Better Button Bands

Hello! Today’s post starts with a few nifty knitting tips that some of you will love. If that’s not quite your thing, perhaps you’d like to scroll on for some sightseeing.

The green cable cardigan I knit for our grandson in early summer had warned me about the quality of the patterns in the pattern booklet – there were serious errors in the instructions for the sleeves. I loved the vintage look of the baby items in it, though, and was prepared to give it another try.

Forewarned, I looked through the pattern first. What did it say about the sleeves? ‘Work as the sleeves of sweater 11, p. 57.’ But, but… this IS sweater 11 on p. 57! Ugh, I gave up, just looked at the photos and worked out a pattern myself.

On the green cable cardi, I wasn’t happy with the ends of the button and buttonhole bands – they didn’t form a straight line with the ribbing.

At the time, my friend A. sent me a link with tips for ‘Button Band Gladness’. There was a lot there about how many stitches to pick up, but I didn’t think that was my problem. For me the magic tip came at the very end. Or actually there were two:

1) Find that hard-to-find place VERY close to the edge of the cast-on (or bind-off) to pick up your first (or last) stitch.

2) The first and last stitch of ribbing always roll. So for a k1, p1 rib, instead of starting and ending with one knit stitch, start and end with two.

Especially the last tip helped me get much better button bands, both at the bottom…

… and at the top. Thank you for the link, A.!

However much I would have liked to sew a pair of trousers to go with the little cardi, I can’t do everything. So, after an appointment in a business district of Zwolle, I drove to the city centre for some shopping. The shortest route from the parking place to the shops crosses two canals. My maternal ancestors lived and worked on boats like these.

Behind the old gables some high new ones are now towering.

A long time ago, I worked in a psychologists’ practice here and often strolled through the busy shopping streets during my lunch break. I still love coming here from time to time. One of my favourite shops belongs to a Danish retail chain selling things for the home as well as great crafts materials. Wouldn’t you love to have shelves like these at home, with glass jars filled with ribbons, just to look at?

Into my shopping basket went a tin of Danish butter cookies for the hostess of the next get-together of my knitting group and a few other small gifts.

I treated myself to a lunch of pumpkin soup with bread rolls and a glass of fresh ginger-and-orange tea at the café in a big book shop.

It’s a marvellous shop in a former church building. The original vaulted ceiling and the organ are still there.

But the old familiar feeling of overwhelm came over me and I left the shop without books. I did succeed in finding a pair of soft size 98 sweat pants in forest green (not in the book shop, obviously). Don’t they look nice with the sand-coloured cardi?

Next week, we’re having friends to stay and I don’t know if I’ll be able to write a post. If not next week, I’ll be back the week after that. See you then!

Focusing on Finishing

Hello! Feeling sad, angry and worried about the terrible conflict that is causing so much suffering, I thought I wouldn’t publish a blogpost this week. But I changed my mind, realizing it’s important to keep paying attention to good, beautiful, gentle things, too. No matter how seemingly insignificant they are. So here are some words and pictures from my small corner of the world after all.

On the knitting front, I’m focusing on finishing my WIPs one by one. An 18-month-size cardigan is drying on my blocking mats. I’m not blocking it the way you’d block a lace shawl, but just laying the pieces out – not stretching them at all, only using pins in a few places and for the rest patting them flat.

I can’t sit around twiddling my thumbs while the cardi is drying of course, so alongside finishing WIPs, I’m knitting a few simple gifts. Quite a few actually, but I’ll also focus on them one by one.

This way, I’m making good progress and that feels great, I have to say. The weather is also conducive to knitting. With cooler temperatures and some dark and rainy days it’s beginning to feel a little like autumn. The wild violets are still flowering and most trees are still green, but the bracken is turning coppery brown…

… the forest floor is littered with chestnuts and acorns, and fungi in many different colours and shapes are popping up everywhere.

We’ve harvested our last tomatoes, and the last of the farmers’ markets of the year is also behind us. It was windy and rainy and very quiet. We had a chat with some of the stall holders and then it was, ‘Goodbye, see you next year!’ Only one of them said, ‘Let’s hope we’ll meet here again next year.’ He is in his eighties. Yes, let’s hope so.

