Gazelle Mitts

Hello!

Thank you so much for all your kind and supportive words after last week’s post, here and through other channels. While I’m writing this, we’re waiting for the plaster on our walls to dry with as many doors and windows open as possible. I’m using this quiet interlude before the next stage (ceiling repairs) for some focused work, and I’ve finally finished my pattern for a pair of fingerless mitts. Or rather, two pairs.

Meet the Gazelle Mitts!

I’ll explain why I photographed them on a cycling map and with a thermos flask further on. First a little about the design.

Taking the inherited knitting sampler I’ve written about before as a starting point, I began visualizing, drawing, thinking, calculating and swatching. After lots of swatches and prototypes I was ready to knit the final mitts in a single-coloured and a two-coloured version. I already had the yarn, but kept changing my mind about which colours to use for which version.

Red and cream together and blue on its own? Or blue and cream together and red on its own? In the end I asked your advice, and you were unanimous: Blue and cream for the two-colour version and red on its own.

So that is how I knit them.

The red single-colour mitts combine three knit-and-purl stitch patterns from the sampler. For the palm of the hand, I used the sampler’s diagonals.

For the back of the hand, I took the zigzags and mirrored them to make diamonds.

And a two-by-two knit-and-purl rib with purl ridges was perfect for the cuffs and thumbs. Only I changed it into a three-by-two rib to link it up with the diagonals and diamonds.

Although they look very different, the two-colour mitts are basically the same. They have the same diagonals and diamonds, and the same ribbing on cuffs and thumbs. Only this time instead of knit and purl stitches on the palm and back of the hands the patterns are knit entirely (no purling) and picked out in different colours.

Diagonals on the palms…

… and diamonds on the backs of the hands.

With bicycle rides on chilly days in mind, I named the mitts for my trusty Gazelle bicycle, my friend for over 15 years.

It gives me a sense of freedom and keeps me fit. I’m very much attached to it and not yet ready to trade it in for an e-bike like many people do nowadays.

We (well, mainly my husband – thank you!) took most of the pictures for this post along one of my favourite stretches of bicycle track. It meanders through the wood just outside our village.

For the picture below, I’ve pulled up my coat sleeve to show you the nice and snug cuff.

And here is a picture of my bicycle bell. It not only shows you the construction of the mitt’s thumb, but also tells you what my favourite beverage is. If I place my thumb on the teapot spout and release it, it gives off a sharp PING!

On longer bicycle rides, I often bring a thermos flask of tea. (Just for me – my husband prefers coffee.) Coffee-and-tea-to-go places have sprung up during the past year even around here, but they are still few and far between. And anyway I prefer my own.

The Gazelle Mitts can be knit on a set of double-pointed needles or on long circulars using the Magic Loop method. Personally, I prefer double-pointed needles for the cuffs and thumbs…

… and the Magic Loop method for the hands.

The yarn I’ve used is Brooklyn Tweed ‘Peerie’. One 50-gram skein for the single-colour mitts. And two 50-gram skeins in different colours for the two-colour version, with enough yarn left for a second pair with the colours reversed.

The Gazelle mitts can, of course, be knit in different yarns – I think that for instance many sock yarns are suitable. But should you decide to knit them, make sure your yarn is the same weight (fingering), and is smooth with a good stitch definition. And always check your gauge.

For those of you who’d like to make a pair,

The pattern for the Gazelle Mitts can be found here on Ravelry
(available in English and Dutch, also to non-Ravelry members)

There is more information there on needles & notions, finished measurements etcetera. I’ve done my utmost to make the pattern as clear as possible. Apart from detailed instructions, photographs of the mitts, and charts for the diagonals and diamonds, I’ve also included a photo tutorial for the ‘afterthought’ thumb.

Well, that’s all about my Gazelle Mitts for now. If you have any questions, please leave a comment here or contact me through Ravelry (my Ravelry name is MerulaDesigns). As always, thank you for reading!

Upheaval

Hello again!

Last time I was here on my blog, I told you that I have a lot on my plate at the moment. The picture of our hallway above gives an indication of one of the things on it. No, we’re not moving house. Let’s take a look at our living room for further clues.

Redecorating? Nope, not redecorating either. Or sort of, but not voluntarily. Actually, it’s more restoring than redecorating.

Last autumn, a concrete sheet pile wall was hammered into the soil a little ways away from our house with so much force that it felt like a minor earthquake and cracks appeared in our walls.

This is just a small, elegant crack that only needs some filler. In other places the plaster needs to be hacked away and restored entirely. Fortunately the #@*&%#! company that caused the damage is insured, but for us it’s still a lot of upheaval, noise, dust etc.

