Kalm an, hè?

Hello again everybody from near or far,

For the first 40 years of my life, I lived in Friesland (except for the few years I was at uni). Then, 18 years ago, we ‘emigrated’ to a place 5 kilometres across the Frisian border. No distance at all, but still a different region, with a different landscape (so many trees!), a different building style…

… a slightly different culture and a different language.

In Friesland, people say Oant sjen (See you) when parting. Or simply Hoi! (meaning both Hi and Bye). Over here, people say Kalm an, hè? (Take it easy, won’t you?). I love the expression. It sounds so friendly, laid-back and caring – just the way many people around here are.

From the start of the lockdown, I’ve been/felt busy, busy, busy. That’s the effect this strange and unsettling time seems to have on me. Being busy is fine. Useful even. But feeling busy all the time? Not so much.

I was going to write an update about my knitting this week (my needles, too, have been busy), but couldn’t find the words. So, high time for some kalm-an-time.

Time to watch the house sparrows bathing…

Time to admire the flowers in the fields…

Time to leaf through some old scrapbooks…

Time to play with some embroidery floss…

Next week, I hope to be back here with that knitting update. If I’m not, I just need a little more time to listen to the grass growing.

I know that some of you are now recovering from Covid-19. The best thing I can think of to say to you and everybody else reading this is, Kalm an, hè?

Treasure Hunting

While I was folding laundry at our dining table, my eye was suddenly drawn to the wicker chair on the left. The sun slanting through the back of the chair made a lovely pattern of small triangles on the seat.

I grabbed my camera and took a few pictures.

Wow! Maybe I could translate that into a piece of knitting. Lace, perhaps, or some colourwork?

This period of staying at home has made me look at my immediate surroundings more closely.

The wooden fence at the back of our house had always been just that – a wooden fence. Until recently. Looking out, I suddenly noticed how the grazing light made the patterning in the wood stand out beautifully.

Again, I see potential for knitting in it. What if I tried to replicate it in two-tone brioche?

In the living room, I looked at the feathers on the back of a wooden raven through the lens of my camera.

Wouldn’t those look wonderful as cables in a tweedy yarn?

Walking around with a camera in hand, can be like a treasure hunt. On the spectrum of hunter-gatherers, I’m much more a gatherer than a hunter, as I wrote here. I usually just take pictures of things that draw my eye, and then sometimes a pattern or a theme emerges afterwards. That was what happened when I wrote, for instance, Shades of green.

But it can be fun to actively go hunting for treasures, too. One day they could be things in a certain colour, the next day things with interesting patterns, and the day after that things with a particular shape, say circles.

Bread rising basket
Old pudding basin

I don’t know anything about photography. I have a small camera that easily fits into a jacket pocket. It’s of a type that’s often called point-and-shoot, and that’s what I do with it – point and shoot. Although it has lots of other features, I always have it on AUTO and only zoom in or out. For the rest, I let the camera do the work.

I don’t know anything about photo editing either. The only editing software I use is the programme provided by Microsoft. I don’t even know what it’s called. I can straighten the horizon if necessary, rotate photos, make them darker if they’re overexposed, and cut off bits I don’t like. That’s all.

Being a seriously good photographer takes a lot of dedication, practice and know-how. But enjoying taking pictures doesn’t. Photography can be a lot of fun, even for somebody who doesn’t know anything about it. You don’t need any fancy equipment – a small camera or even a smartphone will do. And you don’t need to travel far, either. I didn’t leave the house for any of the pictures here.

Standing in the front door opening, I photographed the roofs of the terraced houses across the street.

The tiles make an interesting pattern in themselves. But when I closed the door and looked in the same direction through the frosted glass the result was simply amazing.

It made me think of the lozenges in Argyll knitting.

Treasures (and knitting inspiration) can be found everywhere and anywhere.

Take care! xxx

Heart-Lifting Spring Things

Good morning!

How are things going in your part of the world? I feel torn in two directions. On the one hand, my heart is heavy with all the bad news from around the world and closer to home, but on the other, it is still spring. And what a glorious spring!

I think there’s enough bad news already, so here are a few heart-lifting spring things from my home turf. Let’s start indoors. Every spring from around Easter I grow garden cress on our windowsill.

I love it sprinkled over cottage cheese on Swedish knäckebröd.