We left with some groceries in our shopping bag, tea/coffee and cake in our stomachs, and a bunch of branches with tiny rosehips wrapped in a newspaper. Just imagine how many teeny tiny roses there must have been on them.

It’s been good sitting here selecting photos and quietly tapping away at my computer. Thank you for visiting and see you again next week!

Lempisukat?

Hello! I hope this finds you and your loved ones all well. First of all, sorry to the non-knitters among you. It’s very knitterly post today I’m afraid, about a pair of socks I’ve just finished – Lempi, another pair from that marvellous book 52 Weeks of Socks. Designed by Rachel Coopey, these are knit in 3 colours from the cuff down to the toe.

The photos in the book are very atmospheric, but don’t always show the details very well. These socks have a variation on k2, p2 ribbing on the cuff and another variation on it on the top of the foot.

I knit the Lempi socks on 2.0 mm (US 0) double-pointed needles and switched to 2.5 mm (US 1½) circulars for the colourwork section. At the toe of the first sock, I realized that there wouldn’t be enough of the main colour for the second sock – I’d already used more than half of it. And I was making the smallest size, too!

Unable to get another skein at short notice, I decided to switch the colours around for the second sock, ending up with an unmatched pair. After soaking I put them on my sock blockers.

Unlike with the pair of stocking stitch socks I blocked on them before, I am very happy with the result now. Blocking really makes a difference – can you see it?

It worked especially well for the colourwork section, which was rather uneven before blocking but evened out nicely.

The yarn I used (Lang Jawoll superwash) has a small spool of thinner yarn inside each skein for reinforcing heels and toes. With this extra thread and the slip-stitch pattern used, the fabric for the heels became very dense and stiff – it really feels indestructible.

Curious about the meaning of Lempi, I looked it up. Turns out it’s a Finnish word meaning love, or (in compounds) favourite. For instance, lempimusiikki means favourite music, lempiväri means favourite colour and lempisukat means favourite socks.

So, are these my new lempisukat? Not really. I would have preferred both socks to be the same, if I’m honest. Also, in my humble opinion the 3-colour design is not quite balanced. And what really bothers me about my pair is that there is not enough contrast in the colourwork of the second sock. My advice to anyone who’d like to knit a pair of these: Omit the 3rd colour and instead use two 100-gram skeins of yarn with plenty of contrast.

Lempi can be found here on Ravelry and more information about 52 Weeks of Socks here on the (Finnish) publisher’s website.

How to get your knitting mojo back

Hello! Does it happen to you, too, that you lose your knitting mojo from time to time? Over the past month or so, I seem to have lost mine. It isn’t as if there is nothing on my needles, it’s just that I’m not feeling terribly enthusiastic about any of it.

Mojo, what does the word really mean? I’ve always thought of it as a combo of motivation and joy, but is it? As a professional translator, I stopped using paper dictionaries a long time ago, but I still enjoy leafing through them.

The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary says:
Mojo – 1. Magic, voodoo; a charm or amulet; 2. Any narcotic drug, esp. morphine.

Hmm, I think I’ll stick to my own definition:
Mojo – Acronym of MOtivation and JOy.

So, how to get your knitting mojo back? Googling for help, I found lots of tips. Well, actually mostly the same ones mentioned over and over again. Selecting those that spoke to me most and adding a couple of my own I’ve made a list of 9 tips (9 is my lucky number).

1 Get enough sleep

For me, feeling blah about knitting often means that I’m just plain tired and need more sleep. Getting enough sleep is easier said than done, but I’ll do my best, i.e.: drink calming herbal teas, relax more during the daytime, try to take naps, try not to worry about things I can’t do anything about, do something about those I can, and heed tip 9. I could also knit a new Soothing Sachet and tuck it under my pillow. This is one I knit earlier:

2 Knit together

A real-life knitting group would be best. But lacking that, you could join a KAL or hang out with your favourite Ravelry group. My knitting group only meets every other month, but is always fun and inspiring. Here are a few Ravelry links to the beautiful things some of my knitting friends were making when we met last week: FF Backward, a fun sweater with an interesting construction; Kuno’s Cushion, with linen stitch stripes; Riddari, an Icelandic design with a beautiful yoke; and The Twigs, a refined sweater by a Japanese designer.