Just like the house, I’m thoroughly shaken, but trying to be philosophical about it. Compared to the bombed houses in Syria or Iraq we sometimes see on the news, this is absolutely nothing. Besides, we’re lucky that our bedroom was left unscathed. I’m acting as if it’s a room in a boutique hotel. Room service is lacking, but unlike the rest of the house, it is warm. It also has a good bed and exactly the books I love beside it, as well as a perfect knitting chair where I can spend the evenings knitting.

During the daytime, I can also sit outside if I have a few moments to spare. It’s still rather chilly, but the back of the cardigan I’m knitting has grown so fast that it’s like a small, cosy lap blanket.

The pattern I’m using is Modern Wrapper Fine. I’ve made one before and knew that it would be perfect comfort knitting during this period of upheaval.

The garden is also giving me some solace. The pear tree and the Amelanchier are opening their first blossoms, and the wood anemones and wild garlic are lighting up a slightly shady area.

Another project that is growing, albeit more slowly than the cardi, is my linen stitch wrap in Felted Tweed. I love the way linen stitch always blends colours together. (The white row at the bottom is a provisional cast-on I’ll write more about when I can find the time.)

Knit, yarn forward, slip, yarn backward. Knit, yarn forward, slip, yarn backward… A great way to meditate.

One of the books beside my bed in the ‘boutique hotel room’ is brand new – Mine Strikkede Favoritter by Norwegian designer Sidsel Høivik.

From the foreword I gather that, as well as new designs, it contains several re-knits from her other books. I don’t have any of her other books, so that’s fine. If you do, check if you still need this one. The difference with her other books is that they are entirely in Norwegian and this one is bilingual (Norwegian and English).

Sidsel’s signature style is traditional Norwegian with a twist. She uses lots of embellishments on her designs, like embroidery, beads, sequins and ribbons. The book contains patterns for sweaters, cardigans and several accessories. My favourite design is a long cardigan with traditional Setesdal patterns on the upper part of the body and the sleeves, with embroidery on the star motifs, a nice length, pockets and a cosy collar.

All of the yarns used in the book are from Hillesvåg Ullvarefabrikk, the small Norwegian family-run spinning mill I visited years ago and wrote about in this blog post. I bought my copy from a small yarn shop 20 minutes cycling from here. It is also available from Sidsel Høiviks own website, which offers kits for her lovely designs as well.

Well, that’s all from me for now. The builders will still be here next week and the week after, but I hope that I’ll become used to all the upheaval (and also that the other things on my plate will shrink) soon, so that I’ll be able to go back to blogging as usual. Maybe I’ll even be able to finish and publish my new pattern! Or am I now being too optimistic?

Anyhow, I hope you’re safe and well. Take care! xxx

Knitting Sampler Reconstruction

While for some of you Summer is coming to an end (hello New Zealand and Australia!) we’re moving into the milder weather of Spring. At least in theory. I have been able to pick a small posy of spring flowers from the garden to brighten up the hallway…

… but over the Easter weekend, the weather didn’t look much like Spring at all. Brrr, it was close to freezing, with strong winds and hail storms.

Our chickens loved it! To them, hailstones are like sweets falling from the sky – white instead of multicoloured hundreds-and-thousands.

After their winter break, the chickens are providing us with plenty of eggs again. Usually, their eggs are slightly smaller than the average shop-bought egg, but recently they surprised us with two quail-sized ones.

Surprise mini-egg, normal Frisian chicken egg, shop-bought egg (with home-made decoration)

We’re not as keen on hailstones as our chickens are, but wrapped up warmly we went for walks in a deserted town and a blissfully quiet wood. Also, it was ideal weather for snuggling up indoors, eating chocolate bunnies…

… and knitting. I have finished a reconstruction of a knitting sampler.

As you may know from a previous blog post, I’ve inherited a knitting sampler with 10 different knit-and-purl stitch patterns. I thought knitting a reconstruction would be a good way to get better acquainted with the stitch patterns and the sampler in general.

The original sampler was knit from cotton on small needles. Mine is knit from wool on 4.0 mm (US 6) needles. I omitted the edge stitches, but for the rest I tried to copy the original as closely as possible, casting on the same number of stitches and knitting the same number of rows for each stitch pattern.

The original sampler is 90 cm (35.5”) long and 9-12 cm (3.5-4.75”) wide, and weighs 53 grams.
My reconstruction is 188 cm (74”) long and 20 cm (8”) wide, and weighs 203 grams.

The stitch patterns include seed stitch, several kinds of ribbing and the mini blocks I used for my Monogrammed Guest Towel.

