Places to Sit and Knit 3

Hello, and welcome to the 3rd episode in the irregular series Places to Sit and Knit. For this Christmas special, I’m inviting you into our home. You’ll recognize it by the paper stars on the window.

What better place to sit and knit at Christmas than at home? Especially this Christmas. I don’t know what it’s like in your part of the world, but here in the Netherlands we’re in a strict lockdown again. Everything is closed, except essential shops (unfortunately the powers that be don’t count yarn shops among them) and other essential facilities. Let’s hope it’s enough to prevent black scenarios early in the New Year.

We’re only allowed 2 visitors a day (4 at Christmas) in real life. Fortunately the number of virtual visitors is unlimited, so come on in! Would you like a cup of coffee or tea?

I was given a box of Austrian Advent Calendar Tea at the end of November, filled with green, black, white and herbal teas. It started with Gute Laune (Good Mood) tea on December the 1st.

Today, the last offering is Heavenly Christmas Delight, a spicy blend with cinnamon, orange peel, apple and clove. It sounds delicious, don’t you think? Please take a seat while I make our drinks.

This is the sofa where I sit and knit at this time of the year.

My knitting chair by the window was moved away to make room for the Christmas tree.

Apart from finishing several pairs of socks, I have finished the body of a roomy cardigan knit from two lace yarns held together. I have even blocked it before starting on the sleeves, which are knit from the shoulder down. It looks a dark grey in the photo below, but actually is a lovely teal.

I have also made a start on the socks for my friend, the ones from the yarn with nettle in it instead of nylon. This yarn (Onion Nettle sock yarn) knits up differently compared to the yarns I’m used to. Here it is next to a sock from a traditional sock yarn that I’ve just finished.

Using the same number of stitches I usually cast on, the cuff turns out much wider. The yarn is also less elastic. Knitting on like this, I wouldn’t be happy with the end result.

So what am I going to do: cast on fewer stitches, start anew with smaller needles and/or use a different stitch pattern? Twisted stitches in the ribbing, perhaps? Hmmm, need to give that some thought.

For the time being, I’m putting all my WIPs on hold to focus on two special Christmas Break projects. (There is that word again: focus, my word of the year 2021. Did I make any progress on that? Well, yes and no. I’ll try to write about that in January.)

The yarn for these projects is already in the baskets beside the sofa. The first is a simple, oversized, comfy sweater in a lofty yarn – Lang Cloud – in many shades of red, burgundy, pink, purple etc. I’ve photographed it outside to do the colours justice.

And my other Christmas Break project is knitting swatches. I’ve collected quite a few interesting yarns in undyed or neutral shades over the past couple of years. Somehow I never got round to them, and it feels like a real treat to finally get to try them out. My plan is to knit stocking stitch swatches on different needle sizes and try the yarns out in different stitch patterns as well, hoping that this will give me new ideas for things to design and make.

But that’s me nattering on. How are you doing? What is life like for you at the moment? Have you planned any special celebrations? Or are you working over the holidays, in health care or another essential job? Are you struggling to stay positive, like me? How do you keep your worries at bay? Do you have something nice on your needles? Any special knitting plans? I’d love to hear about them. Please leave a comment if you feel like sharing. It’s also perfectly fine if you don’t feel like it. I understand – I often feel too shy to leave comments, too.

Now, how about some fresh air? Let’s go for a walk. (We can only go for walks in ‘groups’ of 2 at the moment IRL, but again, the numbers for virtual walks are unlimited.)  It’s often dark and dreary here at the end of December, but this year it’s been a true Winter Wonderland on some days. So far, it’s only been hoar frost, but we may even get some snow over the coming days.

I’ve planted the pots around the house up with some mini conifers, ivy and checkerberry.

Almost every day, all year long, I take a stroll around our village. At this time of the year I love looking at other people’s Christmas trees.

But on clear, frosty days it’s nicer to head out of the village. This is the view a two-minute-walk from our home.

We are very fortunate to live here, and I never take it for granted. It’s not all idyllic, of course. But on some days even the local factory gets a magical quality, mirrored in a stream.

A little further on a blue heron is mirrored in the same stream.

Father Frost has covered the plants with icy needles.

Truly magical.

Well, I think it’s time to head back home and light a few candles. Thank you so much for stopping by – I really, really appreciate your spending some time with me here. Apart from all of you, we’re expecting very few real-life visitors over the coming days and weeks. Only two, in fact. And we won’t be going anywhere either. We love seeing friends and family and spreading good cheer, but we’d hate to spread the virus, so we’re keeping ourselves to ourselves this year.