3 Visit a yarn shop

Actually, I visited two last week – one of them a small local haberdashery shop and the other one a shop I blogged about a couple of years ago. Looking at yarns and samples, and leafing through the latest books and magazines is always inspiring. If you’re unable to visit a brick-and-mortar shop, there are always online ones.

4 Browse patterns

Browsing patterns on Ravelry or Instagram, or looking at pictures in knitting mags may bring back that spark you’re missing. I came home from the above yarn shop with the latest Rowan Magazine, nr 74. It’s quite expensive, and I hesitated, but decided to get it because it’s a special about two beautiful tweed yarns and has several patterns in it that I’d love to knit. My two favourites are Himalayas, included both as a pullover and a cardigan.

And Scree, a colourwork scarf knit in the round.

5 Organize your stash

This seems like a great idea. Maybe you’ll find yarns you’d forgotten about that would make your fingers itch to knit. I’ll keep this in mind for later…

6 Knit a gift

Perhaps thinking about someone you love and how something you knit for them will keep them warm will bring your knitting mojo back. This tip made me cycle to the small haberdashery shop in our nearest town to get two skeins of yarn for a hat for a friend.

7 Sort your WIPs

With six works in progress (WIPs) on my needles that are not making a lot of progress, this may be the magical tip for me. Gathering them all together, I realized that there is something about each WIP that’s keeping me from knitting happily on. Take these socks, for instance. The first sock has taken up 30 g of the main colour, so there is only 20 g left for the second sock – uh-oh! What to do now? Buy another skein? Rip back a bit and add stripes? Something else?

8 Start something new

Starting something new is always nice, of course. Maybe you need something challenging to get your needles clicking again. Or maybe something simple. I’m choosing the latter option – a very simple poncho. This will kill two birds with one stone, because I’m also going to knit this together with my favourite group of Ravelry friends.

9 Get some exercise and fresh air

This helps to feel more motivated and joyful in general.

These tips have already made me feel more MOtivated about finishing my WIPs. And I actually feel a tiny spark of JOy about starting the hat and the poncho. I also have the feeling that I may need something more colourful and/or challenging to bring my mojo back completely.

I hope that your knitting mojo hasn’t left you, or if it has, that these tips will help you as they’re helping me. xxx

Oh, the Places Knitters Go!

Hello! It’s good to be back here. Maybe you haven’t even noticed I’ve been away, but we’ve been on a late summer holiday to Germany. We spent the first half in the Mosel region, and the second half in the Eifel. Above a photo of the view on the river Mosel from our balcony, and below our first holiday home from the outside:

In my dreams, that is. In real life this is Reichsburg Cochem. And in real life we stayed in a far humbler (but lovely) abode. In real life, this was what I looked out on when I sat knitting outside our cottage.

I didn’t knit all that much during our holiday, though. Partly because we were out walking and visiting places most of the time, and partly because it was so hot that the yarn almost felted in my hands. A few rows on a scarf here and there, and half a sock was all I knit.

Halfway through the holiday, I celebrated my birthday. We had some of the famous and delicious German Kuchen, of course. (The Germans are so much better at baking cakes than we Dutch are.) And I also got to decide what we were going to do the rest of the day. I chose a visit to another castle and… a yarn shop (what else?). This is Schloss Bürresheim.

The castle is entered through a kind of tunnel that leads to a courtyard with an outdoor summer kitchen. It’s very special, like being in a film.

Actually it is in a film. In an edited form, it is the castle where Indiana Jones’ father is held captive in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Now, let’s drive on to the yarn shop. It’s Die Kleine Wollfabrik in Kaisersesch. My guess is that tourists are a rarity in this town. It’s 30 ˚ C/86 ˚ F, with glaring sunlight and noise and dust from building activities in a colourless street. Oh, the places we knitters go! For a moment I wonder ‘what on earth am I doing here?’, and then step inside a world of colour.

