Quiet Summer Days

Hello!

With many of our friends and neighbours away on holiday, it’s quiet. We have planned a short break later on, but for the time being we’re at home, quietly working, gardening, caring for our grandson, decluttering and DIY-ing. It’s quiet in my inbox, quiet on Ravelry, and even quiet in our chicken coop, as our old cock Floris has died.

He was a magnificent bird and his presence and even his crowing are sorely missed (by us, perhaps not so much by our neighbours.) Floris’ death was followed by that of the last of our old hens. Now we have only four hens of a younger generation left. This is a photo of them I took earlier.

At the moment they are moulting, which means that they look scruffy, are rather subdued and are having a break from laying eggs.

It’s quiet in the forest, too.

We’re in the middle of a heatwave. Adapting our pace to the temperature during our walks gives us the time to notice things that we may otherwise just have walked past. Unassuming brown butterflies on blackberry blooms.

The veins on the wings of a bumble bee.

And this:

Some kind of fungus covered in droplets. Could it be dew? Beads of perspiration? It is very hot, after all, but a perspiring fungus…?

Looking it up, we found out that it is called zwetende kaaszwam in Dutch, which literally means sweating cheese fungus. Seriously! (I haven’t been able to find the English name; in Latin it is postia guttulata.) A saucer-shaped older one had droplets along its rim (click on pictures to enlarge).

Okay, I realize this may be getting a tad nerdy. For everyone who isn’t all that into sweaty fungi, the heather is also in bloom:

I wonder why it is so quiet in the forest, with all of the campsites and holiday parks around here fully booked. Can you see the tent and caravans on the edge of the wood, looking out on the sheep? I think they have some of the loveliest camping spots around.

What are the tourists all doing, if they are not out walking? Maybe they are sitting in front of their tents, caravans or cottages knitting? That wouldn’t be a bad way to spend these quiet, hot days, if you ask me.

It is, in fact, how I am spending part of these quiet summer days, and my Featherweight Cardigan, knit from the top down, is growing nicely.

While I’m writing this, there are 10.2k Featherweight Cardigans on Ravelry. Over 10.000! And that is just the ones posted on Ravelry. There must be thousands more who knit it without posting theirs. I wonder why this simple little cardi is so immensely popular. Knitting on, I hope to find out.

I have also wound my cheerful pink-and-orange sock yarn and decided on a sock pattern. My friend and fellow-translator Angelique suggested 2 patterns from the book 52 Weeks of Socks (scroll down to see all of the 52 sock designs). She has finished translating it into Dutch, but the Dutch version won’t be published until January 2023.

I’ve chosen Garia by Erika Lopez A – socks knit from the toe up with an interesting detail at the cuff. I’m looking forward to starting them.

If you’re in a heatwave, too: kalm an, hè?

PS: Angelique is also a knitting pattern designer – her designs can be found here on Ravelry.

Lightness

Hello!

In need of a little more lightness in my life, I’m abandoning all other knitting projects for the time being and starting a Featherweight Cardigan. I’ll come back to the nearly-or-half-finished warm and woolly things when the weather gets cooler in September.

I could have ordered the yarn online, but it’s always so hard to judge the colours on a computer screen. Besides, visiting a real brick-and-mortar (or in this case wood-and-glass) yarn shop is much more fun. Pink was what I wanted, but which pink?

Seeing them IRL I knew it straightaway – the palest shade top right.

I try not to buy yarn on a whim anymore, planning carefully what I want to make, what yarn will be most suitable, and how much I’ll need. But in spite of my best intentions, this naughty skein of sock yarn hopped into my shopping bag.

So irresistibly cheerful! I’m thinking of a pair of socks a little (or a lot) more intricate than my usual simple ones. Cables, perhaps, or a twisted stitch pattern, or… I don’t know. Suggestions welcome!

On the way back I stopped off at the village with the onion-shaped church steeple (I wrote about the legend behind it here.)

It’s always nice to take a stroll along the lanes. There are so many lovely spots…

… and beautiful houses.

In the past, the village was surrounded by essen – fertile, raised arable fields with a domed shape resulting from spreading many layers of manure and grass sods on them throughout the centuries. Housing estates have been built upon the essen, but in a place where a school was demolished there is now a small cornfield again.

