How to Design Your Own Sweater

Hello!

Instead of just showing you the cardigan I’ve designed and knit for our daughter, I thought it might be more interesting to tell you how I did it.

There are many approaches to designing things, of course. This is merely my simple, practical way for designing a sweater knit from the bottom-up in pieces sewn together later. I’ve developed this method over the years and have tried to summarize it in 10 (hopefully easy to follow) steps. So, here we go.

How to Design Your Own Sweater in 10 Steps:

1 – Decide what you’re going to make
For whom would you like to knit a sweater: For yourself? A loved one?
What type of sweater would you like to make: A pullover? A cardigan? A summer top?

2 – Take measurements and draw a diagram
Find a garment with approximately the fit you’re looking for and measure:

  • Chest width
  • Length
  • Armhole
  • Neck width and depth
  • Width at shoulders
  • Sleeve length
  • Sleeve circumference at wrist
  • Any other things you think may be useful

The chest/shoulder/armhole part is the most important. The rest is easy to adapt. Draw a diagram incorporating these measurements. It doesn’t need to be to scale, it’s just for your own reference. This is mine:

3 – Think about what you want and draw another diagram
Things to consider are:

  • Silhouette: straight, A-line, waist-shaping, tapered etc
  • Body length: cropped, hip-length, tunic
  • Sleeve length and shape
  • Neckline: V-neck, round neck, boat neck, turtle neck, shawl collar etc
  • Details: buttons, pockets, stitch pattern, ribbing or no ribbing…

Add any relevant measurements to your new diagram.

Tip: If you have never designed anything before, keep it simple. If you have a little experience, you could set yourself a challenge. I used a very simple armhole and sleeve cap:

And gave myself the challenge of adding a cable, flowing from the ribbing at the bottom and into the neckband.

Another challenge I set myself was matching the ribbing of front and back so that the seam would be near invisible.

4 – Choose your yarn and work out approximately how much you’ll need
If you’re an experienced knitter you’ll probably have some idea. It also helps to look at other people’s projects from the same yarn on Ravelry. Find a few similar garments in a similar size and check how much they took. Then add some extra for swatches and to be on the safe side.

Note: I did it the other way around: Fell in love with the yarn first and bought a generous quantity. Far too generous as it turns out. Never mind – it only means that I have enough left for a hat and a scarf.

5 – Swatch
a – First swatch to decide what needle size you’re going to use: how open, drapey or dense do you prefer your knitted fabric for this project? Knit generous swatches – aim for at least 12 x 12 cm/5 x 5”. Wash your swatches and leave them to dry flat, or block and/or press them, just like you intend to treat your finished sweater.
b – Then knit more swatches. This time in different stitch patterns and ribbings you might want to use. Again wash/block/press them.

6 – Decision time
Decide what needle size(s) and pattern stitch(es) you’re going to use, how wide your ribbings and button bands (if any) will be, exactly what your neckline is going to look like, where any pockets will be placed etc. Add details to your diagram if you think that will be helpful.

7 – Start knitting the back
Using your swatches, calculate how many stitches you need to cast on. Do you need to increase or decrease for, say, an A-line or waist shaping? Write down everything you do and keep your notes together. It isn’t necessary to work everything out beforehand. You can think about the armhole, neck and shoulders while knitting.

8 – Do the maths for the front(s)
If you’re designing a cardigan with button bands, make sure they overlap. Work any buttonholes in the second front. Think deep about your neckline, and work out how to get what you want.

9 – Work out the sleeves
How long? How many rows to armhole? How many stitches do you start with? How many do you need at the armhole? Spread the increases out over the length.

10 – Work out and knit the final details
Now all you need to do is wash, block and/or press your pieces and seam everything together. Add button bands (if not incorporated), patch pockets, neckband etc.

There, all done!

Starting from a deep green, finely knit, shop-bought V-neck pullover, I arrived at a fawn, chunky, hand-knit cardigan with a round neck and cables along the fronts.

It does not fit over our daughter’s already impressive bump, but will keep her back and shoulders warm.

With quite a few weeks to go, how much more will that belly grow?