There is yarn everywhere. In overflowing baskets…

… in cubbyholes, on shelves, on the floor…

… on top of storage units and in front of the windows. These skeins were dyed by the shop owner herself:

And there is also quite a bit of spinning fibre.

So, is this yarn shop worth a detour? If you’re looking for yarn for a sweater – frankly no. There is very little of that kind of yarn here. But if you’d like some yarn for socks or a shawl – absolutely. Be prepared for a kind of yarn jungle expedition, though. You’d be wise to have some kind of idea of what you’re looking for beforehand.

From all of the very colourful yarns, I chose several rather quiet ones for three pairs of socks to give away, and a variegated yarn for a pair for me. All of them yarns I haven’t knit with before – I’ll tell you more about them when I get round to knitting them up.

After all of the beautiful places we’ve been to, it’s good to be back home. In a sense, I’m a cow. Not the nicest thing to say of oneself perhaps, but what I mean is: I need time to chew things over. After ingesting lots of grass/impressions, both cows and I need some quiet time to digest everything. Sifting through my photographs and writing about my experiences helps me do that.

Thank you for reading. I hope to digest/write about a visit to another textiles-related place next week before getting back to my ordinary knitting chat. Hope to see you then!

Late Summer Knitting

It’s the first day of September today and it won’t be long before the summer is over. The hedgerows are speckled red, orange and purple with elderberries, rosehips and blackberries.

It’s that in-between time, when on the whole it still feels like summer, but with dewy early-morning spiders’ webs and clumps of fungi letting us know that autumn is on its way.

It’ll soon be time to start knitting warm and cosy sweaters or perhaps even a blanket. But for now, I’m still knitting on my small summer projects. Another cardi for our grandson, this time with a diamond pattern, is well underway.

I’ve also started another pair of socks from the 52 Weeks of Socks book. This time it’s Lempi, designed by Rachel Coopey. My first attempt became far too wide, with a very loose and open fabric.

I never swatch for socks – do you? I just start and try them on, and if I’m not happy with what I’m getting I rip them out and start anew. That’s what I did with the first Lempi sock. I went down from the suggested 2.5 mm/US 1½ to 2.0 mm/US 0. Now the fabric and fit look right.

These socks have a knit-and-purl pattern on the feet, some colourwork on the legs, and long cuffs in p2, k2 alternating with narrow bands of k2, p2. A simple but very nice rib pattern. Just a few rows to go and I can start on the colourwork section.

The yarn I’m using is Lang Jawoll in three colours. It comes in 50 gram skeins instead of the usual 100 grams, which is handy for sock patterns using multiple colours. Each skein hides a small spool of thinner yarn inside for reinforcing heels and toes.

Both the Lempi socks and the little cardi need quite a bit of attention. The cardigan isn’t very difficult, but I’m making the pattern up as I go which makes it a little more complicated. So, in need of a mindless project alongside, I’ve also swatched for another Polka Dot Scarf. I gave the first one I knit away and may (or may not) keep this one myself. I’m using a different colour for the actual scarf – dark denim instead of grey.

With these three projects on my needles, I’ll have enough to do over the coming weeks. Meanwhile I’ll be composing a to-knit-list for when the days really start getting colder. Are you still knitting summery projects, too, or do you already have larger and warmer things on your lap?

It isn’t warm enough for our cherry tomatoes to ripen on the plants anymore, this late in the summer. So some of them are ripening on a glass plate in our window sill. They’re so pretty, and very tasty, too.

Hope to see you again next week. Byeeee! xxx

The Story of the Drowned Village

Hello! Today, I’m going to tell you a story. A story about a lake that wasn’t always a lake, a path that leads nowhere, and a drowned village.

‘Show, don’t tell,’ isn’t that what aspiring writers are always taught? Well, I’ll do better than that – I’ll show AND tell. Look, this is where we start – a narrow brick path, with old reed-roofed cottages on one side…

… and a flower garden and more tiny cottages on the other.