I’m taking a break from my blog for a while, to just sit and knit (and read, go for walks, eat some delicious things prepared by my other half, and watch The Lord of the Rings for the umpteenth time).

All the best for a safe and peaceful festive season and I hope to see you here again in the New Year!

The other episodes in this series:

Folding Paper Stars

Hello!

A long time ago a friend taught me to fold stars. Made from transparent paper, they showed lovely patterns when the light shone through them. Because this friend is going through a difficult time at the moment, I folded a small star and sent it to her tucked between a postcard with a personal message – a reminder of good times and a symbol of hope.

Then I folded some more to give away. Then I folded a few for our own kitchen window. And then I thought, ‘Why not share them with you here?’

What you’ll need:

  • Sharp paring knife
  • Clear glue
  • Transparent kite paper (available as larger sheets and as blocks of squares in a rainbow of colours)

Tissue paper can be used as well, but tears and fades more quickly. (For the tutorial steps below I used ordinary printer paper for the sake of clarity only.)

1) For each star, cut eight squares using the paring knife.

The paper in my block measured 16 x 16 cm (6.25 x 6.25”). For a large star I cut two sheets into four squares each (eight 8 x 8 cm squares in total). For a small star I cut half a sheet into eight 4 x 4 cm squares. The size does not really matter, as long as you end up with eight square pieces of paper. Start with a larger star – the smaller ones take a little practice.

2) Fold the paper in half diagonally, so that the points marked with asterisks in the example lie on top of each other. Then open again.

3) Next fold the asterisks toward the line in the middle, along the dashed lines:

You’ll end up with a shape like this:

Make eight of these.

4) Using a small drop of glue, stick the points where the asterisks are in the example in place.

5) Finally assemble the eight points into a star as shown in the picture below, using a little bit of glue where the points overlap.

It’s important to use clear glue or it will show when the light shines through.

Tadaaah – one transparent paper star!

For a different variation, open the flaps last folded again and then fold them inward, with the imaginary asterisks tucked away inside.

Glue the points together to make a star as before. This simple adaptation immediately gives a much more intricate look:

Finished, my larger stars measure approx. 23 cm (9”) from tip to tip, and my smaller ones 11.5 cm (4.5”). Use a small piece of clear tape folded double (or double-sided tape if you have it) to stick stars to a window pane.

The same friend who taught me to fold stars, recently gave me some sock yarn. She had planned to knit socks with it herself, but realized she would never get round to it. It is a yarn with nettle fibres for strength and durability instead of the usual nylon.

This yarn has been around for a while, but I haven’t used it before. I’m looking forward to giving it a try. And what am I going to use it for? Two pairs of socks for my friend, of course!

Star light, star bright,
First star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.

My wish for you today is that you may have some time to yourself over the coming week, to fold a star, knit a sock, or simply spend some time outside at night stargazing.

Hydrangea Story

Hello!

Why do we knit? Or rather, why do I knit? (I can only ever speak for myself.) Sometimes it is because I want something to wear that I can’t find in the shops. Other times it is because I want to give someone else a knitted embrace, toasty feet or warm hands. Often it is because I need something to occupy my hands and soothe my mind. Or I see a pattern and think: That is so beautiful – I’d love to make something like that!

This time it was the yarn that did it. The yarn in the photo above. It is a new Rowan yarn called ‘Felted Tweed Colour’ – a sibling to their all-time favourite ‘Felted Tweed’, but now in a slow gradient of colours. The palette was developed by the famous designer Kaffe Fassett. As soon as I saw it, I thought: Wow, those colours!

I chose the colourway called ‘Frost’. It doesn’t remind me of frost, snow or ice at all, however. It reminds me of hydrangeas. Maybe you remember my blog post about cycling to Giethoorn this summer, when I took this picture:

A few days ago, I popped over to Giethoorn again. This is the same spot at this time of the year:

Here the hydrangeas have lost all their colour. In other places there are only lacy skeletons left:

But some hydrangeas have retained their colour and just become more muted than in summer:

It’s these that the ‘Frost’ yarn reminded me of.

And what did I do with the hydrangea yarn? I combined it with some Kidsilk Haze to knit another Story Lines shawl. At first I thought of using some pale pink from my stash:

But then I decided that the contrast was too strong and chose a purple shade called Dewberry instead.

I took the finished shawl along to Giethoorn and asked Albert Mol if he was okay with being my model. Listening carefully I thought I could hear him say: ‘Of course darling. Fabulous idea!’ (Albert was a very gay person in every sense of the word.)

In hindsight I think a little more contrast would have been a good thing. In some places the Felted Tweed is exactly the same shade as the Kidsilk Haze. The stripes are visible, but don’t stand out very much.