There is some brioche as well, and there are diagonals, zigzags, diamonds and triangles.

And also the initials I, EW and GW. As I wrote before, I think ‘I’ knit the sampler, and ‘EW’ and ‘GW’ were her parents.

Copying the knitted initials made me realize that they were, in fact, constructed of the same blocks used in the mini-block stitch pattern. Small blocks of 3 stitches by 4 rows, alternately showing the right and the wrong side of stocking stitch.

What was hardest for me to figure out, was the row of eyelets at the end of the brioche stitch section. It took me quite a few tries to get them exactly the same.

Although this is a small, fairly simple sampler, it must have taken ‘I’ many hours to knit. Did she enjoy it, or was it torture? Judging by the regularity of the stitches and the way all of the stitch patterns were finished to a balanced number of rows, I have the impression that she rather enjoyed the process. My guess is also that this was not her very first attempt at knitting.

Knitting this reconstruction, I have become convinced that the sampler really was a practice piece, and not made for decorative purposes. Although the knitting is neat, there are a few errors. And what’s more, there are strange, overplied yarn ends sticking out of the brioche section…

… and there are knots in several places around the letter ‘I’.

Did the knitter run out of yarn, so that she had to use up every last centimetre/inch available?

All in all, knitting this reconstruction was an interesting exercise. Although I haven’t found out yet who ‘I’ was, I have the feeling that I’ve got to know her a little better. I wonder if she used this sampler as an example for many items for herself and her family.

In spite of the simplicity of the sampler, I see endless possibilities. In the fingerless mitts I’m working on and hope to show here soon, I’ve combined 3 of the stitch patterns. I have a lot on my plate at the moment and may not have time to write a blog post about them (or anything else) next week. I’m not entirely sure how things will go, but I’ll be back as soon as I can.

Bye for now and take care!

Time Slot

Fun, aren’t they, these colourful knitted chickens? They live in the shop window of ‘t Ryahuis, one of the oldest (or the oldest?) yarn shops in the country. It was founded in 1963 by current owner Liane’s Mum and named for a Swedish craft form called rya that was popular back then. I think it is some sort of rug hooking, but correct me if I’m wrong.

Today, hardly anybody knows what rya is anymore, but every knitter around here knows ‘t Ryahuis. This (below) isn’t the best of pictures, and it doesn’t do the lovely window display justice, but it gives an impression of the outside of the shop.

All non-essential shops have been closed here from mid-December. If I’d been on the committee deciding what an essential shop is things would have been different, but as it was ‘t Ryahuis had to close its doors too. Fortunately, we can now book a time slot at ‘non-essential’ shops. It has to be booked at least 4 hours in advance, there can be no more than 2 customers in a shop at any one time, and the time slot has to be for a minimum of 10 minutes.

When Liane e-mailed me that the yarn I’d ordered had arrived, I immediately booked a time slot. Fortunately it was a lot more generous than those 10 minutes and I had enough time to browse around and take loads of pictures to share with you.

Let’s start with some yarn.

Ahhh, doesn’t it feel good just to look at… well, yarn? (I may be slightly deranged, but for me it feels so good to just look at all the colours and textures.) There’s some tweed there, some mohair, some alpaca and even a few sequins.

Every yarn shop has its own signature. One of the special things about ‘t Ryahuis is that they have many, many knitted shop samples to look at for inspiration or to try on.

There is this rack, and another one like it…

… shawls and scarves hanging or lying around everywhere…

… and there are several torsos and mannequins showing off knitwear.

I don’t know what cardigan this lady is wearing, but the shawl is a Stephen West design. I’m not entirely sure, but I think it is Vertices Unite.

While I was browsing around, a parcel was delivered and I heard Liane exclaim, ‘Yay, it’s from our knitter! That was quick!’ The summer top in it was immediately put on one of the mannequins.

It is knit in a linen yarn and the pattern is from the latest issue of Lang Fatto a Mano.

One other customer had booked a time slot at the same time. She needed some yarn and had a question about casting off a huge shawl (I think it was over 2 metres long) she was knitting for her daughter. While she (right) and Liane (left) were looking at it, I quickly snapped a picture (asking permission, of course).

It is a Rowan design, knit in their Alpaca Classic. And I can tell you, it doesn’t only look gorgeous, it is also unbelievably soft.

Apart from us, customers, and Liane, there was somebody else there as well – shop dog Ollie.

Sadly, Ollie met with an accident several years ago and will have to wear braces on two of his legs for the rest of his life. He is such a gentle and calming presence in the shop.

I don’t want to make this too long, because I want to show you a bit of the village, too, but there are a few more things I just have to show you.