This time my knitting is in sync with the seasons. I found six balls of alpaca yarn in a lovely blossom pink shade in my stash, bought in Norway years ago. They are going to be knit into a Lace Sampler Scarf. Here’s my swatch.

In our back garden, the pear tree has shed its blossoms in a snow of white petals. Now it’s the apple tree’s turn to shine.

There’s lovely quick and simple apple blossom embroidery project in the May issue of Country Living (British edition). It has some other nice ideas for things to make as well.

The pink knitting on the right is for a new design I’m working on. This is just a first try – it may take a while for the pattern to materialize.

Leaving the house through the front door, the first spring things to catch the eye are a pot and a basket filled with ‘wild’ strawberries, dug out from an overgrown patch in the garden.

Normally I’d plant them with pelargoniums. Every spring members of our local brassband go from door to door selling them to raise money for new instruments and uniforms, but not this year. It’s one of the many things that are different this spring. The brassband will have to make do with their present kit a little longer.

Turning left and walking almost to the end of the street, we come to an old, old Japanese cherry tree in full bloom.

The sky is incredibly clear and blue now that there are no planes creating a haze. Our solar panels have never produced so much energy in the eight years since we installed them.

Strolling along the street in the other direction, we come to our farmer neighbours’ cows. They are out again after having been are kept indoors all winter.

I would have loved to go a little further afield to visit a flock of sheep, pet the newborn lambs, chat with one of the shepherds and take some photographs, but unfortunately that’s impossible this year.

I did talk (on the phone) with one of the volunteers of the Rhedense schaapskudde, though. It’s a flock of Veluwe Heath Sheep, a rare breed breed much bigger than the Drenthe Heath Sheep I wrote about here and here.

The volunteer told me that their lambs are growing fast and the adult sheep will be shorn soon. (Their wool can be spun, but is too rough to be used for clothing.) Their four bottle-fed lambs have become a close gang and tend to wander off together when the flock is out grazing the heathland.

This is a difficult period for the flock, as they largely depend on the revenue from their annual Lambing Day and the adoption of lambs by visitors, but they are moving with the times and people can now adopt a lamb online. It’s not as nice as choosing and petting one’s ‘own’ lamb in person, but it’s a good alternative. Although this year’s Lambing Day is cancelled, we can still visit virtually through this video from a couple of years back. Enjoy!

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March Miscellany 2020

Hello! How are you faring? We’ve had a lot of wet and windy weather here lately. The wettest February on record, our Meteorological Institute tells us. We could use some water after the past two very dry summers, but did we really need as much as this? I hope your feet, like ours, are still dry.

They also tell us that this was the second mildest winter on record, with the average temperature three degrees higher than normal. I can’t see this as anything other than a sign of rapid climate change and it worries me a lot. What can we, insignificant individuals, do?

Flowers never fail to cheer me up on dark and dismal days. I especially love roses, but roses flown in from Africa? Probably not the best idea. Tulips grown locally seem a more sustainable choice. I’m not terribly fond of tulips, but I’ll try to appreciate them more. I do love other indoor bulbs, though, like the magnificent amaryllis.

Bought from our neighbours’ boy, who sold them for a school project, I planted it in early December. It took a long time to come into flower, but when it did, wow!

Our front garden is still very bare after last year’s reconstruction, but some of the bulbs we planted are now starting to appear. Thank you, brave little dwarf iris, for your elegant flowers and beautiful colours.

I called this blog post March Miscellany because there are all kinds of things I need to show and tell you. I hope you can spare a few minutes more.

First there is the shawl where I was dithering over whether or not to include the grey. The entire crafts group at our local library and almost everybody else I asked said: ‘Leave out the grey.’ I felt the same. The other colours were harmonious together, the grey was the odd one out. And yet, and yet…

Then I looked at the book I was reading and knew what to do. Two tiny rows of grey stitches at the colour changes, a little like the small stones in the mosaic borders along the fresco from Pompeii on the front cover. That’s what I would do.

For those of you who’ve given me advice: thank you! Even though I didn’t do exactly as you said, your input really helped. It supported me in my feeling that an entire block of grey would spoil the shawl and made me look for other options.

This is what I was/am still reading:

Roman Woman, written by an archaeologist, is about a year in the life of Senovara, a young woman with two children, married to a Roman veteran turned shoemaker. It is AD 133 and the family lives in York, then called Eboracum. The chapters follow the months of the year, from Ianuarius to December.

