need to motivate me for a lot of things.

Monkey's disappointment at not getting another medal was soothed by his new scarf.

Sadly there was no medal on offer on Sunday’s Wrap Up and Run 10K in Southport. This was organised by Age UK to raise awareness and funds to help keep older people warm during the winter months. I entered on a whim this Wednesday, when the weather was balmy and spring-like and I couldn’t help but think that maybe Age UK’s campaign was a little mistimed. Ha. The Met Office promised heavy or light rain and temperatures of around 5˚C (which would feel like 1˚C). When we arrived in Southport, there was a bitter wind that chilled the steady drizzle and resulted in me looking spectacularly grumpy (there is photographic evidence of this. I won’t be sharing it with you).

I was cold enough to consider joining in with the warm up. At my only previous race where there has been a pre-race warm up (Liverpool Women’s 10K) I avoided it because it looked like it required far too much coordination for my paltry skills. Today I muttered darkly about not being here to jump up and down, I like running and if I wanted to do jumping, I would go to…jumping practise (I said I was grumpy). My grudging participation was rewarded by the friendliest, most laid back, random warm up (given that the chap who did it didn’t look like the ‘Camilla’ who had previously been introduced, I suspect he was a last minute replacement) that ended up with him accepting heckled exercise suggestions from the crowd.

The only downside of the warm up was that I landed slightly awkwardly when we were jumping (typical, it turns out that I need that jumping practise after all) and twanged my ankle. As I lined up at the start, I tried to ignore the fact that it felt like a slight sprain (twelve hours later, I had a dull ache and some slight swelling in my right ankle) and concentrated on the task in hand. I haven’t been following a training plan, in fact my running has been a little erratic of late, so I was intrigued to see how I would get on in my pursuit of a sub-60 10K.

Setting off, I was very,very cold. My feet were numb, my hands were freezing. As we ran along the coastal path into the wind, I really started to doubt my sanity. For those of you who don’t know Southport, it is extremely flat and there is a dearth of tropical palm trees to act as a windbreak from the breezes off the Irish Sea. If I’m honest, there’s a lack of anything to act as a windbreak. If I’m completely honest, there’s usually a lack of sea as well. Anyway, I abandoned being able to consult Miles in favour of pulling my sleeves down over my hands in a pathetic attempt to retain some heat. This led to a breakdown in communication between me and Miles as I managed to press his stop button and didn’t realise for what turned out to be about half a mile (when I realised that I had been running 0.69 miles for ages).

I can only apologise to the poor woman with the lovely knitted ear-warmer who I sidled up to and stalked for a bit so that I could get a proper look. And also the very tall man who ran with his feet turned out and I followed because he looked like a hi-vis emperor penguin. Apart from the soul destroying part at 3K where you could see the marker for 4K just to your right, but had to run around the boating lake to get to, the KMs seemed to pass fairly quickly. I felt strong and comfortable and we didn’t always have to run into the wind. At 8K, I ended up grinning like an idiot at the sight and sound of the drummers who welcomed the runners into the home stretch. My legs, trained to keep my feet to the beat with AudioFuel, took on a life of their own and my pace ramped up to 8.34min/mile as I bounced cheerily past them.

The finish line in sight, I managed a bit of a sprint at the end, collected my water, t-shirt and mars bar, was reunited with a well wrapped up Ginge and risked charges of indecent exposure as I changed tops in the car park. I was very pleased to get cosy with my woolly hat, a flask of tea and my Scarf of Doom and within minutes of arriving home, I’d had a text to confirm my chip time as 1.00.31. All in all, it was a rather good morning.

UPDATE: I forgot to credit Ginge with the Southport photography. He definitely manage to capture the bleakness of the day. Though he didn’t manage to capture me flicking the Vs at him during the bouncy warm up.

Throughout March, there are some more Wrap Up and Run races coming up in Coventry, Exeter, Cheshire and Yorkshire – if Southport is anything to go by, I would heartily recommend them no matter what your running experience.

The post-Janathon non-running knitting blog

Post-Janathon, there’s normally a bit of a hiatus on the blogging front. We all get on with our training and racing, but don’t have the pressure of having to blog our every step (never mind the jogging or logging, the blogging bit is the toughest part of any Athon). I haven’t run since the 31st, I did my usual yoga class on Wednesday night and decided to treat myself to a few rest days before seeing how my legs feel on Sunday.

This gives me chance to venture down to London for the Janathon meet up (de-railed train services and weather permitting) and get a bit crafty. Since I finished my wibbly wobbly scarf (handed over to my sister in time for the cold snap), I have nothing on my needles (well nothing except the works in progress that live in bags around the house).

The wibbly wobbly scarf

The official name for the wibbly wobbly scarf is Just Enough Ruffles and is available on Ravelry (caution – Ravelry will steal time from you if you like anything woolly). It’s my first attempt at knitting anything long on circular needles (I’m a proper convert to knitting on Knit-Pro needles) – I’ve knitted shorter things on them, but have always been intimidated by a pattern that starts “cast on 200…”.This scarf is knitted lengthways and starts with the words “cast on 200”.

Cast on edge (at the top)

After the cast on, the ends are shaped by wrapping stitches and turning at each end of the row…

Shaping the ends

Before knitting front and back and in each stitch until you end up with SIX HUNDRED stitches on there. Phew.

The next thing on the craft agenda is a bit of cross stitch courtesy of a competition prize courtest of SW Craft Club.