Well, I hope this all makes sense. Do you sometimes design your own sweaters, too? Is your method very different from mine? If you’ve never designed anything yet, why not give it a try? Your sweater may not turn out perfect or exactly how you envisioned it, but it will be uniquely yours.

What Can We Do?

Hello!

I really wanted to write a warm and fuzzy post about knitting, but with everything that’s going on I can’t. My heart goes out to the people of Ukraine, I’m holding my breath and my mind is working overtime. Some of the things that popped up in my mind were images from an earlier visit to the Dutch Open Air Museum. What have they got to do with anything? Please bear with me.

The photo above shows the interior of a 1950s/1960s post office in the museum. Stepping inside, I’m a child again, queueing for I-don’t-know-what with Mum, looking up in awe at the high, high ceiling.

Oh, how I’d love to work here later, using those wonderful stamps all day – pomPOM, pomPOM!

It was an unexpected wave of nostalgia – I had all but forgotten about this childhood ambition.

The Open Air Museum is an amazing place. The old houses and other buildings are lovely.

And it’s very interesting to look at household utensils and tools from different periods.

But it’s the things from more recent times that really evoke strong feelings of nostalgia for me, like the living-room from the 1970s. The photo isn’t great because it was taken through a window, but it gives an impression: A woman in a maxi dress, that special seventies design style, and everything in brown and orange.

This No Nukes poster was the most unexpected item to push my nostalgia button. It whooshed me right back to the huge peace protests of the early 1980s. We were dreaming of a peaceful world without nuclear weapons.

And look at where we are now, in 2022. I feel shocked and abhorred by what is happening in Ukraine, and the return of nuclear threat.

I heard a Ukrainian woman living in the Netherlands say on the news, ‘We don’t need your concern, we need your help.’ I never got to work in a post office, but I didn’t become a world leader either. What can we, ordinary citizens, do?

The Open Air Museum houses a small exhibition about knitting for the war effort in 1914. Nobody in their right mind would feel nostalgic about WWI, but at least knitters could make a real difference. The newspaper article below calls on the women and girls of the town of Zeist to knit socks for soldiers, preferably dark grey.

From what I’ve read, I know that these socks and other knitted items were not just a great comfort, but a real help too. Woollen socks could even help prevent a serious condition like trench foot.

In the US literally millions of items were knit and shipped to Europe under the auspices of the Red Cross (interesting article here).

Now, again, the Red Cross is asking us to help – this time not by knitting, but by donating to them or other reliable organizations giving medical and humanitarian aid. More information can be found on the websites of the Dutch Red Cross, the international Red Cross or the Dutch Cooperating Aid Organizations at Giro 555.

Let’s do(nate) what we can. And let’s not forget to breathe and to appreciate the good things in life.

Take care, dear friends.

Snowdrops, Storms and Cables

Hello!

It’s snowdrop season! A garden I sometimes pass, is carpeted with them.

We have only small clumps here and there.

Maybe they’ll grow out to a carpet, too, over the years. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? For now, I’m very happy with the ones we have dotted through the garden. I just love their beautiful little bells.

But it’s not just snowdrop season. It is also aconite season.

And iris season. We have yellow and blue miniature irises. The yellow ones are a little later, but the blue ones are in full bloom already. They are especially beautiful looked at from above.

Apart from the snowdrops, everything is earlier than normal this year. We haven’t had any real winter at all, and it feels strange to see so many flowers in the garden already. Compared to the 1950s spring arrives three weeks earlier now, according to Nature Today.

It’s crocus season, too. This is a photo I took last week:

And this is what they look like after triplet storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin raged across the country.

Especially Eunice was fierce, but we do not live close to the coast and it wasn’t as bad here as in the north and west, where it killed four people. Although the solar panels on our roof rattled dangerously, they stayed put. The strong gusts tore tiles from other people’s roofs, though, and toppled quite a few trees.

Some weeks the words flow easily from my keyboard, other weeks they do not. This is a week in the latter category. The seasickness-without-having-been-on-a-boat has gone, but my head is still tired and achy, like having a hangover-without-having-had-any-alcohol. It is also filled with worries about the storm hitting Eastern Europe.

How can I write about snowdrops and knitting at a time like this? But then again, maybe these humble little, peaceful things are more important than ever. So here is a report on my progress on the knitting front.