The back view below shows how the Felted Tweed Colour yarn moves gradually from one colour to the next, forming wide stripes.

I’ve given this shawl a wider garter stitch band at the end. Neither the Romantic Ruffle nor the Dainty Droplets I used for the other two Story Lines shawls (shown in this blog post) seemed right for this yarn. I used the Basic Bind-off also described in the pattern instead.

Some of you may remember Albert Mol. For those of you who have never heard of him, he was a Dutch dancer, writer, actor and comedian. Giethoorn has honoured him with a statue because of his role in the 1958 comedy film Fanfare that was shot in the village. As there are many people in Giethoorn going by the name of Mol, I suppose he must have family roots here as well.

Part of the action takes place in Café Fanfare, which hasn’t changed much since then:

Fanfare is about two rivalling local brass bands that both want to win a competition and are prepared to do anything to prevent the other band from winning. It is in black and white and obviously rather old-fashioned, but still great fun.

Just like Café Fanfare, the rest of Giethoorn (called Lagerwiede in the film) is still very much like it was back in 1958, too.

If you feel like watching some fun slow tv on a dreary December day, Fanfare can be viewed here on YouTube, with English subtitles. (Albert Mol plays the role of one of the conductors, much younger than his bronze statue and without beard.)

And in case you’d like to make a similar Story Lines shawl, it takes 2 skeins of Felted Tweed Colour and 2 skeins of Kidsilk Haze. The Story Lines pattern can be found here on Ravelry, and my notes about the hydrangea version here.

I wish you an enjoyable weekend, with something fun to do, watch and/or knit!

Harlingen Yarn Shop

Hello!

Thinking about knitting projects for the winter months and rummaging through my yarn boxes, I came across some yarn that I bought in Harlingen a while ago. I was going to write about it at the time, but then all kinds of other things cropped up and I never got round to it. Time to rectify that.

After dropping our charges off at the Harlingen ferry terminal on a glorious day in early autumn, we had the rest of the day to ourselves. As it was still early, we first went for a stroll on the dyke, saying hello to the two-headed stiennen man (stone man).

Harlingen (or Harns in Frisian) is the main port of Friesland, situated on the Wadden Sea coast. It was great to look out over the sea for a while.

And also to feel it under our feet, stepping onto the floating pontoon that’s there for bathers.

The wide open sky, the fresh air, the great expanse of water – so calming and uplifting. Why don’t we come here more often?

We took our time walking to the city centre via the harbour. I was keen to have a look at the replica of Willem Barentsz’ expedition ship. It set sail in 1596 to discover a new passage to China via the northeast. It is surprisingly small.

The woodcarving on the prow tells us the ship’s name: de Witte Swaen (the White Swan).

There were cannons on board for protection.

But they could not protect the crew from the greatest danger, the extreme cold. De Witte Swaen got stuck in the ice in the Arctic Ocean. Barentsz and his men were forced to spend the winter on the island of Novaya Zemlya. They built a lodge from driftwood and the wood of their colourful ship.

When they ran out of supplies, the crew decided to try and return in two small open boats. In the end only 12 of them returned. Barentsz himself did not survive. Yeah, it’s quite a story.

Well, let’s get back to the present day and continue on to the city centre.

There are many interesting buildings, a museum, a tile factory and lots of lovely shops here, including a wonderful bookshop, but I’m only taking you to one of them – a yarn shop called Atelier Swoop. It is run by mother-in-law/daughter-in-law team Geertje and Beau Ann.

Officially it is a ‘Scandinavian Concept Store’, selling Scandi style gifts and things for the home as well as knitting yarns, antiques and delicious home-made cakes.

(We had to sample these, of course, to make sure they really were delicious – I can now safely vouch that they are.) But to me it is first and foremost a yarn shop. So let’s take a look around at everything that may interest a knitter. The yarns in the shop all come from Denmark.

Here is a wall of Isager yarns. If the picture looks fuzzy on the left that’s the fuzziness of the ‘Silk Mohair’ yarn. On the right, Isager’s lace-weight ‘Alpaca 1’.

Here is a close-up of the top of the cabinet, with and adorable little knitted cardi, the ubiquitous dried hydrangeas and some antiques.

Small displays of yarn are dotted around the shop. This is some Isager ‘Spinni’:

And this is a thicker yarn that may be Isager’s ‘Jensen’ yarn, but I’m not entirely sure.

This cosy corner houses a CaMaRose yarn that really lives up to its name: ‘Snefnug’ (snowflake). It is very, very soft and airy, only much warmer than a snowflake.