One of the cottages is now a tearoom. Maybe we can have a cuppa there later.

This used to be the path to the village of Beulake, but now it leads nowhere. Well, not quite nowhere – it ends at the water’s edge and brings us to the boat I’ve rented especially for us today. Please hop in. To get to the lake we need to negotiate a narrow canal first.

And here we are, on the Beulakerwijde – the lake that wasn’t always a lake. We’re not the only ones enjoying a lovely day out on the water.

It’s hot and sunny today, with a gentle breeze. Very different from that fateful day in November 1776, when rain and wind lashed the countryside.

Extensive peat extraction had made the area around Beulake vulnerable and a year earlier a heavy storm had broken the sea dykes in several places, flooded the land and driven away most of the inhabitants of the village. This time the storm was even worse. Fearing for their lives, the remaining 50 villagers fled to the church. They experienced the worst 36 hours of their lives, but survived to tell the tale. The village was drowned, however, and the entire area became a lake – the lake we’re on today.

The church disappeared in another storm, fifty years later, and… But wait, what’s that there in the distance?

It looks like, no, it can’t be, yes it is a… church tower???

A church tower complete with a bell and clockwork!

Well, actually it’s an artwork approximately in the spot where the original church of Beulake was. The small, uninhabited island behind it is called Kerkhof (church yard). It’s not hard to guess why.

The story of the drowned village of Beulake is the story behind one of the two versions of my Story Lines shawl.

The photographs were taken here, and I’ve been wanting to tell you the story behind it for a long time, but somehow never got round to it.

There is also a red version with ruffles along the edge, but the watery blue version ends with a row of droplets.

Well, it’s time to head back, along the reedbeds and water lilies.

We’re lucky – the tearoom is still open. Do you have time to stay a little longer? What would you like? Coffee, fresh mint tea, an alcohol-free beer? And carrot cake, a brownie or a slice of Dutch apple pie to go with it?

The Story Lines pattern can be found here on Ravelry and the blog post about both versions of the shawl here.

Our boat trip started from Natuurmonumenten visitor centre De Wieden. (Natuurmonumenten is the nature conservation organisation that protects and manages the beautiful and vulnerable wetland area of today’s story.)

A Monkey in the Forest

Hello! Last week, besides needing some quiet time to myself, I was too busy finishing a monkey to write a blog post. Before he was to move in with our grandson, I took him to the forest at the end of our street for a photo shoot. First we walked through the part with the big old beeches, where we got a good shot of the way his tail peeks out from his dungarees.

But on the whole it was too dark under the trees, so we walked on to a sunnier spot. It’s one of my favourite places in the whole wide world – a tiny, perfectly round pool.

It’s probably an ancient cattle watering-hole and it is surrounded by a small patch of heathland.

The heather is in bloom at the moment. It’s mainly ling, but there is also some bell heather.

So, here he is, the monkey I knit for our grandson:

He was knit entirely in one piece, starting from the top of his head. It isn’t an easy knit, but the pattern is very clear and has photo tutorials for literally every detail. The only part that gave me some problems was the ‘frown’ – the vertical line between his eyes that needed exactly the right increases to get a neat result. It’s a very clever construction and I particularly like the shaping of the monkey’s back and bum that allow him to sit up straight on every surface.

I knit the monkey a pair of dungarees with buttons on the back, that you’ve already seen from behind. This is the front:

And a jacket that also leaves the tail free.

Even though it’s the middle of the Summer Holiday Season and there are many, many tourists in the region, nobody comes up to me here, asking what on earth I am doing. It’s quiet. Dragon flies are flitting across the pond, too fast for me to capture. A viviparous lizard is also faster than my camera. Fortunately the carnivorous sundew stays in place, allowing me all the time I need to photograph its treacherous sticky droplets.

We enjoyed a lovely couple of hours in the forest, the monkey and I. He has now moved in with our grandson and they are getting along very well. The monkey has already been dressed and undressed countless times, and also been thrown about quite a bit, but he keeps smiling and doesn’t seem to mind.

