Sheep Shearing

There’s been a lot of sheep shearing going on around here during the past couple of months. Often it’s just a solitary farmer shearing his own sheep in his own farm yard. The farmer above is shearing one of his Texel sheep. He keeps them for meat, like all of our local farmers. The wool is just a by-product, shorn off quickly with electric clippers, stuffed into bags and shipped off to China.

But we also have sheep shearing festivals, where wool plays a much more prominent role. I’ve been to two of these, and here’s a compilation of what I’ve seen.

Below you see the Holtinger Schaapskudde, 630 sheep kept together by one of the sheep dogs.

These Drenthe Heath sheep are kept for landscape management, grazing on saplings and keeping the heathland open. I’ve written about this herd and their ‘job’ before in this post.

As you can see, most of them have already lost their warm, white, brown, grey or black winter coats.

A small group of sheep has been herded into a pen. Now it’s their turn to be shorn. Visitors to the festival can point out which fleeces they want.

The wool is especially suitable for felting, and some visitors will be coming back to take part in one of the felting workshops given on the premises.

The sheep they’ve chosen is then dragged out from among the others. It is placed in a rather unflattering upright position first, and the shearer starts clipping around its neck.

After that the sheep is laid down on its side, and the shearer frees it from one half of its fleece, turns it over and then removes the other half.

This particular sheep kept very still, and didn’t seem stressed at all. I think it’s because the shearer is very experienced. And he uses hand shears, unlike the farmer at the top of this post. Perhaps that’s less stressful for the sheep, too?

I took the picture below, of an onlooker’s feet, especially for my readers in other parts of the world:

Yes, some of us actually do wear wooden shoes! They’re light, warm, comfortable to wear and even count as official safety footwear. I’ve worn them a lot, and our daughter did too as a small child. (She prefers Jimmy Choos now, though.)

Apart from the actual sheep, there’s a lot of other woolly goodness on offer at these festivals. Fleeces for spinning and felting from various sheep breeds:

And also lots of lovely hand-made things. I particularly liked these felted slippers, decorated with beads:

Some people brought along their spinning wheels. This spinner told me that she spun all the yarn for the rainbow of cabled ponchos on the rack next to her, but that somebody else did the dyeing and knitting.

In the photo above you can hardly see the cables, so here’s another one. This one’s taken from the front and shows the stitches and the construction better:

Colourful and cosy, aren’t they?

I thought all sheep shearing would be done by now, but I just found out that there’s another sheep shearing festival and wool market next weekend. If you’re in the area, it’s on Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st of July 2019 at the Shepherds of Balloo. More information can be found here. Judging by the list of participants, it’s going to be a big event.

To close off, here’s a close-up of one of the Drenthe Heath sheep. I think they are just so photogenic, don’t you agree?

Sweet Peas and Summer Knitting

Before launching into a discourse on summer knitting yarns and projects, I just have to show you our sweet peas first. They are doing so well. In just a few weeks they grew from tiny little seedlings to tall flowering plants.

I expected lots of different pastel shades, but almost all of our sweet pea flowers are the same – a velvety dark purple combined with a deep burgundy. In reality the colours are even darker than in the pictures. Very different from what I expected, but lovely nevertheless.

Among the dark flowers, there are a few pale pink ones:

We have to keep picking them if we want the plants to keep producing flowers throughout the summer months. So, from now on there will be posies of sweet peas on our table, perfuming the room with their heavenly scent. Simply luxurious!

That’s one thing I like about summer – sweet peas. They’ll go on my list.

List? What list? Well, summer is my least favourite season. I know this may sound weird, as most people seem to love it, but the truth is that I don’t feel at my best during the summer months. For years I’ve tried to ignore it and told myself to stop moaning. But this year I’m trying to find out exactly what makes me feel this way, so that I can do something about it. Plus I’m making a list of things that I do like about summer, and sweet peas definitely deserve a place on it.

One of the things I’ve found out so far, is that I miss my knitting. When temperatures rise, I tend to put my knitting aside, because the yarn is too warm in my hands and on my lap. I find other things to do instead, like reading and crochet. But that’s not quite enough for me. I still miss my knitting!