This small, flower-filled cornfield won’t feed the world, but it does feed many birds, bees and butterflies.

Because by this time I couldn’t stop yawning, I did something I rarely do and treated myself to a cup of cappuccino before going home.

Ahhh, that did me a power of good – not just the cappuccino, but the entire little outing. Thank you for coming along. I really appreciate your company!

Knit Leaf Earrings and Pendant

Hello!

The past few days have been lovely, weatherwise. Quoting Goldilocks, neither too hot, nor too cold, but just right. Over the past two weeks we’ve had several hot days, though, with one when our outdoor thermometer reached 39 ˚C (102 ˚F) in the shade. Pffffff, waaaay too hot to have a pile of knitting on my lap (we don’t have an air conditioner). What is a person who can’t NOT knit to do on days like that?

Faced with that conundrum, I thought of knitting something really small. Some more of those Gift Leaves, but even smaller than the ones I knit before, for an earrings-and-pendant set. At first, I thought I’d use embroidery floss – all those lovely colours to choose from!

But that didn’t work as it is completely non-stretchy and terribly splitty (duh, that’s the essence of embroidery floss), which made knitting and especially a sl1-k2tog-psso-manoeuvre sheer torture. Rummaging around for something else, I came across some small remnants from my Tellina cowls. Remember them? (Click on images to enlarge.)

This what I had left after knitting two cowls:

Since then, I’ve used part of the leftover yarn for a Blogiversary Bag and a Soothing Sachet, but there was plenty left for this set (and more small future projects).

If you’d like to make a set, too, here’s what you’ll need and how to go about it.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • Two 1.25 mm/US 0000 knitting needles
  • Small quantity of fine fingering-weight yarn
  • Tapestry needle
  • Pair of ear wires
  • Metal or leather necklace

Optional:

  • Three 4 mm Ø and three 2 mm Ø beads
  • Sewing thread
  • Needle small enough to pass through smallest bead

The yarn I used was Manos del Uruguay ‘Fino’ (70% Merino; 30% Silk; 448 m/490 yds/100 g) in the colour Velvet Pincushion. The pendant took only 0.50 g and the earring leaves even less.

I used ear wires in this shape (the kidney-shaped ones and hoops will work as well, but not the ones with a small closed eye):

HOW TO KNIT THE LEAF EARRINGS AND PENDANT SET:

  1. Download the free Gift Leaves pattern from Ravelry.
  2. Knit 2 leaves size S for the earrings and 1 leaf size M for the pendant, knitting 2.5 cm/1” long stalks.
  3. Weave in the ends at the leaf tips. Use the yarn tail on the stalks to sew them into loops. For the earrings make the loops flat by sewing the beginning of the stalk next to where the stalk ends and the leaf begins. For the pendant fold the stalk in half towards the back of the leaf and fasten it behind the place where the leaf starts.
  4. If you like, sew on beads to resemble little raindrops drip-drip-dripping from the leaves. (I used clear glass beads with a silver lining and white sewing thread.) Fasten the sewing thread to the back of the leaf with a few small stitches and let it come out at the leaf tip. Pass the thread through the larger bead, then through the smaller bead, back through the larger bead and into the leaf tip. Fasten off at the back.

Knitting on these small needles is fiddly and for me required good, bright daylight. But it is really rewarding. For comparison, below you see a Gift Leaf in size M knit with ordinary sock/fingering-weight yarn on 2.5 mm/US 1 needles next to the pendant in size M knit with fine fingering-weight yarn on 1.25 mm/US 0000 needles.

Early one morning, while I was quietly knitting a leaf with the French windows wide open to let in as much cool air as possible, a young great tit came to visit. After fluttering around frantically for a bit, it alighted on the highest perch in our living room: the wooden eagle on top of a book case.

I was afraid it would hurt itself trying to get out, but between the two of us my husband and I were fortunately able to guide it back outside safe and sound.

These leaf earrings and pendant are quick little items to make for yourself or for gifts. One earring leaf took me about 30 minutes to knit, the pendant a little longer, plus a little time to sew on the beads. Here are a few pictures of me wearing them to give you a sense of scale.

Goodness, how I’ve aged since the Tellina pictures were taken just three years ago. Or is it that this picture lacks the rosy glow of the make-up I was wearing in the earlier pictures?

