Sustainable Swatches

Hello!

Today’s post isn’t about UFOs, FOs, WIPs*, or even about starting a new knitting project, but about the stage before that. It’s about exploring and studying yarns.

The yarns I’m trying out at the moment are all organic or otherwise sustainable. Over the past few years, I’ve picked up a ball here, a skein there in yarn shops and at crafts fairs. Now I’ve finally taken the time to knit swatches with some of them. Here is a first impression.

I label all my swatches.

On the front I write information about the manufacturer, yarn name, fibres, weight, and meterage/yardage. On the back I add info about the needles used and gauge.

Below, the yarns I’ve tried out so far (from left to right).

To start with, Rosy Green Wool ‘Big Merino Hug’, ‘Lovely Merino Treat’ and ‘Cheeky Merino Joy’:

Knitting for Olive ‘Merino’ + ‘Soft Silk Mohair’ (held together), Hjertegarn ‘Organic Trio’ and Lamana ‘Milano’:

BC Garn ‘Semilla’, CaMaRose ‘Økologisk Hverdagsuld’ and Rosários4 ‘Belmonte’:

CaMaRose ‘Snefnug’ on 3 different needle sizes:

These are some of the questions I’m asking myself about my Sustainable Swatches:

  • Do I like this yarn?
  • How do I like this yarn on this needle size?
  • Which yarns will be most suitable for colour work, cabling, knit-purl stitch patterns, lace?
  • Does the yarn feel stable, elastic, drapey?
  • Which of these would I choose for a shawl, sweater, mittens?
  • Are any of these yarns suitable for baby things?

And also:

  • How do I go on from here?

I’d love to hear from you if you have experience with any of these yarns, or suggestions for other sustainable yarns to try. Or if you have a question, or just feel like saying hello.

xxx

* UFO = UnFinished (knitting) Object; FO = Finished Object; WIP = Work In Progress

Easy and Relaxed

Hello!

Easy and relaxed – doesn’t that sound like music to your ears? Life would be boring without any excitement or puzzles to be solved, of course. But as someone who tends to overcomplicate things and is far from laid-back, I often yearn for things to be easy and relaxed. So, how could I resist a pattern called Easy Relaxed Pullover?

The original version is knit with 3 lace-weight yarns held together. I knit mine with one strand of a colourful bulky yarn.

It is Cloud from Lang Yarns, and is one of those new light-weight ‘blown’ yarns. One of the balls had a couple of knots in it, but on the whole, I am happy with the quality. I considered cutting the neon pink and bright orangey-red bits out, but I’m glad I didn’t.

It was a quick, fun, light-hearted project. The pullover is knit from the bottom up. The shoulders are joined with a 3-needle bind-off. Stitches are picked up for the sleeves, and those are knit from the shoulder down.

I seamed the side and sleeve seams using mattress stitch, worked from the outside. The stripes do not match up at the sides of the body at all, and that’s fine by me. But I did match up the stripes neatly on the sleeves.

At first I thought I’d take the easy way out and just show you the pullover on it’s own. But how will you know how it fits without seeing me wearing it? So here we go, first the front:

And then the back:

As you can see, it has a very relaxed fit, with arm’holes’ tapering out, which is why the sleeves start halfway on the upper arm. So, that explains the ‘relaxed’ part of the pattern’s name. As for the ‘easy part’, this is a very easy knit. Because of the short rows at the hem and the shoulders not very-first-knit-ever easy, but easy enough for a knitter with a little experience.

All in all, a very comfy working-from-home pullover. (The pattern for the Easy Relaxed Pullover can be found here on the design team’s website and here on Ravelry.)

 ‘Work from home unless it’s absolutely necessary to attend in person’ is still the norm here. Some people seem to thrive on working from home while others struggle. I’ve worked from home for most of my adult life, and think I’m somewhere in between. I know all about the pros as well as the cons, and if there is one piece of advice I can give, it is this:

Go for a walk every single day!