So what would make knitting possible on hot days? After giving it some thought I came up with two simple criteria:

  1. Yarn for summer knitting should be either cool and crisp or fine (and have zero mohair content), so that it doesn’t stick to clammy palms
    AND/OR
  2. Projects for summer knitting should be small, so that they don’t feel like a warm blanket on one’s lap

Pretty obvious, really. With these two criteria in mind, I first looked at what I had in my stash and came up with some leftover yarns that I could use for small projects. This is some yarn left over from a shawl I once knit:

It’s Tosh Merino Light in five matching shades. I’m using these little balls for another Tellina cowl. This yarn doesn’t fall into the category ‘cool and crisp’, but it’s smooth and fairly fine, so OK for small projects even on warm days.

The yarn I used for the original version was a fine fingering-weight. Now I want to try the pattern out in some heavier fingering-weight yarns, like the Tosh Merino Light you see here.

After finishing the purpley one, I am also going to make one from some average, ordinary fingering-weight sock yarn:

By knitting several versions, I’m testing out how many stitches and how many rows are needed to get approximately the same size cowl with various yarns. I think it’ll be a great little project for all kinds of leftovers.

As I didn’t have any yarn worth speaking of in the category ‘cool and crisp’, I browsed around on the internet and in a brick-and-mortar yarn shop. Usually I don’t give the ‘cotton corner’ a glance, but this time I specifically headed for it. And although I think I will always prefer wool, I must say that I found some beautiful non-wool yarns, too. There are so many summery yarns available now! Not just all kinds of cotton, but also linen, hemp, viscose, yarn spun from recycled jeans and much more.

In the end I chose a mixture of cotton and linen in plain white:

It’s going to be a plain white Tee. Do you remember that band, The Plain White T’s? With their sweet song ‘Hey There Delilah’? That’s the song that I’ll be humming when I’m knitting this oversized summery T-shirt.

Another idea for summer knitting that ticks all the boxes comes from a comment on a recent blog post left by Marieke. She recommends a booklet by Helle Benedikte Neigaard:

It’s a charming, inexpensive booklet that’s widely available, and I bought it straightaway. Thank you for the tip Marieke! In English it’s entitled Easy Knit Dishcloths. (When adding the link, I discovered that it’s not all that inexpensive in English – Sorry.)

Handknit dishcloths seem to be a Scandinavian thing – I’ve come across them in Norwegian and Danish books and magazines before. This booklet is also by a Danish author. And I recently heard about a Danish designer who built up an entire yarn emporium around these humble cloths. What’s the attraction? I’m going to find out!

Finally, I’ve bought a big yarn cake in a colour gradient:

It’s cotton, and I’m going to use it for a new design I’m working on. I’ve already knit it twice, but want to try it out in at least one other yarn before I publish it.

Uhm, exactly how many weeks does a summer have again? Together with the cooler weather knits still on my needles and the shawl with a crochet border I wrote about last week, I now have so many plans for summer projects that it’s beginning to look slightly unrealistic that I’ll actually finish them all. Well, we’ll see. At least I feel good about using up some leftover yarn, and I’m very happy to have so much to look forward to.

All around us, people are busy packing for their holidays. We aren’t, because we’ve decided to stay home this year. We will be taking some time off, though, for a ‘staycation’. That may mean that I’ll be blogging less frequently or on different days of the week, or write shorter blog posts. Or maybe I’ll continue as usual. I just don’t know yet. So if things are different, or you’re not hearing from me for a while, don’t worry. I’m just sitting in the garden, knitting, reading, enjoying the flowers and the birds, and gathering fresh inspiration.

Whether you’re going away or staying at home, I wish you a happy and relaxing summer!

Summer Crochet, an Incident and an Accident

Hello again! This time it’s a bit cooler in our little corner of the world than last week. But summer has just started, and we’re sure to get some more hot days, so I’ve been thinking about suitable warm weather projects.

Summer crochet

As I wrote last week, I often switch over to crochet in summer. I don’t know why exactly. Is it because the materials I use for crochet are more summery? Is it because the crochet projects I choose are usually small and portable? Is it because I have more time for focused attention and more light for fiddly techniques? Probably a bit of everything.

I love the act of crochet. The movement, the rhythm, following intricate schematics, making something very fine. But it’s hard to find projects that I really like. Do I want a crocheted sweater or crocheted socks? Not really. I do like some crochet blankets, but apart from modular blankets, with small pieces joined together later, I wouldn’t call them summer projects. Just imagine having a blanket in progress on your lap when it’s around 30°C!