Here you can see how the stalk is fastened into a loop to make the leaf hang flat facing to the front:

And this photo shows how that is different for the pendant:

I chose green for my leaves, but who says that leaves need to be green? Why not choose a lovely autumnal colour, like warm red, fiery orange, bright yellow, or earthy brown? If you like making fiddly little things and are going to knit yourself or someone else a set of these, I wish you happy knitting!

Textile Cycle Tours 2

Hello, and welcome to the second day at the Weerribben Textile Festival!

Looking through the many, many photographs I’ve taken, making a selection was again a struggle. There were so many beautiful and interesting things to see. In the end, I’ve chosen to focus on the items that have made the most surprising use of materials.

Before we head off, here’s a picture to give you an idea of the landscape we’re cycling through.

We’re on the edges of the Weerribben National Park. It’s my ordinary, everyday landscape of farmland surrounded by hedgerows and small plots of woodland.

The first location we’re visiting is a gallery housed here:

Inside are multiple items by Atelier Vuurwater, a collaboration between a ceramist and a textile artist. You’ve already seen the bowls they call barstjes (cracks) at the top – cracked black raku-fired ceramic with a blue felt lining. And here are two of their urns in the same unusual combination of materials.

There are also several works solely by the textile-artist-half of this duo, Miriam Verbeek. These use only one material (felt), but in a very interesting way. They resemble old black-and-white photographs, but because of the way the felt has been manipulated they give the impression of fading, just like memories fade.

One of the nice things about cycling from location to location is that it prevents what is sometimes called ‘museum fatigue’. At our next stop, there’s this intriguing combination of acorn caps, organza, lycra, glue, wood, cardboard in a work called ‘Golden Days’ by Godelieve Spee.

It is accompanied by a poetic text about autumn and the changing of the seasons.

The next exhibit, by Janny Mensen (no website), uses different materials and techniques again: photographs transferred onto wood overlaid with embroidery. Studying it closely it looks to me like a naked female form in some sort of yoga pose, but I may be wrong. I like how the embroidery stitches resemble pine needles.

Well, time for some lunch. There are no cafés or restaurants along this part of the route, and all benches are already taken by other festival cyclists. So it’s sandwiches on the grass around the next location, I’m afraid. The locations vary from community buildings to private homes, campsites and churches. This is the church at Paasloo.

In one of the pews, there is a row of small cushions by Attje Oosterhuis:

They were made using scraps of antique silk and wool fabrics, lace, linen yarns, card and (curiouser and curiouser) bird’s nests and a bird skeleton (click on images below to enlarge):

The text embroidered in red says: ‘Let us pray for the animals… for the chickens… that they get more space and no flu… for the birds… that they take a detour… for the people… that they chase less growth…’

The next work, by Ilja Walraven, was actually on the route of the first day, but I felt it had to be included here because of the very unusual use of materials and objects: Chairs…

… with wine glasses and beakers filled with bits of sheep’s wool on the seats, arranged according to hue, from dark to light.

Is it art? It looks like it and it was made by a professional artist, so yes, I suppose so. Is it textile art? Hmmmm… And what does it MEAN? Does it matter what box it fits into? Does it matter what it means?

I also wonder why haven’t I seen a single stitch of knitting during these two days. Coincidence? Doesn’t it belong in the category textiles? Doesn’t it lend itself to art? And why do I feel drawn to making useful stuff instead of art?

Some of the things at the Weerribben Textile Festival have raised question marks. Some have made me smile or feel inspired. Others have evoked feelings of nostalgia. Some have even upset me, and I think that’s all good. Because isn’t that what art is all about – uplifting and challenging us?

Well, after this philosophizing let’s end on a light-hearted note, with whimsical collection by Erna Platel, using tins, maps, bits of ribbon and lace, buttons and other haberdashery:

The Weerribben Textile Festival will be held again in 2024. Check out the website for more information.

Textile Cycle Tours 1

Hello!

Every other year a textile festival is held on our doorstep and I’d never been. High time to rectify that, so this year I gave myself two whole days to cycle the two tours plotted by the organisation. Textile art was displayed in 18 indoor and outdoor locations in and around the Weerribben nature reserve.