During normal times, the shop hosts lots of knitting workshops and knit-‘n-natter groups. People will be sat around this table now covered in knitting books and yarns.

Even the lamp has a knitted shade, and two mannequins wearing knitted items (what else?) are looking on.

One of them has a Kaffe Fasset scarf around her neck…

… and the other one is wearing a light and fluffy cream sweater with subtle colour details and a lace scarf.

I didn’t ask, but looking at it, I think that the sweater is a Marianne Isager design.

Finally, let’s take a look at what is tucked away on top of this wall of yarn.

Hidden just out of sight in the top left corner is a row of hats.

And next to them a collection of knitted monkeys, bears and mice designed by Anita from Zij Maakt Het. Another one of her monkeys, called Saar, is in the shop window looking out. Do check out Anita’s website. Her stuffed toys are adorable and very cleverly constructed.

Well, time’s up. For more information about ‘t Ryahuis, please visit their website. They don’t sell all of their yarns online, but they do have a webshop for Isager yarns, and another one for knitting kits.

Because it was such mild and sunny weather and I had the entire afternoon to myself, I took a stroll through the village afterwards. The village of Zuidlaren is famous for its annual horse fair.

As you may know, I love looking at beautiful houses, and there are enough of those here. In the traditional farmhouse style…

… as well as many other styles.

I walked to the small harbour at the end of the village…

… because I wanted to take a look at the mill museum.

Like just about everything else, it was closed, but still nice to take a look at from the outside. The mill dates from 1851 and used to grind grain and spices, and press oil from flax seed.

Walking back to the car, I passed a flower shop. Flower shops are the only shops considered ‘semi-essential’. Like most other shops, they are closed to customers inside (apart from time slots now), but they can sell their wares outside.

Those lemons can’t be real, surely?

Well, I think that was a fabulous outing. I hope you’ve enjoyed it too. Oh, and here is my ‘loot’.

Rowan Kidsilk Haze and Fine Lace for a cardigan, Isager Bomulin for a summer top, and some Regia sock yarn. That should keep me busy for a while.

Wishing you a relaxed weekend. Don’t forget to take a snooze now and then! Xxx

Note: My blog isn’t sponsored. I just like writing about yarn and believe in supporting small and local businesses, especially during these difficult times.

Knit on, with Confidence and Hope

Hello! And how are you all doing? It’s always slightly frustrating to me that a blog is mainly one-way traffic. I hear a little about some of you from your own blogs, through comments, or via other channels, but on the whole it’s well-nigh impossible to have a real two-way conversation here. I just want to let you know that it isn’t because I’m not interested.

Over here, in the Netherlands, there are more and more signs of spring. The scillas in our garden are flowering profusely, and we only ever planted 1 single scilla bulb about two decades ago. The trees are still bare, but a few branches blown from our pear tree in a storm and brought indoors are delighting us with their delicate flowers.

And the daffodils on a roundabout I often pass are a cheering sight.

On a different note, we’ve just had another press conference from our (outgoing) Prime Minister and our Minister of Health about the Covid situation, and the national elections are behind us. Both have left me worried. But I refuse to despair and, as always, am living by Elizabeth Zimmermann’s motto:

“Knit on, with confidence and hope, through all crises.”
(Wool Gathering #10, 1974)

I am making good progress on the fingerless mittens I’m designing myself…

… and am hoping they’ll turn out the way they look in my mind’s eye. Designing something is exciting and fun, but for me also surrounded with doubt and uncertainty.

It’s different with sock knitting. After knitting innumerable pairs, I’m entirely confident that they’ll turn out right. I’ve just finished a pair in a stripe sequence designed by Arne and Carlos, and am now knitting a pair in a subtly striped yarn with cashmere in shades of red, pink and orange.

I’m keeping the Arne & Carlos socks. The luxurious red ones are for a friend.

Speaking of socks and friends, I’ve been to see our daughter’s dear friend Silver. She has just moved to a new stables and was having a manicure while I visited.

Silver has magnificent (if slightly dirty) socks.

You may have met her in a blog post long ago, but if you haven’t, here she is:

Silver is whitish, has one blue and one brown eye, and hails from Ireland. She shares her new stables with black, brown and beige horses, with Norwegian, Arab, and I-don’t-know-what-kind-of roots. After a few initial bickerings, they have settled down peacefully together. Watching them makes me hum,

“Imagine all the people
Livin’ life in peace
Yoo, hoo, ooh-ooh
You may say I’m a dreamer…”

Well, back to knitting. It’s also time to start a few new projects. First of all, I dug out the yarn I bought at a crafts fair in February 2020.