A crochet scarf

But here are some really summery crochet projects that I’ve made or am planning to make. First of all there’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’:

I made this fabulous scarf a couple of years ago, during a holiday in Germany. Crocheted into it are memories of early morning birdsong, mountain walks, sunny vineyards and cosy rainy evenings. Bohemian Rhapsody is made from 75 (!) colours of naturally dyed yarn. The yarn was dyed by Renaissance Dyeing, a small company based in the Southwest of France, and is available as a kit complete with pattern.

The yarn arrived in the form of mini-skeins. I had a lot of fun playing around with them before winding the yarn onto embroidery floss bobbins:

It is a woolen yarn, but so light that it is no problem to work with during warmer periods. This is a project that never gets boring. There are blocks in three different sizes – Large, Medium and Small. These three blocks have different motifs, and are attached by the ‘join-as-you-go’ method in various combinations. The pattern is available in English as well as in Dutch and has very clear instructions.

More crocheted scarves

Talking about crocheted scarves, I saw some beautiful ones by Sophie Digard last week, during a stay with a friend in Maastricht, in the ‘far’ south of our country. We were strolling through the lovely cobbled streets of her city when I spotted one of Sophie’s amazing scarves in a shop window. The friendly shop owner allowed me to open some special drawers with glass covers displaying them. I didn’t feel comfortable taking photographs without buying anything, but if you’d like to get an impression, you can see an array of inspirational pictures here.

These shawls are very expensive. That doesn’t mean that they’re not worth the money, though. They’re all handmade, and they’re all unique. Just think of all the hours that have gone into those tiny stitches. Way above my budget, but that doesn’t matter. Just looking at them is so inspiring!

An incident

I’m sorry to say that I can’t show you any photographs of Maastricht’s beauty spots at all, because my camera was nicked at the railway station on the way back. It was ‘just’ a small point-and-shoot camera, but it was MY small point-and-shoot camera! Fortunately I already have a new one exactly the same. And fortunately the memories of this lovely time with my friend were not just on my camera, but are also safely imprinted on my mind. An unpleasant incident at the end of an otherwise wonderful visit. Well, things like that happen. Let’s get back to more crochet ideas.

Hankies

Over the years I’ve crocheted many, many borders around hankies. I know they’re rather old-fashioned, but they’re so nice to make. I love this kind of very fine crochet. I’ve given many of them away, but here are a few of them that are in my pockets every day. I don’t blow my nose on them – I use them for cleaning my glasses.

Every year I choose a crochet project to work on during our summer holiday. Sometimes it’s something very special, like the Bohemian Rhapsody scarf. But it can also be something very simple.

Potholders

Last year I made some ordinary striped potholders. Nothing fancy, but I like making them. And we regularly need new ones because they tend to get burnt.

I have no idea where the pattern comes from – probably from my mum. There are several similar patterns on Ravelry, although I seem to be using thicker yarn.

Shawl with crochet border

For this year’s summer holiday project I’ve chosen a shawl with a crochet border. The shawl itself is from a very thin woven wool fabric – it’s just the border that’s crocheted.

The shawl is called ‘Oda’ and the materials were dyed by local dyer Lindelicht. The fabric and the yarn were dyed in the same pot, so that they match beautifully. Marianne, the person behind this micro-business only dyes very small quantities, which she sells at crafts markets.

Well, I hope that has given you some inspiration for crochet projects. Now on to the accident I mentioned in the title.

An accident

While I was away in Maastricht, one of the young house martins I wrote about before fell out of one of the nests high up under the eaves of our roof. My husband found it next to our chicken coop. The little creature couldn’t fly yet and had apparently crawled there for some company. Just look at the fluffy little thing:

Awww.

In a natural environment it would die. That’s the way it goes. But what was my husband to do? He couldn’t very well just leave it to die, could he? It was impossible to return the chick to its nest, because that was too high up to reach safely. And besides, which family did it belong to, and how do you stuff a house martin back into its nest?

In the end he picked the little chick up and called the Animal Ambulance, a wonderful institution run by volunteers. They arrived promptly, said they had recently taken a chick just like it to a bird rescue centre, and also that they expected this one to survive. Well, let’s hope so.

Summer knitting

Meanwhile I’ve also been looking around for summer knitting projects. I already have some ideas and expect to write about them next time.

Have a lovely week!

Note: This post isn’t sponsored in any way. I just like writing about beautiful things and the people who make them possible.