Here is my impression of the first day, the route through the peat bog part of the area. From the literally hundreds of pictures I’ve taken, I’ve chosen exhibits that have a strong link with these watery surroundings, although they are by artists from all over the country.

Take these ferns by Rineke van Zeeburg – don’t they look as if they grow here naturally?

Monique Aubertijn made shapes from hessian using crochet and embroidery. Displayed in this location, the ones below look like fish traps from a fantasy film scene.

The same artist who made the big fern leaves from rough hessian, also makes exquisite art quilts. To the left ‘Poisonous Frog’ and to the right ‘Dragonfly’.

She told me that she dyes all fabrics herself. The longer I looked, the more I saw. Dragonflies inside the dragonflies, and machine embroidery that gives the impression of veins on the dragonfly wings and of water droplets around them.

These quilts look very much at home here, where many different kinds of dragonflies flit among the water lilies.

Along the water and opposite a campsite, there’s a strange pillar in shades of rust and blue.

The sign next to it says ‘Roadside Book’. Margriet van Vliet (no website) has created a fascinating object from many of those face masks carelessly dropped along the roadsides in recent years.

To get from A to B I’ve decide to deviate from the official route and follow the ‘100-bridges-cycle-track’ (as I’m secretly calling it) instead. There are not exactly 100 bridges to cross, but there are many.

Halfway along it is a perfect lunch spot. In the reed bed right behind the bench: the song of a reed warbler. In the distance: cuckoo, cuckoo.

To reach the next location, we need to wait for a bridge in the village of Kalenberg. € 2,20 per boat, the sign along the canal says. No debit cards here. The bridge keeper collects the fee in a wooden shoe…

… attached to a fishing rod.

At the next location, two works by the same artist, Helma van Kleinwee, evoked opposite emotions in me. The first one made me laugh out loud.

The second one is so subtle, that I hope you can see it on your screen. It’s a semi-transparent piece of fabric showing two human figures, moving in the wind between two pollarded willows. For me, it is a poignant image of our fragility. It made me think of the song ‘Dust in the Wind’ by Kansas. (The funny thing is that Dutch uses the same word for both dust and fabric: stof.)

Finally, here is a sketch of a tjasker by Monique ter Beeke (no website). Only, instead of charcoal she has chosen machine embroidery as her medium. The edges are sandwiched between layers of irregularly shaped glass. (Click on images to enlarge.)

It’s the same tjasker we’re passing along our route. (A tjasker is a small wooden windmill. In the past it was used for draining the land to make peat extraction easier. Now it is sometimes used for pumping water into the land to prevent it from drying out.)

Usually, I go on outings like these together with a friend. This time I went on my own. On the one hand, that gave me complete freedom, on the other I missed the company and talking about the artworks.

Sharing this day here is a way for me to process everything. I hope it’s also been fun and interesting for you reading this. I’m planning to write about day 2 next time and hope you’ll join me again then.

Places to Sit and Knit 4

Hello!

The last instalment in my series ‘Places to Sit and Knit’ was over 6 months ago, so high time for another one. It’s about an hour’s cycling from our home to get to the place I have in mind, along narrow roads and bicycle tracks. We’re cycling through Weerribben-Wieden National Park, the largest lowland bog in Northwest Europe.

It’s lovely, cycling here, but it’s also a warm day and I’m glad we’ve reached our destination. So, where exactly are we and why here? Well, look:

Today’s place to sit and knit is a very special bench in the village of Wanneperveen. The people living here have decorated it with mosaic, showing local highlights. The back shows a ewe with a lamb, a farmhouse, a bell tower and a monument with a stepped gable.

And this is what the front looks like:

We’re in an ordinary street, and the view from the bench isn’t very special either:

Today it’s all about the bench itself, or rather the Social Sofa, because that is what it is. The aim of the Social Sofa project is promoting social cohesion by working on a creative project together, as neighbours, and ending up with a beautiful place to meet and have a chat.

Here are some of the details that these people have so lovingly created together. Several black-and-white Friesian-Holsteins:

A mallard:

And a water lily flower, with leaves in many shades of blue and green, and the date:

I think it’s a lovely place to sit and knit and have a chat.