This is going to be a new in-between-projects project – a huge wrap in linen stitch. I expect it’ll take me about two years to knit, and that’s exactly the idea. A project I can always pick up when I’ve finished something and am about to start something else, or just feel like knitting long rows of soothing simple stitches.

I’ve also ordered yarn for an oversized cardigan. Two different lace-weights in a tealy colour that will be held together, one a blend of alpaca and merino, the other mohair and silk.

I’m soooo looking forward to collecting the yarn from the shop and starting this.

That’s all about my knitting for now. I hope you have something on your needles to lift your spirits too, and I’d love to hear about it.

Spinning Friesian Dairy Sheep

Hello!

Today’s post is all about Friesian dairy sheep. The silly creature above sticking its tongue out at you belongs to this breed. I’ve spun some of their wool that I’d like to tell you about. But there is more to these sheep than wool. In fact, their wool is only a by-product. Their main job is producing milk – they aren’t called dairy sheep for nothing.

According to the breeders’ association the Friesian dairy sheep is the sheep breed with the highest milk yield in the world (!). It produces about 600 litres of milk during the 6 month lactation period every year. It is a rare breed that was almost extinct 40 years ago, but thanks to several enthusiastic breeders their numbers have grown to around 9000 registered pedigree sheep now.

What do they look like? You’ve already seen a cheeky one in the photo at the top. Here is more serious picture.

Friesian dairy sheep are large sheep without horns, with a long neck, a hairless face and tail, and a slightly bent nose.

I was kindly given permission to use these photos by sheep farm Bongastate. I’m a big fan of their smooth and creamy sheep’s yoghurt. There are lots of delicious recipes using sheep’s milk and yoghurt on their website.

The recipes are in Dutch, but Google Translate does a remarkably good job in this case. The picture shows their lemon yoghurt sponge cake.

Sheep’s yoghurt is fairly new to me, but I grew up with sheep’s cheese. Fresh sheep’s cheese is a speciality from Friesland that is only available from about March to October. It is a small, soft, white cheese sold in plastic tubs.

This ‘wet’ cheese comes in a bath of whey and has a very mild taste. I like eating it on a slice of wholewheat bread, sprinkled with freshly milled black pepper and sea salt.

The last time I bought some, was at the farmers’ market I love visiting (and have written about here and here). It was there that I also found some Friesian sheep’s wool. It was tucked away behind a cushion with a cover knit in bulky white wool.

I don’t know if you can see it? Here it is from closer up, in deep brown, white and a mixture of brown and white.

According to the sheep breeder’s association, Friesian dairy sheep are always white. How come there is also brown here? I need to ask the sellers about it if/when the market starts up again in May. I hope they’ll be there again.

Anyway, I chose white. It was sold in small quantities as rolled-up batts (carded ‘sheets’ of wool). The label said it was 30 grams.

I bought both the wool and the cheese from Puur Schaap, a small and sustainable sheep farm. I’ve only met them once and don’t know much about them. For more information, please check out their website.

The wool had been cleaned and carded, but was still slightly greasy. Perfect for spinning. I rolled out the batt and divided the wool up into a sort of unofficial rolags. I tore off strips lengthwise and tore them in half widthwise.

 A ‘real’ rolag is made using hand carders. All I did was roll up the pieces I’d torn off by hand.

Then I spun the wool using a short backward draft. When it was not holding the camera, my right hand guided the thread, but it was my left hand that was doing the actual drafting.

I spun all of it onto one bobbin. At this stage the wool was still yellowish and it felt like binder twine.

My plan was to wind it into a ball, and ply it into a 2-ply yarn from a centre-pull ball. But I changed my mind and decided to make it into a slightly thicker 3-ply yarn instead.

So I wound the wool into 3 small balls (weighing them on precision scales), put them in a basket to keep them from rolling all through the living room…

… and plied the three plies together.

Then I wound the yarn into a skein and washed it, first in washing-up liquid and then in Eucalan. The grease came out and after drying I had a skein of creamy white, perfectly clean lavender-scented yarn.

It is the softest yarn I have ever spun from local sheep’s wool. Not as soft as merino, but it spun up into a really lovely, slightly airy thread.

The skein weighs about 40 grams (according to the label I bought 30 grams of unspun, but they have obviously been generous) and has a length of approximately 100 metres (110 yards). I think it counts as a DK-weight yarn.

Well, that’s all about my small wool-rescuing project for now. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about this special sheep breed. And I hope to come back to the yarn later, when I’ve decided what it’s going to be.

Something small… Perhaps a knitting notions case? Or a pair of wrist warmers? Or it may even be enough for a hat. Shall I dye it, or leave it as it is? Decisions, decisions.

An Interesting Knit

Hello!