For the knitters among you, here are a few details:

  • Yarn: Sandness ‘Tynn Merinoull’ (monkey, 20 MC, 8 g CC); Dalegarn ‘Baby Ull’ (jacket and dungarees 17 g each, mouth small remnant); I used a fingering-weight yarn, but the monkey can be knit in any yarn weight
  • Height of monkey: 18 cm/7” from top of head to bum; 27 cm/10½” including legs
  • Knitting needles: 2,25 mm/US 1 for monkey; 3,0 mm/US 2½ for clothes
  • The designer’s website (in Dutch) with patterns and supplies for this monkey and other softies can be found here

The Dutch paper pattern booklet includes the jacket. There is a separate booklet for the dungarees and some more clothes. Designer Anita mostly uses colourful yarns like Schoppel Zauberball for her creations.

The digital pattern for the monkey in Dutch, English, German and French can be found here on Ravelry; the dungarees in Dutch and English here; and a dress here.

Because I wanted the monkey to be washable, I’ve filled it with synthetic filling. For weighting the hands, feet and bum I used plastic pellets encased in cotton tubular bandage.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this visit to ‘our’ forest with the monkey and me. Thank you for joining us! xxx

Small Summer Pleasures

Hello! I know that some of you are on holiday, while others are off enjoying a fabulous weekend at a Fiber Fest. So maybe you’re reading this in front of your tent, on the veranda of your summer cottage, or in your hotel room. Or during your coffee break at home or at work. I like imagining all these different surroundings and look forward to reading about them on your blogs, Ravelry or elsewhere.

Nothing much is happening here at the moment. We’re at home, doing some work and just living our lives, and I thought this week I’d write about several of my small summer pleasures. First of all: rain.

We’ve had so much rain this week! Is that a pleasure? Yes, for me it is. After the hot and dry start to the summer, I love the muted light, the freshness and the wetness of it all. And our soil, plants and trees really need it.

The garden is perking up and another of my small summer pleasures is strolling through it, looking at the flowers, butterflies and insects. I’ve picked a few sprays of miniature roses for a small glass vase (top). We also have a tiny fuchsia bush, with flowers like elfin ballerinas.

In a recent episode of BBC’s Gardener’s World, there was an elderly couple who had dedicated their lives to growing miniature fuchsias. On the one hand, incredibly twee. What a thing to dedicate your life to! But on the other, so peaceful – there are far worse things to do with one’s life.

Speaking of peaceful, how can I ever swat a fly again, now that I’ve looked at this one from up close? With its veined glassy wings, its huge red eyes and its checkerboard-pattered backside it’s a beautiful creature.

My small summer knitting projects are also giving me a lot of pleasure. I just finished a pair of Welted Fingerless Gloves for our daughter, to replace a pair that was worn to shreds. They took 34 grams of Fonty’s ‘Tartan 3’, a yarn dyed using a more sustainable method than usual.

On my needles now is a small monkey for our grandson. More about that soon, when it’s finished.

We do not have a vegetable garden anymore, but we do have some vegetables in our garden. Rocket and spinach on last year’s compost heap. Rhubarb plants here and there. And one tomato and one cucumber plant against our tool shed.

The tomatoes are not ripe yet, but we’ve already harvested three wonderfully fresh and crunchy cucumbers – another small summer pleasure.

The other day we ate slices of cucumber with an Indonesian-style meal. (We have a large Indonesian community and their food culture has been an important influence on Dutch cuisine.) While I was cooking and laying the table, I thought you might like my recipe for Nasi Goreng and took some pictures. It’s an easy weekday meal and I’ve made it countless times over the years.

I don’t usually measure the quantities and sometimes vary with the ingredients, but I’ve done my best to write up a cookable recipe. My version is only slightly spicy. My husband likes it hot and adds lots of sambal.