For some variation in my daily walks, I combined an errand in the town of Steenwijk with a walk and brought my camera. For anything but basic groceries we cycle to Steenwijk, and we can see its church steeple in the distance on most days.

Steenwijk is also the town of the historic house of last-week’s pop-up card. I passed by its art nouveau entrance gate.

This is by no means an easy and relaxed time for many. First of all, I’m thinking of everybody who is ill or has a loved one in hospital, and our hard-worked care-workers. Other groups that are hit hard are those working in cafés and restaurants, and shopkeepers.

Like just about everything else, all non-essential shops have been closed again since the mid-December.

Blessed is the country that considers flower shops essential.

It’s strange to walk through the quiet streets. I notice different things, too. This shop is my first port of call when I need new clothes:

A funny detail I’ve never noticed before is that the building used to belong to the Salvation Army.

And here is something that I know will interest at least one of you reading this:

This little shop no longer sells second-hand books, but is now focusing completely on bookbinding materials and tools. I try to support our local shops as much as I can. And one of the small ways I can do that is by giving you a link to this shop’s website. Do pay it a visit if you’re interested in bookbinding or beautiful papers. There is a little flag at the top of their website for an English or German version.

I’m hoping for some good light this weekend to photograph the swatches I’ve been knitting. If all goes well, I’ll write about those next week. Hope to see you again then!

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:

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!

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!

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!

Easing into Autumn

Hello,

Here, in the Netherlands, we’re easing into autumn. This past week some days have been VERY wet and a little windy, but other days were so mild and sunny that it was easy to forget that it is October. The trees still have their leaves and the globe thistle in our garden is forming new flowers. 

The acorns, walnuts, hazelnuts and chestnuts are telling us that it really is autumn, though. We’ve reaped most of the walnuts and hazelnuts now, and I’ve even collected some of the green outer husks of the walnuts for a friend.

They’re waiting in the freezer until the next time we’re seeing each other. She is going to use them to make ink.

I like bringing a little of the seasons inside, too. This is the windowsill in our hallway.

Seashells and beach glass have made room for chestnuts, candles and two autumn ladies having a chat.

I made them from felt years ago. They are stuffed with wool and wear acorn caps on their thick woolly auburn hair. One of them is also carrying a basket made from an acorn cap, the other lady has mislaid hers.

There used to be a shop near here selling kits for felt figures like these as well as materials for Waldorf dolls. It was called Niels Holgersson, after the boy from the Swedish story, and was a wonderful fairy tale kind of place. Unfortunately for people in the region the shop has closed. Fortunately for the rest of the world, they now have an Etsy shop.

There is also a small felt fox on the windowsill. It is only around 7 cm/2¾” tall and sewn together with tiny stitches.

I have lost my patience for these fiddly felt projects somewhere along the way. I really, really hope to find it again someday.

The windowsill in our living room is less autumnal, but does have a few candles as well as a glass bowl holding two autumn-flowering colchicum bulbs – a gift from my ink-making friend. They do not need to be planted in soil indoors. I just placed them on some sand with a few attractive pebbles for decoration. After they have finished flowering, I’ll plant them out in the garden.

Something else that tells us that it’s autumn is the last of the farmers’ markets. There was a new stall there, selling bulbs. No colchicums, but tulips and daffodils.

It was lovely strolling around and chatting with the stall holders. We won’t be seeing them over the next six months. The tea lady is one of my favourites. She sells loose teas and herbs as well as blends she creates herself – all organic.

I love the cast-iron teapots on her stall, in a mix of shapes, sizes and decorations and a rainbow of colours.

The tea lady is a very colourful person in a stylish way and kindly allowed me to photograph her beautiful armful of bracelets to show you here.

We arrived back home with a good supply of teas for ourselves and for gifts, some other groceries and two new sets of tea and hand towels – simple, useful, cheerful.

On the knitting front, my Striped Linen Stitch wrap, with 400+ stitches per row, is growing very slowly.

(The bunches of yarn along the side are going to be a fringe.)