Remember the cardigan I’m designing and knitting for our daughter? (I wrote about it here.) After some initial swatching and brainstorming, I swatched some more and this is the winning swatch:

I scribbled down notes during the process.

The back was simply knit in stocking stitch. I added a cable to the front, next to the button band, but underestimated how much narrower the cable would be compared to the same number of stitches in stocking stitch. I should have made a larger swatch. Almost at the armhole, I realized that the front would be too narrow and the button bands wouldn’t overlap.

So I ripped the whole thing out, cast on a few more stitches and started again.

This is my favourite type of cable needle. Its V-shape holds the stitches really well, and it is easy to manipulate.

I’m halfway through the second front now, and have good hopes to have the entire cardigan finished by next week. Or am I being too optimistic? Anyhow, I hope to see you again next week. Bye!

The Wolf is Back!

Hello!

As soon as I saw these sheep, huddled together in a field, I realized that something was wrong. They looked distressed. Looking into the distance, I saw the reason why. Oh no! A dead sheep, and the owner and somebody else looking upset, searching for something. Tracks? Other evidence of the culprit?

Only DNA-testing can tell whether this sheep was killed by a wolf or a dog, but chances are that it was a wolf. We hear about sheep being killed by wolves around here on a weekly basis now.

For the people who lived here long before us, those who built the impressive megalithic burial monuments called hunebedden, wolves must have been a fact of life to be reckoned with.

But for us, in the 21st century it’s a phenomenon we’re not familiar with. There haven’t been any wolves here for at least 120 years. And now, all of a sudden the wolf is back! Arriving here from Eastern Europe via Germany, the wolf is supposed to eat roedeer, rabbits and other furry creatures. But it isn’t playing by the rules, because why waste energy chasing a meal that runs away fast when there is so much juicy mutton to be had with far less effort?

I’m talking of ‘it’ and ‘the wolf’, but it is uncertain how many there really are in this area. There is at least one, probably a couple, and maybe even a third. This newcomer is certainly causing a lively discussion. Some people are thrilled, while others are of the opinion that there is no place for wolves in this small, densely populated country.

I have mixed feelings. On the one hand I think, who are we to decide who or what is to live in this corner of the world? We are happy that the raven is back. We are happy that the otter is back. And we are happy that the badger is back. There are badger trails everywhere nowadays – zooming in, you should be able to see their paw prints.

Shouldn’t we be happy about the wolf being back as well?

On the other hand, when I hear of a wolf jogging past a playground full of playing children in broad daylight in the village where a friend of mine with school-going children lives, well, I don’t know…. How dangerous are they?

It is hard to imagine these otherwise peaceful surroundings being populated by packs of wolves in the future. Will guests of this Bed & Breakfast hear them howling at night in a few years’ time?

I’m fairly certain that the Highlands belonging to the B&B owners will be able to defend themselves with their fierce horns.

But how about me? I have no idea what to do if I were to come face-to-face with a wolf. Take photographs? Hide behind a tree? Call in my own personal superhero, ‘HELP! DO something, shoo it away!’?

Or strike up a conversation like Little Red Riding Hood?

Inside, I still feel like Little Red Riding Hood, but to all intents and purposes I’m becoming more like her grandmother by the day. In fact, I am becoming a grandmother this spring. And I may even need hearing aids before long.

Ménière’s disease is affecting my hearing. Although I’m still managing in everyday life, I can’t hear the little birds high up in the trees anymore. Fortunately I do not have the dizzy spells that go with it very often, but I’ve recently had one.

It wasn’t so bad this time that I’m in bed. And it’s never bad enough for me to be wearing a frilly cap.

It does mean that I need to take some rest and limit my screen time. So if you’ve posted a gorgeous FO on Ravelry or published a great blogpost and haven’t heard from me, please know that it isn’t because I’m not interested.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time quietly knitting, but had to rip out almost as much as I knit because my brain wasn’t functioning properly. Awooo! No, I wasn’t really howling like wolf. I thought, oh, well, we all have times like these and hope to show you some progress next week.

Stay safe! xxx

Grou Yarn Shop

Hello!