There is also a small but interesting selection of knitting books and magazines, all with a northerly slant.

This attractive book is filled with warm outdoorsy colourwork sweaters in Norwegian and Icelandic yarns:

It is by Linka Neumann, and its title is Vilmarks gensere in Norwegian, Noorse truien breien in Dutch, Einfach nordisch stricken in German and Wilderness Knits in English.

Ah, that was lovely, tasting some delicious cake, browsing around, and chatting with Beau Ann and Geertje. And what did I leave the shop with? Three skeins of Isager Alpaca 1 (left) for a scarf for a friend. And a big bag of Isager Eco Soft (right) for a cardi for our daughter.

More about those in the New Year, I think. First I’d like to finish a few WIPs* and some gifts.

If you’re ever in the area, Harlingen is absolutely worth a visit. Please check out Atelier Swoop’s website (no web shop, brick-and-mortar only) for their opening hours. (In these uncertain times it may be best to contact them first to be on the safe side.) And there is a great website with loads of information about Harlingen here.**

Thanks for visiting Harlingen with me. Hope to see you again soon!

* WIP = Work In Progress
** As you’ll probably know by now, I’m not sponsored in any way. I only write about the things I write about because I think they are worth writing about.

Making a Twisted Fringe

Hello!

We’ve had a lot of rather gloomy days here lately. I don’t mean gloomy because of the current coronavirus situation, although there is that too, but literally so gloomy that we need to keep the lights on all day.

We haven’t actually had a lot of rain. It’s just that on many days it’s been cloudy and grey.

I don’t really mind, and even enjoy the quiet atmosphere of some of these days. For me, the problem is that there often isn’t enough light to take pictures indoors, while the table on the patio is too wet to spread my knitting out on.

But last Sunday suddenly the sun came out.

I quickly set to work, because I wanted to show you how to make a twisted fringe. I’d finished knitting my Striped Linen Stitch Wrap. In this project, every row starts and ends with a yarn tail. In the basic pattern these are knotted into a fringe, but a later adaptation has a twisted fringe and that was what I wanted to try.

The yarn I used was Rowan’s Felted Tweed, a blend of lightly felted wool, viscose and alpaca. Because I wasn’t sure if the technique would work for this combination of fibres, I tried it out on a swatch first, and yes, it worked! This is how it’s done step by step.

1) Pin the end of the wrap to blocking mats.

The yarn ends were tied into bundles during the knitting. These are now undone one by one.

While twisting the ends, they need to be kept in place. The pattern uses a binder clip for this, but as I didn’t have any of those, I used a hair clip and a T-pin.

2) Undo a fringe bundle. Find the next 4 tails (they should be twisted in the order they were knitted).

3) Twist the first 2 tails together in the same direction as the twist of the yarn (i.e. to the right). Continue until they are slightly overtwisted.

4) Secure with a clip and pin onto the blocking mat with a T-pin.

5) Twist the next 2 tails in the same way and hold. Unclip the first 2 twisted tails. Tie both sets of tails together with an overhand knot as close to the ends as possible and let go. They will now twist together. Smooth this twist by passing it between thumb and forefinger several times.

Continue like this until all yarn tails have been twisted. Then repeat steps 1-5 for the other end of the wrap. Remove the wrap from the blocking mats and place it on an ironing board. Comb out the ends so that they are straight and not crossing each other.

6) Spray the fringe with a plant mister.

7) Cover it with a clean, moist tea towel. (Make sure it’s an old one that won’t give off any colour.)

8) Then, with the iron on the wool and steam setting, press the fringe with lots of STEAM.

Repeat for the other end of the wrap and leave to dry thoroughly. The tails should now be slightly felted, preventing them from untwisting.

9) Place the wrap with one fringe on the end of a table top. Make sure that the wrap is placed straight and straighten out the tails. Then cut off the knots at the length of the shortest tail.

I used a quilting ruler to make sure I cut the tails off straight.

There, all done! This is a great finish for a scarf or wrap. It’s really lovely to see the colours combined differently in each tiny barber-pole tail.

I’m really happy with this wrap and at the same time slightly sad that it’s finished. Many of the things I knit are for others, but I’m keeping this one. I’ve loved working on it and will miss the soothing rhythm of slipping and knitting, slipping and knitting many, many stitches.

Now I’m hoping for colder weather so that I can wear it. It’s a strange autumn. The pelargoniums and lobelias in our outdoor pots are still flowering and it’s the end of November! Still, we’ve had some night frost…

… and more wintry weather is expected for this weekend.