So, what is on your needles? Do you have anything on your needles at all? If not, why not? Do you feel uninspired or is it too hot for you to knit at this time of the year? What do you do if you’re not knitting? Crochet? Other crafts? Draw or write? Or do you give yourself a break from crafting and creativity? I’m really interested, so do leave a comment if you feel like it. If you don’t feel comfortable with that, just reading my writings quietly is fine, too.

And what have I got on  my needles? Nothing very interesting, really. To be honest, big life events, even good ones, always unbalance me. No matter how wonderful and positive the birth of our grandson was, it had that effect on me, too. For a while I felt totally uninspired. But my hands need something to do, so first of all I finished every WIP (Work In Progress) in the house. When there was absolutely nothing on my needles anymore, I started with some simple and familiar things. First of all the most basic of socks.

Yarns (from left to right): Zitron ‘Trekking XXL’ shade 104, Lana Grossa ‘Landlust Die Sockenwolle’ shades 503, 406 and 501, and Regia ‘City Streets Color 4-ply’ shade 02898.

The Landlust ones have strange memories attached to them. I bought the yarn during a lockdown last year, when non-essential shops were only open by appointment and no more than 2 customers were allowed in simultaneously. It seems like a long time ago. Will it remain a thing of the past?

The next simple thing I cast on for was a stocking stitch Library Vest (with pockets – I love pockets) by a familiar designer. I had some dark blue tweed yarn left over from a cardigan, and was able to get three more skeins (in the same dye lot, yay!).

It’s a really nice project, but I’m writing this on a hot day, with a thunderstorm threatening. And just looking at this picture makes me feel like: what was I thinking, starting this woolly, tweedy thing at the beginning of summer?

And here is the third simple and familiar thing I started – another Thús 2.

I’ve knit this tiny house lace pattern so often now, that I can knit it in my dreams. I’m very happy with this as a summer project. It’s a summery colour, not too big and warm on my lap, and I can easily take it along.

That’s all of my knitting at the moment. I think it’s time for something a little more interesting now, but what? A more complicated knitting project? A detour into another craft? I don’t know yet, but ideas are starting to bubble again.

What do you think, shall we cycle on?

As of next week I’ll be looking after our sweet little grandson one day a week, when our daughter is going back to work. I’ve already spent two days at his home as a trainee and feel fairly confident that I can do it.

I don’t know what this means for my blog, though. I may be able to keep on publishing a blogpost once a week as before, or less frequently, or less regularly, or shorter posts. One thing I do know is that I will keep blogging – I enjoy it too much not to.

For the next couple of posts I have planned some textiles-filled cycling tours. I hope I can find the time and also that you’ll join me again. Bye for now! xxx

Pyrus Blanket

Hello!

Do you do it too – Google anything and everything? Although I was tremendously looking forward to the birth of our first grandchild, I also felt slightly uncertain about my new role as a grandmother, having grown up without grandparents. So I Googled on ‘How to be a grandmother.’

Terribly silly, I know. Still, I found quite a few helpful tips. But also this one: ‘Whatever you do, DO NOT KNIT!’ That really had me in stitches. I’ve been knitting since I was five years old, and now I should stop?! Well, you can imagine that I disregarded that piece of ‘wisdom’.

For most of the things I knit to welcome our grandson I used existing patterns, but I also wanted to design something myself. And after much pondering, sketching and swatching, I came up with the blanket you’ve already seen at the top. Here is another photo of it folded:

And here it is spread out on the floor:

Our daughter’s becoming a mum inevitably made me think back to the time she was a baby herself. From the time she was just a few months old until the age of seven, another mum in our street with a daughter about the same age looked after her when I was working. She had a wonderful time with that family.

When we moved away to where we live now, I made them a patchwork cushion for a farewell present, embroidered with a tree and the words: ‘A family’s love shelters like a tree.’ Obviously I can’t show you the actual cushion, but here is a (slightly grainy) photo from the pattern magazine (Ariadne, June 1991).

I am well aware that not all families provide loving shelter, and also that some have only very few branches. But still, I love the sentiment, and it was what I was thinking of when I knit our grandson’s blanket. I called it Pyrus Blanket for the big old pear tree in our garden – a truly sheltering presence. (Pyrus is Latin for pear.)

The Pyrus Blanket is covered in the pear tree’s oval, sharp-tipped leaves. The branches of our pear tree spread out like a many-armed candelabra – nothing like the straight lace ladders in the blanket.