Another little outing, today. This time, I’m taking you along to the Frisian village of Grou (rhymes with ‘now’), where I grew up. It is situated on a lake. In summer you won’t be able to see the lake for the boats, but now it’s deserted.

A cormorant sits hunched moodily on a mooring post, its feet clamped around the top. I know how you feel mate. I have days like that too, only not today.

Today, I’m happy to be in these familiar surroundings. Today, I have some time to stroll around and visit a yarn shop!

The village has changed a lot since I was a child here, but the old centre has remained largely the same, with everything built closely together.

The 12th Century church and the surrounding narrow streets and alleys with not-quite-as-old houses form the most picturesque part of the village. (I grew up in a considerably less picturesque part.)

The houses here are small, some even tiny, but very attractive.

Long ago there was a yarn shop in one of the houses around the church, the one with the red roof tiles and red brick front on the left in the photo below.

Later there was a yarn shop here, on the central square, where there is now a men’s hair salon (left of the striped barber pole).

When the owner retired, she asked my mum if she’d like to take over. Unfortunately, my dad vetoed it. I think mum would have loved it, and I would have loved helping around the shop.

After years without one, Grou got a new yarn shop in October 2020. Not an easy time to start, with a lockdown soon after the opening and another one recently. But Van Draad, as it is called, survived the ups and downs of the past two years and here we are:

It is a fairly small shop, but there is room for a cosy table where knitting circles and workshops will be held in the future, I expect. (The shops are open again, but under the current restrictions it isn’t possible for groups to gather in such small spaces.)

There is a wall of colourful yarns that is a joy to look at.

Here is a close-up of some pinks and purples.

There are swatches tucked in among the yarns here and there.

And on top of the wall of yarn is a sweater with a beautiful cable down the centre, knit from 4 very thin threads of alpaca held together (Lang ‘Alpaca Super Light’)

In a corner by the window there is a tempting display of laceweight mohair yarn (Katia Concept ’50 shades of mohair’). It’s like a knitter’s box of crayons.

No fancy hand-dyed yarns here, but a great selection of good quality, affordable yarns from Lang, Katia and Scheepjes, as well as books, magazines, needles, tools and accessories. I feel very much at home in this shop, I have to say, all thanks to Sytske, the very friendly and welcoming owner.

Q: Are all yarn shops in the Netherlands so lovely and their owners friendly? It looks like that from your blog. Or are you making things up?
A: No, not all yarn shops here are wonderful places. I just don’t write about the ones I don’t like. I’m not sponsored to say nice things either, so what you see and read here is honestly how I experienced it.

I took loads more pictures, but think this will have to do for now. If you’re ever in the neighbourhood, do pay Sytske a visit. Her website – with address, opening hours and webshop – can be found here.

Oh, and did I buy anything? Yes, I did – small quantities of 4-ply cotton and merino wool for baby things.

Oant sjen! (Frisian for See you!)

Nettle Socks and Nettelbosch

Hello!

Today’s post has a nettle theme running through it. To begin with, I’ve knit a pair of socks with nettle fibre in them. That was interesting, because the yarn (Onion Nettle Sock) behaved a little differently from the usual all-wool or wool-and-nylon sock yarn. Let’s take a look at the thread first:

As you can see, there is maroon fibre and white fibre. The maroon fibre is superwash wool (70%) and the white fibre is nettle (30%). Nettle doesn’t take the dye used for wool and stays white, which gives a nice marled effect. Here and there thicker bits of nettle stick out, but on the whole the thread is smooth. Nettle is a very strong fibre, and the thread doesn’t break easily.

For me, the problem was that the yarn has hardly any elasticity at all. At my first try, with a few centimetres of knit 1, purl 1 rib followed by stocking stitch, the sock became too loose. Casting on fewer stitches would give a tighter fit, but also a stiff sock. After throwing it into a corner taking a break from it, I had a lightbulb moment: what the yarn lacks in elasticity, can be added by using a stretchy stitch pattern! So, I knit the leg and the top of the foot in k2, p2 rib.

TIP: Here is something I learnt from my mum and she learnt from hers: start on the toe of the sock when the little toe is covered. I can’t guarantee that it works for very long toes, but I think it’s a good rule of thumb.

Laid out flat, the ribbing is all bunched up and the socks look rather narrow.