In case you’d like to knit a wrap like this, the pattern is called Striped Linen Stitch Wrap & Scarf (there is also a smaller scarf version) and can be found here on the designer’s website and here on Ravelry. The free adaptation for the twisted fringe can be found here.

Well, I hope that just looking at this warm wrap with its colourful fringe has warmed and lifted your heart a little. Take care! xxx

Lazy Kate

Hello!

Before I embark on the story of Lazy Kate, I’d like to share some news with you. As some of you have already guessed from a few subtle clues in my previous post, I’m going to be a grandmother! It takes some getting used to the idea (how did I suddenly get so old?), but I’m thrilled to bits! And very, very happy for the mum-and-dad-to-be.

I’ve hesitated about talking about it here, as I don’t believe in sharing everything online. But I’d have to lead a strange kind of double life to not talk about it here. (Don’t worry, I won’t talk about it all the time.) It just feels good to know that you know, and not to have to be secretive about it anymore.

I also don’t feel very comfortable sharing pictures of loved ones online, but I think it’s okay to show our daughter’s feet here, together with those of the other great love of her life beside her husband.

And I think the girl with the big, hairy white feet doesn’t mind if I share a picture here. She loves going for a walk in the woods, rustling through the autumn leaves just as much as we do.

Neither this sweet-tempered pony nor our daugher is called Kate, and neither of them is lazy. So, who is Lazy Kate?

Well, actually this isn’t about who but about what – it is about a lazy kate (with indefinite article and without capitals). For the non-spinners among you: A lazy kate is a thing that holds yarn bobbins and comes in useful when plying several threads together after having spun them. It comes in different shapes and can be a separate box or rack that is placed beside the spinning wheel or it can be integrated.

This is my spinning wheel – a 21-year-old Louët S10.

I looked up the receipt and saw that I bought it in March 2000 for 515,00 guilders. Guilders, not euros! Goodness, a different era. It is still functioning just as smoothly as when it was new.

It has an integrated lazy kate – the rack with the two filled bobbins beside the treadle in the picture above. This is what it looks like without the bobbins.

With two bobbins I can make a 2-ply yarn, but the problem is that I now want to make a 3-ply yarn. I could hold the third bobbin on my lap, or place it in a basket or box beside the spinning wheel, but it would be much better to have an additional lazy kate.

So I decided to order one, and as the Louët spinning wheel factory is just around the corner from the stables where our daughter’s pony lives, I thought I might as well collect it instead of having it delivered. Do come along!

At the entrance there is a spinning wheel very much like mine, only more colourful.

Louët doesn’t have a factory shop, and it isn’t possible to visit the factory itself right now, but we are allowed to take a look around in their upstairs showroom. My spinning wheel is their very first model.

Since then it has evolved and several other models have been added. From what I understand, it is now even possible to have a spinning wheel put together to your own specifications, with single or double treadle, Scotch or Irish tension, etcetera.

The factory also produces all kinds of tools for fibre preparation, like combs, small and large hand carders, and drum carders.

On a shelf there is a niddy noddy, used for making skeins, and some fun hand spun yarns.

What I didn’t know, is that they also make weaving looms. Here is the very smallest and simplest one.

And here is one of the larger and more elaborate looms.

I don’t know anything about weaving, but just looking at the fabrics in progress on the looms is enjoyable, too.

Well, it’s time to collect my lazy kate and the block needed to attach it to my spinning wheel. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little virtual outing. I’ll tell you more about the yarn I’m spinning when there is more to show.

If you’d like more in-depth information about these spinning wheels or looms, please visit the Louët website. And if you’d like some chat about I-don’t-know-what-exactly-yet, please visit me again next week 😉. Bye!

A Week in November

Hello again!

Publishing a knitting pattern is a small/totally insignificant step for mankind, but a big step for me. It makes me feel vulnerable to be so visible, and I’m very grateful for all of your kind words here and elsewhere. Thanks!

This week, no matter how hard I try, I feel unable to put together a coherent story. So here are a few unrelated items from this past November week.

Market

On Saturday I visited a small market in a neighbouring village. It was all about sustainable and hand made products, and there were some six or seven stalls in all.

It was organized by a local shop selling organic clothes for adults, children and babies.

It was a joy to look at the lovely colours, fabrics and yarns used. The prices were staggering, but I think that they reflect what we should really be paying if clothes are to be produced with respect for the environment and the people making them.

There was also a rack of second-hand clothes, or pre-loved as some would call them.

I don’t think it was the purpose of the market, but I felt really inspired to make even more myself than I already do. I’ll always be knitting, of course, but I’m also thinking of taking up sewing again.

Even more than the wares on display, I enjoyed the lovely arrangements with hydrangea flowers everywhere around. Like this cheerful combination with red enamelware…

… and this beautiful wreath in faded shades.