Those were inspired by an espaliered pear tree with vertical branches in De Fruithof.

De Fruithof is an orchard about 30 minutes cycling from our home with some 800 different historical fruit trees. It also has a 750 metre long espalier pear tree avenue.

I should, perhaps, have knit the blanket in pure white, to represent the pear tree’s blossoms.

But I’ve taken the artistic license to knit it in creamy, undyed wool, because that was what our grandson’s parents preferred.

The yarn I’ve chosen is Drops ‘Merino Extra Fine’ – a 100% wool DK-weight yarn that won’t break the bank, is machine-washable, super soft and shows up the stitch pattern beautifully. It also has the Oeko-Tex 100 Class 1 classification, a very strict standard that guarantees that the yarn is free of harmful substances and safe for babies and infants.

The Pyrus Blanket measures 75 x 100 cm (approx. 30 x 40”). All patterning is done in the right side rows, with relaxing purl rows on the wrong side. The garter stitch borders have a special edge stitch that I learnt from a girl in the hospital where we were both staying as young teenagers. Among the less pleasant memories, I have very happy ones of us knitting long colourful garter stitch scarves.

(For anyone who doesn’t know this edge stitch yet, I’m explaining it in the pattern.)

I don’t know if I would enjoy being called a tree hugger, but as a family, we do have a thing for trees. Our daughter has also painted a tree on the wall of her little son’s bedroom. When it’s not in use, his Pyrus Blanket often hangs on the back of the chair under that sheltering tree (not always so neatly folded, of course).

Well, that’s the story of my Pyrus Blanket. I have written up the pattern in both English and Dutch, and it can be found

here on Ravelry.

As always, thank you for reading. And should you decide to knit a Pyrus Blanket for a new arrival in your life, or as a gift to someone else: happy knitting!

Gift Leaves

Hello!

Do you remember my plan to knit all kinds of things from small bits of leftover sock yarn? My plans often take a long time to grow into something tangible, but after the Soothing Sachets here is the second project: Gift Leaves.

I’m calling them Gift Leaves for several reasons:

  • Because I’ve given myself the gift of time to play around with something not exactly useful.
  • Because I’ve written up the pattern as a gift to you.
  • Because the leaves themselves can be given away as gifts.

I’ve made them in three sizes: Small, Medium and Large:

With a length of approximately 6.5 cm/2.6” (excluding the stalk) the large leaves are still fairly small, but quite a bit larger than the small ones of only 4 cm/1.6”.

Fastening the beginning of the stalk to the base of the leaf to form a loop, the leaves can be used as gift tags.

Perhaps knit from the same yarn as the gift inside.

They can be fastened onto a zipper.

Or used to decorate jam jars with tealights inside for a quick, simple, inexpensive little gift.

And a medium-sized leaf with a looooong stalk can become a bookmark. Extra special given together with a book, with the leaf colours matching the book cover.

(The book is A Wood of One’s Own by Ruth Pavey, by the way. A gift I received from a friend.)

Solid colours look good. Self-striping yarn works, too, if the stripes are not too wide and the yarn sections used are chosen well. And I think especially some of those ‘busy’ hand-painted yarns are fun for Gift Leaves.

A free download of the pattern with plenty of colourful photos (in English en ook in het Nederlands) can be found

here on Ravelry

Together with a special skein of yarn, a print-out of the pattern might make a nice gift for a knitting friend, too.

Have fun! Xxx

Woad Handbook

Hello!

There is no knitting to show you at the moment, I’m afraid. I’m busy writing up a new pattern and finishing a small and hopefully fun project from sock yarn leftovers that I hope to share with you soon. Until then, I thought I’d write about the Woad Handbook I’ve recently read. (For any of you who have missed my earlier posts about it here and here, woad is a dye plant that gives beautiful shades of blue.)

The word ‘handbook’ suggests a hefty tome, but Oud blauw: wede handboek/Rediscovering Blue: Woad Handbook is, in fact, a slender 15 x 21 cm/6 x 8” booklet.

Despite its small size, it really is a complete handbook. In both Dutch and English it covers everything from a brief history of woad dyeing, to instructions for growing and using woad.