Allason-Jones has cleverly woven loads of humdrum details of everyday life in Roman Britain into an engaging story. We see Senovara caring for her family, ‘ironing’ her laundry (rubbing the creases out of her linen with a glass ball), doing her shopping, visiting with friends and going to the bathhouse. I had no idea that women at that time already plucked their eyebrows and used depilatory cream!

Senovara is from a local tribe, while her husband is a ‘Roman’ from Germania, and I think it’s particularly interesting to read how different cultures and religions coexisted and merged.

Okay, on to the next subject. THIS IS A WARNING!

In a previous post I wrote about knit blockers. You know, those handy tools like small combs that can be used for blocking knitwork instead of T-pins. Well, recently I used them to block the swatches I knit for a new design of my own, in an airy, bulky wool yarn. This is the back of one of them:

Now look at the bottom, and especially at the left-hand corner. Can you see those tiny little bumps? They are hard spikes that shouldn’t be there. Fortunately it’s just a swatch. Had it been a scarf, those bumps wouldn’t have felt nice against the skin at all. The tines of the knit blockers seem to have worked like felting needles, felting the wool in the places where they went in, and damaging the blocking mat in the process:

It is the first time this has happened to me. The other times I used the blockers they were fine, but I thought I’d better warn you. I’ll certainly use them again, but will be extra careful not to push through if I feel any resistance at all.

Okay, next subject again.

Finally, finally the yarn for our daughter’s sweater has come. It crossed the Channel several times, as it went back to sender for unknown reasons. And when it finally reached me, one of the skeins was a different dye bath. Grumble, grumble. Was this my punishment for buying yarn overseas instead of locally?

Oh, well, it won’t show if I use the ‘wrong’ skein for the ribbing. The colour our daughter has chosen is a beautiful deep brick red (darker than in the photo). I’m looking forward to starting!

I wish you a lovely weekend, with some nice knitting on your needles or a good book to read. And I hope to see you here again soon!

Ordinary Autumn Days

Most of my days are ordinary days. And November is, perhaps, the most ordinary month of the year. Nothing special seems to be happening.

I’m fine with that. It makes me appreciate the little things in life more. Like the meadow saffron on our window sill.

The bulb was a birthday gift from my BFF, and it has given me flowers for over two months. It’s finished flowering now, and we’ve planted it in the garden, along with many other bulbs – snowdrops, miniature daffodils, crocuses, winter aconites and purple and yellow dwarf irises.

The garden work is done. All we can do now, is wait for spring.

My days are filled with ordinary things, like computer work, housework and reading. This is the book I’m reading now – Circe (translated into Dutch under the same title).

Greek mythology told from the viewpoint of a woman (well, Circe is actually a minor goddess, but still a female). It’s a great read. As far as I know, the ancient Greeks and their gods didn’t knit, but there is some weaving in it. Spell weaving, but also actual weaving on a loom, made by Daedalus.

There’s some knitting woven through my days, too, of course. At lunch time, I knit a few rows on an ordinary sock.

It’s a simple pleasure, easy to pick up for a few minutes and put down again until later.

As I work from home, it’s tempting to stay indoors all day on dark, rainy days.

But I make a point of going out every single day, to get as much fresh air, exercise and daylight as I can, no matter what the weather. Sometimes, when I think of it, I take some pictures of ordinary things along the way.

Now and then, in between the gloomy and overcast days, we’re treated to a day of glorious sunshine. It’s an extra treat when this happens on a Sunday, when we’re able to take a longer walk…

… and enjoy the sun illuminating yellowed moor grass along the water’s edge…

… tufts of moor grass growing in the water…

… and the still surface of a small lake mirroring some birches.

It gets dark early and the evenings are long. Every evening I add a few centimetres to the simple cardigan I’m knitting.

And I finally find the time to weave in the ends of some dishcloths that I knit a while ago.

Ordinary things. Simple pleasures. Nothing special.

Having said all that, I do have something special to celebrate next week. I hope you’ll join me again then.

Lemons and Literature

Thank you so much for all your well-wishes, both online and off! They have done me a power of good.

In the grand scheme of things, a bout of the flu is nothing, of course. But in my personal life it’s been rather disruptive, and I haven’t always been the most patient of patients. I’m on the mend now, I’m glad to say, and feeling a little better every day.