Phew, it’s finished! My Panel Debate cardigan, I mean. It took me about 8 months from start to finish. Well, I knit several other things in between, but on 2.75 mm (US 2) needles and with quite a few technical challenges, it wasn’t a quick knit.

It certainly was interesting, though, and I thought you might like to read about some of the special techniques (so much I-cord!) and what helped me finish it.

Panel Debate is a pattern by Danish designer Bente Geil, and can be found on Ravelry under its Danish name Paneldebat. I used one of the designer’s own yarns: Geilsk Bomuld og Uld – a light fingering weight blend of 55% wool and 45% cotton.

Reading through the pattern, I couldn’t make head nor tail of the instructions for the neckline. There seemed to be something wrong, so I e-mailed the designer. She said she’d look into it and sent me a new version of the pattern the very next day (during her Summer break!). Excellent service, I have to say.

The design is modular and is made up of many panels (hence the name).

Each panel is knit onto the previous one, and the panels are alternately knit horizontally and vertically. The vertical strips end in fans made by knitting short rows.

What helped me knit the fans, was copying the instructions for them onto a separate page, with each step on a new line. I marked the row I was knitting with a sticky note and moved that down after each row. That way I was able to keep track of where I was.

I lengthened the body by 4 cm (approx. 1.6 inches). No problem at all – just added the required length to the first 3 panels and the rest took care of itself. I also enlarged the armholes because I’d heard from several other knitters that they’d turned out rather tight.

After the body was completed, the armholes were finished with attached I-cords.

Armhole before… 

…  and after attaching I-cord.

Then stitches for the sleeves needed to be picked up from the I-cord (the sleeves are knit from the top down). That really was a pain at first. But it went a lot better using a crochet hook and slipping the stitches from the hook onto the knitting needle.

Then I had to adapt the sleeve cap to the enlarged armhole. That was a bit of a puzzle, but after several tries I was happy. I used the magic loop method to knit the sleeves.

I’m not entirely happy with that, because it shows all along the middle of the sleeves. I hope the line will fade with washing and wearing. I haven’t had this problem before. Could it be because of the cotton content of the yarn? Or the reverse stocking stitch ridges?

The sleeves are finished with I-cord along the wrists as well.

Finally there was more I-cord to knit – all along the fronts and the neck. First I had to pick up a zillion stitches. Then I cast on 4 extra stitches for the I-cord.

I knit a few inches, saw that the I-cord ‘pulled’ on the front and frogged it. After repeating this several times, I finally found out how to solve it – by pulling the first stitch (on the outside of the I-cord) up a little longer than usual and holding it between my thumb and index finger while knitting the second stitch, to keep it from tightening.

This is the attached I-cord knitting process step by step:

1 – The 4 I-cord stitches are on the left needle, together with the picked-up stitches on the panel. At this stage, the yarn is hanging between the picked-up stitches on the garment and the 4 I-cord stitches. Now the yarn is passed behind the stitches to the first stitch on the right.

2 – Knit 3 stitches (knitting the 1st stitch very loosely and keeping it from tightening by holding it between thumb and index finger while knitting the 2nd stitch). Slip the 4th stitch knitwise, knit the first picked-up stitch along the panel and lift the slipped stitch over this stitch.

3 – Now slip the 4 I-cord stitches back onto the right needle.

Repeat these 3 steps for hours on end, until all of the picked up stitches along the fronts and neck have been used up, meanwhile making button holes along the right front.

Finally, ‘all’ I needed to do was weave in what seemed like an endless number of ends.

I put on some music, and several cups of tea later that was done, too.

Oh, and let’s not forget the buttons! I happened to have just the right ones, bought long ago in a lovely little shop.

There, all finished!

Here is a close-up of the very special armhole.

And this is what the cardi looks like from the back.

What helped me through the challenging parts of this knit was:

  • Finding moments in my week when my brain was up for a challenge (for me especially Saturday mornings)
  • Cutting the process up into smaller steps, taking a break after finishing a step and giving myself a figurative pat on the back
  • Using a crochet hook for picking up stitches
  • Copying difficult bits onto a separate page and keeping track of where I was by means of sticky notes
  • Relaxing and uplifting music in the background
  • Having good (day)light
  • Blogging about it

All in all, I’m happy with the process and happy with the result!

Well, that was a lot of technical detail. Sorry to the non-knitters among you (it’s a miracle you even got this far). If all goes according to plan, my next post will be of more general interest. Bye for now, and hope to see you again soon!

Wool Rescuing

Hello!

First of all, thank you for all of your comments about the yarn colours for my fingerless mitts. You were unanimous: blue and cream for the 2-colour mitts,

and red for the single colour version.