The booklet also tells us about Eise Eisinga, an 18th Century Frisian wool-comber, who didn’t just comb wool, but also traded in it and dyed it. This very interesting person, who as a hobby built an amazing planetarium, has left us his notebooks including his woad recipes. It is fun to try and decipher his handwriting in the fragment that is included in the booklet. The words blau (blue) and Indigo immediately jump out.

Even for people like me, who do not intend to do a lot of woad dyeing, it is an interesting read. And for me just looking at a page with yarn samples of the authors’ dyeing experiments makes the booklet worth having.

This woad booklet is part of the Pleed (pronounced as and meaning plaid) initiative, a community project aimed at using local wool to make things instead of treating it as waste and… well, this is what they stand for in their own words:

My attempt at growing woad wasn’t very successful in the first year. Slugs ate most of the leaves that should have been used in a dye vat. In the second year, the plants unexpectedly flourished and flowered profusely.

Unfortunately the plants do not contain any usable pigment at this stage. It is a biennial plant and only the first-year leaves can be used for dyeing. Never mind, at least I learnt a lot about woad and I will now recognize the plant anywhere. It looks very similar to (and is related to) oil-seed rape, only the leaves have a different shape and the flowers are finer.

My plants are now setting seed. A lot of it.

I could grow acres of woad plants with all those seeds, only I don’t have acres. I’ve heard that the seeds can also be used for dyeing. That might be worth looking into.

The Woad Handbook can be ordered through the Pleed website here (scroll down for an e-mail form). The Pleed people are also organizing an exhibition about the history and future of Dutch wool at the Frisian Agricultural Museum. Information about the exhibition 100% wol can be found here (again, please scroll down). Don’t despair if you live too far away – I hope to visit and write about it sometime during the summer.

Here are a few other links for anyone interested in woad:

I hope this was interesting even for non-dyers. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be back with a small gift for you next week. Hope to see you then!

Joure Wool Festival 2022

Hello!

Together with a friend, I visited the annual Wool Festival in Joure last weekend. We had a great time and (not entirely unexpectedly) saw LOTS of wool. There were bundles of curly locks, bags filled with raw fleeces, and cleaned and carded batts of wool from specific Dutch sheep breeds, like Texel, Dutch milk sheep, Kempen heath sheep and Dutch piebald sheep.

There was also wool from many other breeds of sheep, single or in blends, undyed or dyed.

I remember a time, not so very long ago, when I could only get raw Texel fleeces, and later some merino from Australia. It is amazing how much the wool landscape has changed over the past decade or so, and how much more local wool is available and appreciated now.

I don’t know why, but there was no sheep shearing this year. There were other fleeces walking around on four legs, though.

Don’t they have the sweetest faces?

There was also wool in the form of yarn, of course – machine-spun and hand-dyed, hand-spun and dyed and hand-spun in natural colours.

And then there were things made from wool. Adorable hedgehog mittens, Scandinavian and Latvian inspired mittens, and felted and woven items (click on images to enlarge).

Among all the animal fibres, there was also one plant fibre present: flax. “The Frisian Flax Females are spinnin’ flax into linen” the notice board, decorated with a bundle of flax, said.

Very interesting! Spinning flax into linen is very different from spinning wool into yarn. The flax fibres are kept from tangling by placing them on a distaff. On the rack to the right of the spinner you can see a few of the towels woven from the hand-spun linen.

The spinner keeps her hands close to the flax on the distaff and feeds the fibre onto the spinning wheel in short drafts.

And do take a closer look at the spinner’s traditional cap.

More information about flax, and how it is spun and woven can be found on one of the spinners’ website. It is in Dutch, but if you have Google as a browser, you can right-click on the text and have it translated.

And then, in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of the market, a quiet corner with an elderly couple. She is spinning and he is keeping her company.

They are both made from wool, needle felted and wet felted. And they are part of the project Gewoan Minsken (Frisian for Simply People). Artist Lucie Groenendal portrayed the people living and working in a care home by felting, drawing and painting them.

These are just two of them, with to the right in the photo above a work called Helping Hands. More about this beautiful project can be seen and read on the artist’s website.

I’m ending today’s post with the answer given by one of the people portrayed to the question what makes life worth living:

“Look for the good in people, enjoy the things you do, and know that growing old is a search for a new balance.”

xxx

PS: The general website of Joure Wool Festival can be found here, and a list of participants here.