The cardi for our daughter, on the other hand, is growing quickly. I’ve taken it outside, because there isn’t always enough light indoors for taking pictures at this time of year.

Back and fronts are finished, the first sleeve is almost finished, and the cuff of the second sleeve is also finished and waiting on a holder.

Our daughter is a tall girl, and I’ve added 7.5 cm/3” to the body of the cardi. That means that the right front needed more buttonholes. The stitch markers in the left front are there to mark the places for the buttons and the corresponding holes. I’m also making the sleeves longer but not wider, and that means spacing out the increases (preferably evenly) over the sleeve, and that means a lot of maths.

I now notice that I wrote these notes in Dutch. Sometimes I think in English and sometimes in Dutch, and am not always aware of which I use when.

Well, that’s all for today. Whether you are also easing into autumn or are moving into spring, I hope you’re well and hope to see you again soon. Tot gauw!

Soothing Sachets

Hello! Well, everything went more or less according to plan this week, so here are the lavender sachets I promised you last week. I call them Soothing Sachets, because lavender is not just known for its moth repellent qualities, but also for its soothing scent.

The ones in the basket above are still scenting our home. But they won’t be doing so for much longer, because they are meant for gifts. Let me show them one by one.

This is the first one I made, after several discarded attempts. It is very simple, from self-striping sock yarn.

It closes with a button. Because of the way the sachet is constructed, the stripes are twice as wide compared to a sock.

It was fun rummaging through my button box for just the right button.

All of the sachets use the same basic pattern. The next one is also very simple – colour blocks with a thin asymmetrically placed contrasting stripe.

The stripe is repeated in the button band.

Together with a box of calming herb tea, it’ll make a nice gift for a friend going through a stressful time. It is made from a combination of beautiful plant-dyed mini skeins.

The one below was made from some ordinary mottled sock yarn. A few stripes and garter ridges make it perfect for tucking under a sporty person’s pillow.

In this way even the smallest yarn scraps can be used.

For the next one, I again used colour blocks – this time embellished with a few tiny buttons…

… to match the mother-of-pearl button on the back.

Just the thing for someone’s lingerie drawer, I think. I made it from some of the tiny balls of yarn left over from my first ever published pattern – Tellina.

The Tellina cowl itself would also be a great project for using up some yarn remnants or mini skeins. It can be found here on Ravelry.

The Soothing Sachets have a fabric lining, sewn from small pieces of cotton fabric. No need to buy anything specially – any thin cotton will do, as long as it’s a colour that doesn’t show through the knitting. I used bits of an old pillowcase.

Making a lining sachet may be a bit of a pain for some, I thought, so I tried leaving it out and stuffing a knitted sachet with unspun wool with some lavender in the middle.

It is an option, but I don’t like the result as much as the lined version – its shape is less crisp and its scent is too faint to my liking.

So, why not knit a few first and then spend a cosy afternoon with the sewing machine on the dining table, and all other tools and notions needed at hand, to finish them all in one go?

Finally, here is my Pièce de Résistance 😉. Again made from self-striping sock yarn, but this time with a duplicate stitch heart on the front…

… and corrugated ribbing for the buttonhole band.

Won’t that make a nice gift for a beloved child? (Caution: Sew the button on very securely, or for small children leave it off and close the entire opening.)

Some of you reading this will be receiving one of these small scented gifts in the near future. My gift to the rest of you is the pattern (in English and Dutch). It contains instructions for knitting (including the corrugated ribbing) and finishing the sachet as well as a heart chart.

Click here for the free Ravelry download.

These Soothing Sachets are simple things, but with a bit of creativity they can become great little gifts. Have fun!

PS. Remember to make a few for yourself, too – to tuck under your pillow and keep the moths away from your knitting and spinning baskets.

End of Summer 2021

Hello!

With only a few days to go to the autumn equinox, the end of summer is in sight. It is still around 20˚C (68˚F) during the daytime here, but in the mornings the smell of autumn is in the air and some days have a misty start.