So that’s what it’s going to be. I’ve wound the yarn into balls and am looking forward to starting, but first more swatches and prototypes.

Now on to today’s subject – wool rescuing.

We have quite a few sheep in the Netherlands (at the moment about 1 million), and by far the most of them are of the Texel or Swifter breed. I photographed some of our farmer-neighbour’s Texels or Swifters (I can’t tell the two apart, to be honest) on a misty morning earlier this week.

These sheep are bred for their meat.

Some other breeds are kept for their milk. And still others are used for conservation grazing, like the Drenthe Heath sheep below. I’ve written about them here and here.

I enjoy the presence of sheep in the fields surrounding us. I love sheep’s cheese and yoghurt, and as a knitter and spinner, I am obviously also interested in their wool.

Until 1988, we had a Dutch Wool Federation – a cooperative that took care of the entire wool chain, from raw wool to end products like blankets, warm underwear and knitting yarns. They even had their own shops.

The name Nederlandse Wolfederatie still exists, but today it is an organisation that sells things like sheep shearing equipment, veterinary medicines and other things farmers may need. Seeing their buckets in our neighbour’s field evokes feelings of nostalgia for me. The logo reminds me of all the hanks of wool I transformed into pullovers, vests, cardigans and scarves as a teenager.

Sadly, almost all of the wool from our sheep is now considered ‘garbage’ and shipped to China, where it is used for low-grade purposes. The last spinning mill in our country closed its doors in the 1980s.

But there is good news! A group of people in Friesland have started an initiative to rescue our wool and find ways to use it locally. In 2019, they decided to adopt a flock of sheep, found people willing to spin the wool and others prepared to weave, knit and crochet blankets from them.

In spite of the Covid-restrictions, they were able to organize an exhibition of all these blankets in 2020. Hats off to them! I haven’t been able to visit the exhibition myself, but have admired the blankets on their website.

And now they have recorded their experiences in a Wool Rescue Handbook.

It’s a lovely 60-page booklet packed with tips and advice for anyone who would also like to rescue some (or a lot of) local wool. The text is in both Dutch and English, and is accompanied by many photographs.

With a subtle sense of humour, the booklet takes us through the entire wool-rescuing process step by step. Step one is ‘Find a sheep’. There are practical tips about washing, carding, spinning and felting. There is also a lot of information about the people side of things – finding volunteers, publicity, involving schools and so on. And they have thought about the financial side, too.

What I love about this booklet is that it is not just about how to organize things, but also about fun and enjoyment. Below you can see the pages dedicated to a very important step – ‘Enjoy’.

A quote from this page: ‘The joy of making something passes on to the person receiving it. A jumper made with love is so much nicer to wear.’ And another one: ‘What is made with love lasts longest.’

Apart from the actual text, everything else about the Wool Rescue Handbook also speaks of love of the entire process. The front and back flaps can be folded out and show diagrams of wool as waste versus wool as a resource. The paper for the booklet was chosen with care, the layout is done beautifully, and there are just so many interesting photos to look at.

Just look at the spread in the middle, about starting a spinning club:

Lovely, isn’t it? The booklet has a sewn binding, and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone has spent many hours lovingly sewing every single copy by hand.

And this is just the beginning. There is now a series of baby blankets underway, and there are plans for a new spinning mill in the North of Friesland, a rug weaving studio in the Frisian capital Leeuwarden, as well as noises about similar groups in other parts of the country.

The initiative is called Pleed. (That is how the word ‘plaid’ in the meaning of throw or blanket is pronounced in Dutch.) If you’d like to know more, please visit the website (in Dutch, but with interesting photos and videos). More information about the Wool Rescue Handbook can be found here. Send them an e-mail if you’d like to order a copy.

I’m in awe of the energy and productivity of these people. I’ve never spun a blanket quantity of yarn. What I spin is a sweater quantity at most, and often even less to make a shawl or wrap.

And when it comes to wool rescuing, I’m doing that on a very modest scale, too. I’m currently spinning a tiny quantity of Friesian Dairy Sheep’s wool. More about that when it’s all spun and plied.

Feels like Spring

Hello!

Today I’m writing to you from and entirely different world compared to two weeks ago. The snow melted away in no time, and suddenly it feels like spring. The spring bulbs in our garden are bursting into flower.

It’s not just crocuses and snowdrops, but also winter aconites,

and dwarf irises, yellow and blue.

It’s so lovely to feel the warmth of the sun, hear the birds sing their hearts out, and enjoy the flowers and the buzzing of the first bees.

And yet… there is this gnawing feeling.