I also stood gazing out towards the neighbours’ beautifully restored farm buildings.

Ah, lovely! Still, in spite of all that gazing around, I didn’t go home empty-handed. As well as some paper for folding stars, these two wooden roe deer came home with me.

On my needles

I’m knitting another Story Lines shawl. This time in a combination of two Rowan yarns: their all-time favourite Kidsilk Haze and their new Felted Tweed Colour. I’m not entirely sure about it – the yarns work well together, I think, but did I choose the right colours?

Sunday morning walk

As we usually do, we went for a walk on Sunday morning.

The sky was overcast, but now and then the sun came out, bathing everything in very bright light.

We saw a group of roe deer in a field. The horses in the meadow next to it were watching them too.

Towards the end of our walk there was a faint rainbow in the sky.

Struggling to stay positive from time to time, I drink in any symbol, sign or ray of hope, no matter how faint.

Visitors

The sparrowhawk visiting our garden last year is back (or at least I think it is the same one). We haven’t seen him for a long time, but there he suddenly was – now in his full adult colours. Just look at those fierce eyes!

And we’ve had another visitor, too, new to our garden – a red squirrel. Here it is, snacking on a hazel nut:

Over the past couple of weeks it’s become a frequent visitor, busily running to and fro burying nuts everywhere.

Up early

I often wake up very early and have given up trying to go back to sleep. Instead I tiptoe down the stairs and spend a quiet hour (or two, or sometimes three) before breakfast drinking many cups of tea, knitting and reading by lamplight.

My big linen stitch wrap is almost finished. All I need to do is knit on I-cord along both long edges and finish the fringe. I want to finish a few other items before the end of the year, but my hands are also itching to start all kinds of new things, big and small.

Well, that’s all for today. Enjoy your weekend and see you again next week! xxx

Story Lines

Hello!

It won’t come as a surprise that I love knitting. To me (and I know to some of you, too), seeing a knitting project grow stitch by stitch and row by row is immensely satisfying. Although I haven’t written much about books until last week, I love reading a good story just as much.

Now I’ve combined the two and knit a story in the shape of a shawl! Or rather two shawls, knit along the same lines but telling different stories.

The watery blue version of Story Lines, as I’ve named the design, tells the saga of a drowned village.

It is a slightly asymmetrical triangle that starts off on a light and airy note – transparent stocking stitch stripes with widely spaced out garter stitch lines. Later on, the plot thickens and the lines are knit closer together.

A village really did drown in the lake where these pictures were taken.

It was the village of Beulake. Extensive peat extraction had already made the area vulnerable. And when the dykes broke during a storm in 1776, Beulake disappeared beneath the waves. Only the church, where the villagers had fled to, was spared.

Fortunately no lives were lost, but the people who lost their homes must have shed a few tears. A row of Dainty Droplets seemed a fitting ending for this shawl.

Although the basic pattern is the same, the other shawl I knit has a different tale to tell. In fiery reds, it tells a love story from a time long gone by.

This story is set against the backdrop of a castle ruin, not far from the lake of the drowned village.

It is Toutenburg, the remains of a medieval castle in the town of Vollenhove. An utterly romantic spot. There is a moat around it, with a lovely fountain.

This version of Story Lines needed a different ending – a Romantic Ruffle. I’m not really a ruffle-y type, so I’ve kept it modest.

Story Lines is a very easy knit. The only reason I wouldn’t recommend it to an absolute beginner is that the thinner of the yarns used takes a little experience to handle.

The design combines two types of yarn: a lace-weight mohair/silk blend and a fingering-weight single-ply merino yarn – 1 skein (50 g) of the former and 1 skein (100 g) of the latter.

The yarns I used for both shawls come from an indie dyer in my little corner of the world. She creates many gorgeous colours. Below you can see the mohair/silk blend I used on the left, the 1-ply merino on the right:

‘My’ indie dyer is happy to ship world-wide,  but those of you not living in the Netherlands could also look for yarn closer to home. Here is a list of very similar yarns from indie dyers all over the world:

  • Canada: Lichen and Lace (Marsh Mohair/1-Ply Superwash Merino Fingering-Weight)
  • France: La Bien Aimée (Mohair Silk/Merino Singles)
  • Germany: Walk Collection (Kid Mohair Lace/Cottage Merino)
  • Ireland: Hedgehog Fibres (Kidsilk Lace/Skinny Singles)
  • Norway: Norne (Kid Silk/Singles)
  • Sweden: Fru Valborg (Fuzzy Mohair/Merino Singles)
  • UK: Qing (Kid Mohair Silk/Merino Singles)
  • US, New York: The Wandering Flock (Laceweight Mohair Silk/Fingering Weight Singles)
  • US, Oregon: Ritual Dyes (Fae/Crone)

Some people find a triangle a difficult shape to wear and I understand. Worn in a traditional way it can look old-fashioned. But it can be worn in so many ways, as already shown in some of the pictures above. Here are some more ideas.

Worn nonchalantly with the two long ends on one side:

Rolled up with the point at the back of the neck inside, worn much like a rectangular scarf:

With the ends knotted loosely:

Or scrunched up cosily:

The shawl has a versatile shape and can tell many different stories, depending on the colours chosen. Choose icy shades for an arctic adventure, greys for a ghost story, greens for a jungle book, or………………… The possibilities are endless.

If you’d like to knit your own Story Lines,

you can find the pattern HERE ON RAVELRY

In addition to the Dainty Droplets and Romantic Ruffle shown here, the pattern also includes instructions for a Basic Bind-off that ties everything up neatly. And there is a Dutch as well as an English-language version.

Well, that brings us to the end of today’s story. Thank you so much, dear photographer, for your patience and for capturing everything so well. And thank you, dear friends near and far, for reading and for your always kind support!

Minibieb

Hello!

It was on my way to the Knitting and Crochet Days in Amsterdam in May 2019 that I saw the first minibieb (pronounced as: mini beep). It was a beautifully crafted boat, complete with mooring posts.

Over the past 18 months or so, when our ‘real’ libraries were closed for a long time, these little libraries have mushroomed around here.

During my walks and bicycle rides I’ve taken pictures whenever I passed one. Most of them are like small cabinets, some with sloping and others with pointed roofs (click on images to enlarge).

Similar, but still all different. Many of them have mottos, like ‘give and take’; ‘one out, one in’, or:

‘A good book can be shared together, borrowed, swapped, donated.’

Here is a peek inside one:

Several English books among the ones in Dutch, a few crime and other novels, and a book with the intriguing title Chuapi Punchapi Tutayaca (or is it the author’s name?). As well as one that is also on my own book shelves: Zomerboek (The Summer Book) by Tove Jansson – who would give that gem away, I wonder?  

Some little libraries are tiny…

… and found along city streets lined with wheelie bins.

Others are slightly bigger and found in out-of-the way places. Along a grassy path…

…I found this one, also selling plum jam and walnuts.

En route, I passed this sign, where we are meant to tralalalalaaaa our way to the next little library.

One little library in our neighbourhood is located inside a café.

And several provide benches, so that you can start reading straightaway, like this one.

And this one.

Nice, isn’t it, with little olive trees on either side of the bench. This minibieb is called Bieb aan ‘t Diep.

That means Library on the Canal. And this is what it looks out on.

I had a nice chat with the owner of this one…

… that has a bench with a brass plate on it saying ‘Little Book Bench’.

I asked her why she decided to start a minibieb. She told me of her lifelong love of books. She also mentioned things like social cohesion, enlivening the street and serving people (especially young and elderly) who can’t easily get to the public library.

I’m writing about the minibieb because I think it’s a wonderful new phenomenon. And also because there is a link between books and my new knitting design. We’ve already been out for a photo shoot. I’m working hard on the lay-out now and hope to publish the pattern next week. Here is a sneak peek.

Googling, I discovered that the minibieb movement started in Wisconsin in the US and that there now are little free libraries (as they are officially called) in 91 countries. Do you have them near you, too? Do you use them?

Some people seem to be worried that they will steal readers from the public libraries. Hm, maybe. Or maybe they’ll create new readers eager to move onto larger libraries after a while.

More information and a world map can be found on the Little Free Library website. The Dutch minibieb website can be found here. I don’t know if this goes for the rest of the world, but in the Netherlands there are many, many more minibiebs than those registered on the website. Once you’ve found one, you can always ask the owner if they know more near where you live.

Well, that’s all for today. I hope to be back next week with a knitting story. Bye for now and take care!

Burgundy Cardi

Hello!

Thank you for your kind comments about last week’s autumn walk. Today it’s all about knitting again. Looking through my photos I have a feeling it may become a longish post, so why not make yourself a nice cup of tea or coffee before diving in?

I’ve just finished a cardigan for our daughter and thought I’d talk about that for a bit. It’s the cardi I had to unravel the front of because I hadn’t read the pattern properly. Well, that was quickly remedied and it was soon time to check the sleeve length.

I didn’t have our daughter or any of her clothes at hand to measure the length, but I found an old sweater of mine she often borrows that I thought had exactly the right sleeve length.

It’s a different shape and size, but that didn’t matter. As long as the measurements across the chest and along the underarm were the same it would be all right (I hoped). Measured by the old sweater, the sleeve had reached the arm hole and the starting point of the sleeve cap. The sleeves were soon finished and it was time to go looking for buttons.

I popped into a large fabric store while we were on our way to visit our daughter and was greeted by a colourful wall of buttons. (For those of you in the Netherlands, it is just outside Deventer. There is nothing on their website but the address and opening hours, but as there are so few fabric stores left, I thought I’d include a link here anyway.)

I tried to be quick because my husband was waiting outside. He is always patient, but I didn’t want to keep him waiting too long or arrive too late. I got briefly distracted, though, by the displays of satin ribbons…

… denim fabrics…

… and bling-bling.

‘Come on, just focus on the buttons, you can do it,’ I told myself. I looked at the wooden buttons…

… as well as the red ones.

So much choice! These 4 seemed most suitable.

In the end I chose the colour that matched the yarn best, the bottom one.

Time to see if the cardi fit and the sleeves were the right length. I pinned it together on the outside to make it easier to try on.

Yes, perfect! And the sleeves were the right length too.

Now all that was left to do was seam everything together.

My waistbands are getting a little tight and I don’t think it is because my clothes have shrunk. I’ll really need to watch what I eat for a while.

For a low-calory, high-protein spread, I emptied a tub of no-fat fromage frais into a sieve lined with a piece of moist cheesecloth, placed the sieve on a mixing bowl and left it in the fridge overnight. The next morning it had a nice spreadable consistency and I mixed in a couple of tea spoons of dried herbs and some sea salt.

I used a tasty German mixture with wild garlic and chili flakes that we got as a gift, but almost any fresh or dried herbs will do.

Well, back to the cardigan. To sew everything together I used the ordinary back stitch. At least I thought it was ordinary. But a while ago I talked with someone who always used mattress stitch and didn’t know how to do the back stitch. For her, and others who have never back stitched their knitting together, I’ve sewn a part of the side seam with a contrasting thread and taken pictures.

Mattress stitch is worked from the outside. It is very precise and best for very delicate knitting and for matching up stripes. Back stitch is much faster and works well for anything else. It is worked on the wrong side of the knitted fabric. First everything is pinned together with the right sides together.

(My pins come from the chemist’s and are meant for fastening old-fashioned hair rollers.)

It’s very simple, really, but not so easy to put into words. I hope the picture below is clear enough.

Back stitch is worked from right to left, holding the edges of the fabrics up. What you do is, basically:

  • Insert your needle from nearside to far side about 0.5 cm/¼ inch to the right from where the thread came up,
  • *Insert the needle from far side to near side about twice the distance to the left.
  • Pull the yarn through and insert the needle from near side to far side again through the same hole where the yarn originally came up* (where the vertical white thread is in the picture)
  • Repeat from * to *.

It gives a neat seam on the outside and looks like this on the inside:

I hope this is clear. If not, there is a good video here on YouTube.

After sewing on the buttons the cardigan is all finished. The pattern I used is the Quintessential Cardigan by the Churchmouse design team – a simple, classic cardi with great attention to detail. An elegant neckline, neat button bands, a few short rows at the hem, nicely sloping shoulders and well-fitting armholes.

The yarn I used is Lana Grossa ‘EcoPuno’. It looks warm and woolly, but actually is 72% cotton. The other 28 percent is a mixture of merino and alpaca. It does not stand up very well to unravelling, but other than that it was a nice enough yarn to knit with. The ‘Eco’ suggests that it is (partly) organic, but the ball band or the manufacturer’s website do not say anything about that.

It is an airy, lightweight yarn and the entire cardi in the size I made (finished bust size 99 cm/39”) weighs only 270 grams. Here it is in its entirety:

It was a lovely cardi to knit and I can see myself making more of these in different colours and yarns.

I had great difficulty capturing the colour in my photos. In some it looked purple, in others almost fuchsia. In real life it is the colour of the darkest leaves on this farm building that we often pass on our walks.

A beautiful deep burgundy.

Talking about this burgundy colour reminds me of something else – an unmatched pair of Gazelle Mitts. I knit many of these mitts before I was completely satisfied with the design.

The one on the left is the final version, before I knit the ones that ended up in the pattern. The one on the right is a discarded version that is ever so slightly different. Can you spot the differences?

I think I’ll unravel that and reknit it to make a matching pair. They’ll make a nice December gift.

With that we’ve come to the end of today’s looooong blog post. As always, thank you for reading and have a lovely weekend!