When life gives you lemons…

… make lemonade. Or so the saying goes. I feel ambivalent about the philosophy behind this. On the one hand it sounds nice and positive. But on the other, I would never, ever say this to somebody who is seriously ill or otherwise going through a difficult time. I side with Ursula Le Guin, who says:

Positive thinking is great. It works best when based on a realistic assessment and acceptance of the actual situation. Positive thinking founded on denial may not be so great.

(from: No Time to Spare, p.12)

In the case of flu, though, I do think it’s a good thing to do something positive with those lemons. Only instead of lemonade, I’d rather make tea. Our good friend Richard sent me his recipe for Lemon and Ginger Tea and has kindly given me permission to pass it on here.

Richard’s
Lemon and Ginger Tea

Ingredients

  • 1 litre of water
  • 25-30 grams of ginger
  • 2 bags of herbal tea*
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • honey or stevia** to taste

* Richard likes to use a detox blend, but says that any other (organic) herbal tea is fine. I used a blend of lime flower, chamomile and rosehip.

** The stevia powder available in most supermarkets is a mixture of stevia and sorbitol. Pure stevia is available from health food shops in liquid form.

Method

  • Bring the water to the boil
  • Peel and thinly slice the ginger and add to the boiling water
  • Leave to cool to about 80°C and add the teabags
  • Remove the teabags after about 5 minutes
  • Leave the tea to cool further to lukewarm
  • Sieve out the ginger and add the lemon juice
  • Sweeten with honey or stevia if you like

Drink straight away or keep refrigerated for up to 2 days.

This tea can be reheated gently (do not boil again or you’ll lose the goodness from the lemon), but is also delicious as iced tea in summer.

Tip: add some slices of orange and/or a clove for an extra warming winter tea.

Enjoy!

Tea label wisdom

Apart from the tea itself, the labels attached to the bags have also been nudging me in the right direction, with gems of wisdom like ‘This life is a gift’ (Absolutely, and I really appreciate it), ‘Kindness is the essence of life’ (All right, I’ll try not to be too grumpy), and ‘Create the sequence of goodness, consequences will be always good’ (Uhm, I need to meditate on that one for a bit, but I’m sure it will lead to something good).

Books

Books have been a great comfort to me during the past few weeks. I’ve been reading a lot, mainly re-reading books I’ve read before.

I’ve given this blogpost the title ‘Lemons and Literature’ because of the attractive alliteration. Whether everything I’ve been reading falls into the category Literature with a capital L is debatable, but I don’t think that matters all that much. Among my reading matter, was the book by Ursula Le Guin from which I quoted above.

No Time to Spare

Le Guin, who died last year, was a prolific writer. Apart from many novels, she wrote essays, short stories and poetry. She also published a new English translation of the Tao Te Ching. And she started blogging at the age of 80! No Time to Spare: Thinking About what Matters (Houghton Mifflin, 2017) is a compilation of some of her blog posts.

These are gems of wisdom in a different category entirely from the tea labels. Witty, warm-hearted and wise, Le Guin writes about subjects ranging from ageing to cats, literature and life in general. A book to savour in small chunks.

Tip for Book Lovers

No Time to Spare was a gift from my dear friend Pien, a fellow book lover and a book artist. Pien makes her own paper, in which she often includes plant fibers, like gingko, hemp or stinging nettle. She writes her own texts, prints them onto her hand-made paper and then binds her books by hand. Do take a look at her website Waterleaf Paper and Words if you’re a book lover too. All images on her website can be enlarged by clicking on them.

KnitLit

The book you may have noticed on my bedside table in my previous (very short) post, was KnitLit: Sweaters and their Stories… and Other Writing about Knitting. The title says it all: this is a collection of essays and stories about knitting, yarn, wool and other fibres, disastrous and successful projects and much more.

Some of the pieces are humorous, some moving, and some thought provoking. Most of them are no more than 3-4 pages long, and some only half a page, like ‘Silent Knit’, about the sound of wooden knitting needles versus that of plastic ones. Does anyone really want to read anything as nerdy as that? Well, I do. And apparently lots of others do too, as there’s also a KnitLit Too and KnitLit the Third.

Knitting

I have given my needles a couple of weeks’ rest, but I’m back to knitting now and hope to give you an update next week.