It shouldn’t be like this in February – it’s unseasonally warm. The highest temperatures ever measured in this month for 5 days in a row. I don’t want to be a spreader of doom and gloom, but I can’t just ignore such signs of a changing climate. I’ve heard that it affects different parts of the world differently. Here in the Netherlands the climate has changed noticeably even in my lifetime (less than sixty years!).

Seems to me that if we want to leave our children, grandchildren and their children with a liveable planet so that they, too, can enjoy the beautiful signs of spring…

… we urgently need to learn how to be good ancestors.

Speaking of ancestors, on Sunday we visited a lovely place our ancestors left us. It’s a country estate that for centuries belonged to a wealthy family and is now owned by a nature conservation organization.

The 17th century house with stepped gable, surrounded by a moat with a bridge leading to the front door, is no longer there. The only buildings left are five tenant farms. These are the stables of one of them, now converted to living space.

The estate is part woodland,

part pasture (the cows are still inside at this time of year.)

Like many other farms in our region, the farms on the estate all have their own little baking house. Can you see the small white rectangle on the wall of this baking house?

Let’s zoom in – it’s a face! A person with a high forehead, no nose to speak of, and an elegant hairdo. Is it just a decoration, a household deity, or the likeness of somebody who used to do their baking here?

Going for a walk here, is like traveling a century or so back in time.

Apart from going for short walks, enjoying the garden, worrying about the climate and the pandemic, and generally doing what I need to do, I’ve also done some knitting. My blue Panel Debate cardigan is nearly finished and I’m knitting swatches and prototypes for a pair of fingerless mitts.

The yarn I originally had in mind for them didn’t behave as I thought it would. Looking for an alternative, I found several skeins in my stash that were meant for something else, but will be just perfect for my mitts.

I want to make a single colour and a 2-colour version. It is hard to capture the colours exactly. There is an off-white undyed cream, a dusty blue and a warm cherry red. What shall I do? Cream and blue for the 2-colour version, and red for the single-colour one?

Or cream and red for the 2-colour version, and blue for the single-colour one?

What do you think?

I hope you’ve enjoyed the flowers and the walk, and would be grateful for some help with the colours. I’m in doubt. Is the blue-and-cream combo nice and subtle or too bland? Is the red-and-cream combo nice and cheerful or too Christmassy?

Thanks and take care! xxx

Thinking about Flow

Hello!

(Because I think it would interrupt the flow of this blog post too much to insert links into the actual text, I’ve added a list at the bottom.)

It was yarn that first made me think about flow. Two skeins of a beautiful blue-green yarn hand dyed by Catharina at Wolverhalen. I chose this colour first of all because it caught my eye. The name – Flow – was of secondary importance, but it did catch my attention.

I asked Catharina about it, and she told me that she dyes a whole series of colours named for states of mind. Flow is one of them. Others are Positivity, Wisdom, Joy, Passion, Faith, and Stillness.

Flow… What exactly is it? It makes me think of water.

It also makes me think of  somebody with the unpronounceable name Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. In my previous life as a translator, I’ve translated many psychology books and articles. During my background reading, I repeatedly came across his research.

In his famous book Flow: The psychology of optimal experience (that I haven’t read), he defines flow as: ‘…the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter…’ It is a particular kind of focus that seems to lead to intense feelings of happiness.

Am I ever in a state of flow? I don’t really know.

I used the flow yarn to knit another Thús 2 – a design I published in November last year.

Am I in flow when I’m knitting? Or when I’m designing a pattern?

Or when I’m faffing about with photography?

Or when I’m writing? Or when I’m doing other things entirely? Yes, no, well, maybe, sometimes…

Flow as a yarn colour is something that makes me happy. Flow as a state of mind is something I’d like to know more about. Are people generally aware of being in this flow state? What does it take to get there?

Flow is also a Dutch magazine that I sometimes buy. In the editors’ words, it is about ‘Celebrating creativity, imperfection and life’s little pleasures’. This is the first issue of 2021.

There used to be and English edition as well, but they’ve recently stopped publishing that. They do still have an interesting English-language website, and back issues and specials are still available.

My favourite articles in the latest issue are about navigating life in uncertain times and about tools for people working from home. And the item about Aheneah, a Portuguese artist who does cross stitch on a large scale, made me smile.

The message Aheneah gives off with her installations is to think outside the box and look at one’s roots and traditional techniques as things that can be transformed in unexpected ways and so given a new lease of life.

I’m ending today’s post with a poem by Wilder Poetry that really spoke to me. It comes from the Flow ‘Calm Down’ special.

Thank you for reading!

If you’d like to read more (or knit your own Thús 2), here is a list of links: