Mitts and Mishaps

Hello!

First of all, thank you for last week’s comments on creativity. They have really given me food for thought. One thing they’ve brought me is that maybe my idea of creativity is too exalted, as if only highly original conceptual art is creative. It would be a good thing for me to value small acts of creativity more, like choosing colours and materials, or changing a few details when following a knitting or sewing pattern. The yin-and-yang view of creativity is new to me and I need some time to digest that. I have a feeling that it could be very valuable.

I’ve just finished a pair of fingerless mitts from a pattern that I’ve knit several times before. This time I’ve made the welts on the cuff multi-coloured (a tiny act of creativity) using yarn left over from the colourwork hats I knit earlier.

I didn’t have enough red yarn left from the hats, but happened to have some of that left over from a cardigan I knit a couple of years back. There is something to be said for using the same yarn again and again – it’s easy to combine and use up the remnants.

Sadly there’s been a mishap with this cardigan knit from Rowan’s Felted Tweed and it’s now a felted Felted Tweed cardigan. I’ve always washed knits from this yarn on wool wash in the washing machine and have never had problems before, but this time I saw there was a problem as soon as I opened the door. Uh-oh! I’d like to blame the washing machine, but perhaps I pushed the wrong button? It hasn’t exactly become child-sized, but too small and stiff for me to wear anymore.

I love Felted Tweed and on the whole am happy with other Rowan yarns, too. But last year I knit a cardigan from their Alpaca Soft DK that looked like this after I’d only worn it a few days.

Really awful pilling that can’t be removed no matter what I try. I’ve even bought a special pill remover, but no luck. I was so disappointed that I put it away for a while, but I’ve pulled it out of the naughty corner and it can be my gardening cardigan from now on.

Back to the fingerless mitts. Their thumb gussets are nicely defined by purl stitches and the fit is great. The pattern can be found here on Ravelry, and there is also a matching welted cowl.

The snowdrops I’ve photographed them with are small ones in our own garden. I saw some very big ones on the corner of someone else’s garden path. They almost looked like plastic, but no, they were real.

Spring bulbs, trees and shrubs are flowering a month earlier here now than they did 50 years ago, according to Nature Today. That’s very unsettling and I almost feel as if I oughtn’t to enjoy them anymore. I still do, though. The crocuses in our garden are doing very well and seeding themselves out in many places.

Maybe someday we’ll have a display like this next to the church in the village of Norg.

These harbingers of spring are telling me that I need to get a move on with the woolly Norwegian sweater for our grandson. I hope to have it finished next week. Hope to see you again then! Xxx

Are You Creative?

Are you creative? That question has been echoing in my mind for quite some time. Let me tell you how it came about.

In need of new oven mitts, I cycled to a shop and found a pair I liked. Only, they hadn’t been seamed properly and the wadding peeped out in several places. Asking a shop assistant if they had another pair, she asked me in return, ‘Are you creative?’

Am I creative? Uhm………………………

What she meant was, are you skilful enough with needle and thread to repair them? In the end I got the oven mitts at a discount and got ‘creative’ with them at home. I’ve been pondering the question on and off ever since (and that’s been a while as you can see from the state of those mitts).

Are you creative?

Well, basically I just like making things.

I don’t think I’m more creative than most people, and definitely less than some. I like following a pattern and cooking from a recipe. Does that matter? In one sense, not at all. I don’t need to be remembered as that wonderfully creative person. I’m fine with being ordinary. But in a different sense it does, because I have a kind of itch inside. Do you know that feeling? As if there is something inside that wants to get out but you can’t quite grasp it.

Compiling these blog posts scratches that itch a little, but it feels as if there is something more. I’d like to find out what that is. Pondering how to go about that, I’m starting a needle-and-thread project that would count as hugely creative by the shop assistant’s standards and not at all by mine.

Why? Because I urgently need a dose of colour! There are a few pops of colour in the garden –  bright yellow winter aconites, purple and cream crocuses and magenta-pink cyclamen coum.

But on the whole, everything still is mainly brown with some green. I took the picture below in Giethoorn the other day. I long for those hydrangeas to show their blues, pinks and purples again.

Waiting for spring to touch the world with its magical paintbrush, I’ll stitch some colourful stitches, knit a few cosy knits and try to find out what to do about that niggling question.

Are you creative?

Norwegian Knitting and Reading

Hello! I hope all is well with you and you’re looking forward to the weekend. With a busy time ahead of me, I want to fill this weekend with as much quiet time knitting and reading as possible. The knitting project I started last week ticks two of the boxes on my ‘would-like-to-do list’ for 2024:

  • Norwegian Knitting
  • Make everyday things for my family and myself

It’s a sweater for our grandson with a colourwork yoke.

It isn’t a traditional Norwegian sweater, as it is knit from the top down and has a round yoke. But it comes from a Norwegian knitting book, uses Norwegian wool and has a Norwegian feel to it, so I think it counts. It is the Vinterkonglegenser, or Winter Pine Cone Pullover from Klømpelømpe de vier seizoenen.

The original title is Klømpelømpe strikk året rundt, and the title of the English edition is All-Year-Round Knitting for Little Sweethearts. The English title isn’t very well chosen, because there are quite a few patterns for adults in it, as well. The sweater has a matching hat and trousers to knit.

The pattern describes many sizes, for both children and adults. The swatch I knit, a sweater that fits our grandson now, and the numbers in the pattern told me that I needed to make the size for 6 years. Six?!? Our grandson isn’t even two! Surely that couldn’t be right?

I know that we Dutch are some of the tallest people on the planet, and our grandson is of above average size for a Dutch child, but surely Norwegian 6-year-olds can’t be the size of a 22-month-old Dutch boy? Well, I’ll place my trust in the numbers and if I’m wrong I’ll just rip it out and start anew.

I like the colours the designers used, but am using a very different combo for my grandson. Originally I had chosen a pale taupe for the pine cones…

… but after knitting a few rows I decided that it was rather insipid and swapped it for the golden brown left over from this little fella knit in the same yarn (Sandnes Garn Tynn Merinoull). Much better!

While I sat quietly knitting, a thought popped up. Wouldn’t it be nice to enrich this year’s Norwegian knitting experience with some Norwegian reading alongside? My small Scandinavian library mainly consists of Swedish literature, but there are four Norwegian books (in English and Dutch) among them – three books by Sigrid Undset and one by Trygve Gulbranssen.

The slim book Vigdis Gunnarsdochter* by Sigrid Undset seems like a good choice to accompany the small sweater on my needles, so I’ll start with that. The Norwegian books I own are all older classics and I’ve read two of them before. I’d like to read some new-to-me and/or more recent Norwegian books, too, but have no idea which ones. Suggestions welcome! (I don’t read thrillers).

*Original title Fortaellingen om Viga-Ljot og Vigdis; English translation Gunnar’s Daughter.

Putting Stitches on Hold

Do you remember that Paul Simon song 50 Ways to Leave your Lover?

You just slip out the back, Jack
Make a new plan, Stan
You don’t need to be coy, Roy
Just get yourself free
Hop on the bus, Gus
You don’t need to discuss much
Just drop off the key, Lee
And get yourself free

I’m not planning to leave my lover (don’t worry dear heart). The song just popped up in my mind while I was pondering the many different ways there are to do things in knitting – all those different ways of casting on, binding off, increasing, decreasing etc. It was the cardigan that’s on my needles that set this train of thoughts in motion.

It is knit from the shoulders down, and the stitches for the back and fronts need to be put on hold for a while, and later the stitches for the pocket linings. This time I’ve decided to use plastic cords.

I don’t pretend to hold the key to what way is most suitable for what kind of knitting…

… but I do have some thoughts about the pros and cons of perhaps not 50, but at least 4 ways to put stitches on hold.

1) Needle and thread:

Pros: Inexpensive; always on hand; available in every length; can be knotted to prevent stitches from sliding off
Cons: It can be hard to get the stitches back onto a needle from the thread (the stitches tend to shrink into the row below)

2) Giant coilless safety pins:

Pros: Easy to transfer stitches to and from; can be closed to prevent stitches falling off
Cons: Only suitable for small numbers of stitches; ends may scratch precious needle tips; stitches can only be picked up from one end

3) Spare circular needles:

Pros: Available in many sizes; stitches can easily be transferred back to other needle from both ends
Cons: Needles may get in the way; stitches can slide off
Alternative: Use the cords of interchangeable circulars with end stoppers on (only I don’t have many spares of those)

4) Plastic cords
(Mine were a birthday gift and came in a tin with two 75 cm/30” cords and one 150 cm/60” cord.)

Pros: They are hollow and can be attached to needle tips for easy transferring of stitches; stitches won’t ‘disappear’ into row below as with ordinary thread
Cons: Expensive; plastic smell

What is your preferred way of putting stitches on hold?

To close off, a few pictures of a herd of fallow deer we came across on last Sunday’s walk. They have nothing whatsoever to do with putting stitches on hold, but I just had to include them. There is a pure white one among them. Aren’t they gorgeous? Bye! Xxx

17 Kilos of Blue Yarn

Hello! Would you like to visit a cemetery with me? That would be killing if I were asking you out on a first date, I know. As it is, I’m quite sure you’ll like it because we’ve been invited to come and collect yarn!

There are 17 kilos of it on an old-fashioned wooden drying rack in the funeral building that we’re transforming into a more comforting space with wool.

Seventeen kilos of hand-spun local wool, hand-dyed with local woad. Isn’t it gorgeous? All of the hanks are the same shade, in tones ranging from barely-there to intense blue. Somewhere on that rack are the hanks I spun, but I have no idea which ones they are.

First, someone from the organisation updates us briefly on the Aula-in-Blauw project progress. The carpet turns out to be one of the most time-consuming elements. She tells us that someone worked out how many ends of yarn need to be hooked onto the canvas: a staggering 113,100! The carpet travels from town to town, so that different groups can work on it.

Then she invites us knitters and crocheters to come over to the drying rack and choose yarn for the cushion covers we’re going to make. That’s what all of the 17 kilos of yarn are for.

While everyone is rushing forward, I get talking to the artist making the felted wall panels and admiring her samples.

I particularly like this sample, that’s like a pale blue sky with little puffs of cirrocumulus clouds:

Then, shuffling forward, I pass the three sample cushions on the front bench – one crocheted and two knit. They’ll make sitting here for a while much more comfortable. Weavers are going to make long cushions for the back supports.

While I’m chatting with some of the others choosing yarn, I’m not paying enough attention and end up with 3 very different hanks – one an Aran weight, one more like a DK and one with a thick-and-thin effect. It’ll be a challenge to make nice and even squares from them.

But it’s a kind of challenge I like, and it’s lovely to be part of this friendly community of knitters, crocheters, weavers, dyers, rug-hookers and felt-makers. A friend has already finished her cushion cover. On her blog, she writes that all in all it took her about 8 hours. With so many people contributing a little of their time a lot can get done.

Well, I’m going to sign off now and hope to see you again soon.

A Would-Like-To-Do List

Are you a list maker? I certainly am. Lists help me navigate through life, but I need to be careful that they don’t take over. It’s all about finding the right balance between getting things done and being realistic and gentle. For 2023, I wrote this wish list in my knitting notebook:

  1. Norwegian knitting
  2. Making things for our grandson
  3. Knitting challenging socks
  4. Designing

Some categories received more time and attention than others, and that’s fine. It wasn’t a have-to-do list after all, but a wish list. The list helped me bring some focus to my knitting.

For 2024 I’m recycling this list – keeping, adding, removing and modifying a few things. For the year ahead, my would-like-to-do list is:

  1. Norwegian knitting
  2. Make everyday things for my family and myself
  3. Be a little more creative
  4. Be generous with my knitting

The ‘be a little more creative’ item is still a big question mark. For the rest, my knitting baskets are filling up, with some Norwegian knitting…

…everyday knitting…

…and knitting for a community project:

More about the contents of these baskets over the coming weeks.

The poncho I’ve just finished definitely belongs in the ‘everyday knits’ category. It’ll be a nice and warm extra layer indoors in winter and an easy-to-throw-on outdoor item for the rest of the year.

It’s a simple rectangle that makes an asymmetrical poncho and starts with a crochet provisional cast-on. I was going to take pictures and talk about the how and why of that but forgot. I did take a quick picture of the blocking stage, but that doesn’t tell us much except that I blocked it:

I’ll try to do better with recording the process this year.

After seaming part of one side, stitches are picked up for a wonderfully cosy knit-in-the-round ribbed cowl. All in all, a lovely soft, simple, soothing project.

Well, I’m off to do a few things that will never belong on any would-like-to-do list but just need to get done – that’s life. I’ll reward myself with a few rows of knitting afterwards.

Have a lovely weekend!

PS The Easy Folded Poncho can be found here on Ravelry, and the ribbed cowl adaptation here on the designer’s website. The yarn I used is Rowan’s Fine Tweed Haze in shade ‘Deep’, a dark tealy blue with tweed nepps in pink, orange and white (the first photo captures the colour best). If you’re going to use this yarn, do swatch! I’m a fairly average knitter but needed to go down several needle sizes to get the gauge specified by both manufacturer and pattern designer.

Colourwork Hats in the Snow

Hello!

This week we’re having a wintry spell with sunshine, blue skies and even a sprinkling of snow. Such a relief after all the rain we’ve had. On the whole I’m fine with rainy days, but three months of them is a bit much even for me.

On a glorious frosty morning, before we set off for a walk, I popped the four colourwork hats I’d just finished into my backpack for a photo shoot. Before going into the actual hats, this is the yarn I used:

Four skeins of Rowan’s Felted Tweed in the shades Rage, Clay, Cinnamon and Black (from left to right). I like it when manufacturers give their shades names instead of just numbers. The pattern I used is the Colorwork Cap (here on Ravelry). Four skeins make four of these hats when a different shade is used as the main colour for each of them – very economical.

Three of the hats were knit as per pattern. For someone with a smaller head who likes her hats to be closer fitting I made the fourth one (with red as the main colour) shorter. Here they all are in a row in the snow.

The difference will become clearer when you see me wearing them. The original hat is fairly tall. It has a wide colourwork section and a crown with decreases in four places.

The smaller hat has the same ribbing and colourwork band, but decreases in six places and consequently fewer decrease rows.

Here are the two versions side by side – the black hat with decreases in four places and the red one with decreases in six (click on images to enlarge and take a closer look at the decreases). The red hat would have fitted more smoothly over the head if I’d left off part of the colourwork and spaced the decreases out over more rows, but I didn’t want to do that and am happy with the way it turned out.

The photographs were taken in an area with shifting sands that is officially called Aekingerzand, but we call de Kale Duinen (the Bare Dunes). As children this is where we went on our annual school outing, to play ball games and sunbathe on our beach towels. It was like a day on the coast minus the sea. Here is an impression of what it looks like on a winter’s day.

I hope you are keeping well and warm (or cool, for those of you in the Southern Hemisphere) and have had a good start to the new year. The four hats will soon be on their way to their new owners. One more project to finish and then it’s time for something new. I’m bursting with ideas and am looking forward to sharing them with you again this year.

Candle Flames

Hello and welcome! It’s a pity I can’t literally invite you all round for some mulled wine or tea, nibbles and a chat, but at least we can spend some time together here on my blog.

For me, writing a blog post is like writing Christmas cards – a great way to connect. About the card writing my husband said, ‘that’s quite a job, you’ve taken on.’ Not at all. To me it’s like spending some enjoyable moments with all my friends and relatives, holding them in my thoughts and wishing them well.

Besides many cards, I’ve also slipped a pair of socks in the mail. They were knit from the cuff down to the toe, with a slip stitch pattern on the heels.

The design is Candle Flame by Mona Schmidt and it’s another pair from 52 Weeks of Socks (here on Ravelry). They have small 2-stitch cables in the cuff. The pattern on the leg and foot is basically the same tiny cable, only alternating the purl stitches and the cables every four rows.

I was going to write up a tutorial about different ways to knit 2-stitch cables, to transcend the look-at-what-I’ve-made level by offering something useful, but didn’t get round to it. Together with many other things, I’m moving it to my could-do list for next year.

In the original design, most of the foot is plain stocking stitch. I didn’t like that very much and added a diamond in the same cable stitch pattern. Candle flames to keep a friend’s feet toasty – isn’t that a lovely idea?

Speaking of candle flames, another friend sent us a card with a quote I’d like to requote here:

‘It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.’

Being a therapist, she also gives us some pointers on how to do this, using words like gentleness, self-care, love, joy, sincere attention, connection, hope and humour. Lighting metaphorical candles isn’t always easy and I am grateful to my friend for her message.

I’m taking some time off now, to be with my loved ones, read, go for walks, and knit. Over the next couple of weeks, I’d like to finish the colourwork gifts that didn’t get done in time. They were going to be a surprise anyway and will still be a nice surprise in January, I hope.

I wish you a joyful and peaceful holiday season, with plenty of time for the things that make your candle flame burn brighter. Thank you so much for visiting me here and I hope to see you again in the New Year!

Mitten 17

Hello and thank you so much for all your kind responses to last week’s scarf! It’s good to be among people who like and value the same sort of things. I’m only popping in briefly today, with a short post about a small hat inspired by a wee mitten.

Around this time last year, I was knitting 24 Norwegian Advent calendar mittens. This year, I filled them with tiny gifts, pinned them onto a wreath and gave them away. I was a bit sad to part with them, but know they’ve gone to a good home.

Besides, I’ve still got the pattern and am just as happy with that, because it provides a lot of inspiration. Both the fronts and the backs of the mittens have 2-colour patterns that can be used in all kinds of other projects. Take mitten 17:

Multiplying the pattern horizontally and working one repeat vertically, I used it to knit a new hat for our grandson.

I’d asked his mother about the colour, and she said, ‘fox brown would be nice’. So fox brown it is. Or oak leaf brown.

Oak leaves look so beautiful on misty, frosty days, outlined in white.

A few weeks ago, someone contacted me on Ravelry about the Advent calender mittens. She couldn’t get the pattern downloaded. I tried it out too and, nope, the link wasn’t working. Trying it out again today, I didn’t have any problems downloading it at all! The internet works in mysterious ways.

The Norwegian Julevotter Adventscalendar can be found here on Ravelry. And here is a direct link to the pattern pdf. If you’d like to download it and it isn’t working, trying again another day may be worthwhile. Good luck!

In Seventh Heaven

Hello! In between shopping for gifts, knitting gifts, wrapping gifts, and doing everything else that needs doing at this busy time of year, I’ve also wrapped up my Seventh Heaven scarf project. I have been working on it on and off for many months and have now uploaded the pattern to Ravelry. It’s been a fun and colourful journey. Let me tell you about it.

It all began with my search for a simple knitting project, and the idea to do something with my sock yarn remnants and other small bits of fingering-weight yarn.

Inspired by the first knitting booklets I had as a child, I started knitting swatches in simple garter stitch and slip stitches.

I chose a very deep navy blue yarn as a background for my colourful scraps – Isager Sock Yarn, a blend of 40% alpaca, 40% merino wool and 20% recycled nylon. Both the alpaca and the merino wool are ‘easy wash’. Easy wash is an environmentally friendly way to make yarns machine washable without felting or shrinking. I haven’t used this yarn before, but can now say that it is pleasantly smooth to knit with and softens up very nicely after washing.

It was a joy to knit a few rows every day, and the scarf grew and grew.

It wasn’t until I’d knit quite a bit that I realized the colours I was using reflected those of my surroundings in spring and summer, in particular the flowers and insects in the wetlands of De Wieden.

I was using the bright greens of fresh young reed stalks and grass…

… the blues of bright skies and damselflies…

… the pinks and purples of thistle, ragged robin and orchid…

… and the orange of the large copper, a dazzlingly beautiful butterfly. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to photograph it, because it disappeared from De Wieden about a decade ago. Very sad, but all hope is not lost (more about that further on).

Our photoshoot in De Wieden took place during last week’s foggy walk. My husband carried the scarf rolled up around a long cardboard tube (sticking out from his rucksack) so that it wouldn’t get all crumpled. It’s hard to believe, but the muddy field he is standing in, is a beautiful flower meadow earlier in the year.

This is Seventh Heaven in its full length – a little over 2 metres (80”) long. As you can see from the purple/pink/orange section folded over at the top, the ‘wrong’ side also looks good, with the colours more blended.

It is a generous scarf, but still very wearable.

Because of the fingering-weight yarn used, it is not bulky at all. The colours show up really nicely when the scarf is tied in what I now know is called a Pretzel Knot.

What more can I tell you about the Seventh Heaven scarf? The name was a gift from reader Lynn (thank you again, Lynn – it’s perfect!) and refers to how I feel when I’m in De Wieden, and also when I’m playing with yarns and colours. It has stripes in garter stitch and slip stitches, alternating the background colour and the yarn remnants. Oh, and let’s not forget the lovely I-cord edges!

I thought of giving the Seventh Heaven pattern away as an early Christmas gift to you, my dear readers and Ravelry friends, but have changed my mind. Instead I am turning it into a gift to the large copper .

Large Copper, Photo by Hans via Pixabay

In other words, from now through 2024 I’ll donate the proceeds from all sales of the pattern to Dutch nature conservation organisation Natuurmonumenten, as a contribution to creating the circumstances that will hopefully lure the large copper butterfly back to De Wieden. And it’s not just about saving one almost extinct subspecies of butterfly – the measures taken will also benefit other insects, plants and animals.

It is available in English and Dutch. Besides instructions for knitting the scarf, the pattern also contains tips on choosing yarns and colours for your creating own Seventh Heaven. Should you decide to knit one, I hope it’ll give you just as much joy as it has given me!