It’s that transition time, with the heather still in bloom…

… but also loads of mushrooms and toadstools already, some with elegant skirts…

… some in bright yellows, oranges and reds.

The garden is past its best, but there are still some late roses and a few flowers on the buddleia. On our garden table the friendly faces of the pansies brought along by a friend remind me of the lovely afternoon spent knitting in the garden with a small delegation of my knitting group.

I know that for many people the end of summer is a melancholy time, with rainy days and dark nights approaching. For me, it is the other way around. I feel much more in my element in the other three seasons, with their cooler weather and more muted light. I actually enjoy rainy days, with the water drip-dripping from the berries in the hedgerows.

And I am looking forward to the long dark evenings, with lots of time for knitting. My great big striped linen stitch wrap has come out of its summer storage. The back of the fabric is almost as nice as the front and looks a bit like seed stitch.

My linen yarn, on the other hand, is now going into storage. I knit a few swatches to see if it would be suitable for a Siw top (Ravelry link) and decided that it isn’t. Knit at the gauge required for that pattern, the fabric became far too open to my liking.

Never mind. I now know how the yarn knits up and what my preferred gauge for it is. I’ll look for a more suitable pattern for it next year, and I’ll look out for a more suitable yarn for Siw as well.

In case you’re interested in the details: the yarn is ‘Antigone’ from French company De Rerum Natura, and is a 100% organic linen. This colorway is called Voie Lactee (Milky Way) and is a deep blueish grey. It feels rather like twine on the ball, but becomes more supple after washing.

I am storing it away with the gauge swatch with a label attached to it to remind me of the needles I used. That’s something for next spring. Now is the time to knit with more woolly yarns.

I’ve started a cardigan for our daughter in a deep Burgundy blend of merino wool, alpaca and cotton.

The Quintessential Cardigan is a very simple cardi in stocking stitch, but with great details, like a few short rows just above the ribbing at the hem so that it hangs better, a choice of sleeve lengths and a neat button band with slipped stitches. And that is where I slipped up.

My brain isn’t always functioning at its best in the evenings, you see. The pattern said that I should slip the stitches WYIB (with yarn in back) on wrong-side rows. And that is what I did. At least I slipped them with the yarn held toward what will be the back of the fabric when it is worn. But… that is the front of the fabric on the rows where you’re slipping the stitches. It’s very simple really. It is only confusing when written out here and to my foggy brain in the evenings.

The button band in my technique looked really nice.

But it rolled inwards and was not the stable band it should have been. There was a niggling voice at the back of my mind telling me this all along, but I ignored it. It was only when I had finished the entire front that it really dawned on me that something wasn’t right. I should have known! I have knit button bands like this before!

Oh well, there was nothing for it but to frog the front. So I made myself a cup of tea, put on some music and took a deep breath.

Unravelling four evenings of knitting took less than six songs on the CD my husband gave me for my birthday.

It is the latest album by Bertolf, a singer-songwriter from the nearby city of Zwolle. If you’re feeling melancholy at the end of summer, the cheerful song Don’t look up, Don’t look down might be just the pick-me-up you need. Listen to it once, and you’ll be humming it all day. You can see Bertolf playing it live on YouTube (notice the absence of an audience and everybody keeping a covid-safe distance.)

Apart from the cardigan with the frogged front and the linen stitch wrap, there is a pair of socks on my needles, I have a crochet project on the go, two shawls designed by myself need blocking and I’m fiddling with some remnants of fingering-weight yarn.

Then there is another cardigan I want to finish, a bag with a gradient of pink mini-skeins clamouring for attention, my big spinning project etc. etc. etc. In my love life, I am 100% monogamous. In my knitting… not so much.

To some, I may look obsessed, but I know that many of you will understand and share my tendency to surround myself with wool. There are even birds who do the same thing. Just look at what we found in one of our nest-boxes – the cosiest little nest lined with wool.

Thank you for visiting my wool-lined nest. Hope you’re all safe and cosy in your own. xxx