Nasi Goreng

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 125 g white rice
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 150 g chicken breast, cut into cubes, or a vegetarian alternative
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp sambal brandal (a mild, fried sambal)
  • 1 medium carrot, finely diced
  • 150 g finely shredded pointy cabbage
  • ½ tbsp ketjap asin (salty soy sauce)
  • ½ tbsp ketjap manis (sweet soy sauce)
  • Salt

Method

The day before:

  • Cook the rice, leave to cool and store in the fridge (It is essential to do this ahead of time or you’ll get a very sticky Nasi Goreng)

On the day:

  • Heat the oil in a wok and fry the chicken cubes on high heat until lightly browned
  • Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion and fry until slightly transparent
  • Add the sambal brandal, ground coriander and cumin and stir for 2 mins
  • Turn up the heat, add in the carrot and cabbage and stir fry for about 3 mins
  • Reduce the heat to low, mix in the cooked rice and the two kinds of ketjap, and heat through
  • Add salt to taste

To serve:

  • This time we ate the Nasi Goreng with sliced cucumber, prawn crackers, serundeng (seasoned roasted coconut with peanuts) and fried egg.
  • Sometimes I also serve it with stir-fried bean sprouts, atjar tjampoer (sweet-and-sour pickles) and/or satay (peanut) sauce

Enjoy!

A Yarn Shop and Sock Blockers

Hello! As I said at the end of last week’s post, we added a couple of kilometres to the flax trail to visit a yarn shop. It is called Selden Sá! and is situated in Eastrum, a village of under 200 inhabitants.

For Selden Sá! to stay in business, either the people in Eastrum must be hugely prolific knitters eating up miles of yarn or there must be something about this out-of-the-way shop that makes people travel to it from far and wide. Let’s take a look around to find out.

Focused on flax, I spotted several linen yarns (e.g. Borgo de Pazzi Lino in photo at top). Lovely cool and summery. I also saw and fondled an extremely soft wool-and-cotton blend that would be perfect for a sweater for our grandson (photo below, to left of mannequins, third row from the top).

I’m hopeless at choosing things on the spot and regrettably didn’t buy any.

From people in my knitting group I’d already heard that Selden Sá! stocks many Scandinavian yarns and I recognized familiar ‘faces’ from Istex, Rauma, BC Garn and Holst Garn. There’s also a lot of Filcolana, a Danish brand I’m not familiar with but would definitely love to try.

For me, there is something so uplifting about browsing around in a yarn shop. All those colours! All those possibilities!

Don’t you just love it when a shop has lots of samples for inspiration?

A basket filled with swatches may not excite most people, but I could easily spend an entire afternoon studying them.

I wasn’t only browsing around, though, but also looking for something. What I needed was yarn for a pair of manly socks with an intricate stitch pattern in a light neutral, like solid grey or beige or something. What I left the shop with was a skein of hand-dyed variegated sock yarn in pink and taupe. Uh-oh, how unsensible! But very pretty, don’t you think?

I also bought a pair of wooden sock blockers – something I’ve been wanting to try for a long time.

I had just finished a pair of socks from a self-striping yarn and put them to soak as soon as we arrived home. To find out how much difference sock blockers make, I decided to block one sock and just hang the other sock to dry on the drying rack.

The socks fit my foot (shoe size 38) and the sock blockers were size 38-40. What I expected was that the sock would need to be stretched around the blocker. What actually happened was that the sock blocker disappeared completely inside the sock, hook and all! Upon drying, the sock shrank back a little, but still sat loosely around the blocker.

A bad buy? Well, that’s what I certainly thought at first. But when the socks were dry and I compared them, I could see a slight difference between the blocked and the unblocked sock. I don’t know if you can see it in the photo below, but the blocked sock (right) looked slightly neater, with more even stitches than the unblocked sock (left).

I expect the difference to be more marked in socks with a lace or cable pattern. I also suspect I need a pair of sock blockers in a larger size. Yes, I really think I need to pay Selden Sá another visit, for larger sock blockers, that soft wool-and-cotton yarn for our grandson and perhaps a few other things…

Do any of you have experience with sock blockers? Do you think they really make a difference? And do the blockers need to be larger than the socks or will that stretch out the knitted fabric too much?

I’d be grateful for your advice, but even if you don’t have any, I’m grateful for your visit. Bye! xxx