But on the foot, you can see how the rib stretches out and the socks fit perfectly.

I had my doubts about this yarn, but I’m happy with these socks now and hope the friend I made them for is too. Still, they’re pretty basic. I have more of this yarn for another pair and have an idea for making those a little more exciting. More about them in a few weeks’ time, I hope.

Q: Does nettle yarn sting or itch?
A: No more than any other sock yarn. It feels surprisingly nice, really.

All this focus on nettle fibre gave me an idea for a little outing to the Nettelbosch, a garden in the nearby town of Steenwijk. Come along! Up, up, up the stairs we go, on to the top of the old town wall.

After a short walk we go down another flight of stairs…

… and arrive at the entrance gate. Apart from the name of the garden, it shows a simplified map of the old town centre, with its wonky star-shaped defensive walls.

Long, long ago, there was a garden here, too. But it became a neglected spot – a tangle of nettles that was known to the locals as De Nettelbosch. When in 2018 the municipality decided to give the town centre a ‘quality boost’ by creating a new garden, the spot kept its name.

The small, stony pond looks nice all year…

… thanks to its attractive leafy bridge.

For the rest, De Nettelbosch looks rather bare and bleak at this time of the year.

At least at first sight. Spending a little longer looking around, small details catch the eye, like these seed heads.

There is also some colour to be found.

And even a few signs of spring!

These bulbs (daffodils?) are much further along than those in our garden, probably because of their sheltered situation behind the town walls. I’ll certainly take you back here in spring, to see what De Nettelbosch looks like then.

Goedgoan!*

*Local expression for Bye!

A Cardi without a Clue

Hello!

Do you remember our trip to Harlingen last autumn, and my visit to the local yarn shop? That’s when I bought the yarn in the basket above. It is Isager ‘Eco Soft’ from Denmark – a bulky yarn of 56% alpaca and 44% organic cotton. It is very soft indeed.

I bought it on a whim, with the idea that it would be perfect for a cosy cardigan for our daughter. Other than that I didn’t have a clue as to what it was going to look like or what pattern I was going to use. Or how much yarn I’d need (I hope I’ve bought enough).

The ball band didn’t give any clues about needle sizes to be used or gauge suggestions, which is very unusual. So, I started swatching. I have a handy tool for determining how many rows and stitches go into 10 x 10 cm/4 x 4 inches.

It isn’t really necessary. A measuring tape will suffice, too, but it makes things easier.

I took the swatches along to our daughters place. She is way past the age that I buy clothes for her, and I never push any knitwear on people that they may not want. So my first question was, ‘Would you like a sweater in this yarn? I was thinking of a cardigan, but if you don’t like it, please feel free to say so and I’ll find a different destination for it.’

I was glad to hear that yes, she would love to have a cardi from this yarn.

Eco Soft is a brand-new yarn, and I soon found out that only 4 patterns using it have been published to date, all for children. I could have looked for a pattern in a similar yarn, but decided that it would be more fun to think up something myself. A bespoke cardigan, so to speak.

I thought it might be nice to show you how I go about it. (Fingers crossed that I’ll end up with a wearable cardi.)

First, I quickly made a schematic drawing of a favourite, shop-bought sweater with approximately the kind of fit she wanted. It wasn’t a cardigan but a pullover and made from a very thin yarn, but that didn’t matter. This was just to get a general indication of the fit to aim for – oversized, but not hugely so.

I also asked her a few questions about shape, neckline etc, and these were the clues she gave me:

  • Simple
  • Stocking stitch
  • Straight silhouette (so no tapering, A-line or waist shaping)
  • No pockets
  • Round neckline
  • Buttons

I have a sketchbook for brainstorming about knitting ideas, and these are the pages I made for this cardi.

Next steps: knit more swatches, make decisions.

Many January days are so cloudy and dark that I often take my knitting outside to photograph it. This time, I removed some plants and things from the window sill, and covered it with a folded table cloth. It is the lightest place inside and fine for photographing small items.

Fortunately, those dark days are interspersed with lighter and sometimes even sunshiny ones. One morning, sunlight streamed through the windows and suddenly there were two vases of cherry branches – the real one and its shadow.

It’s always uncertain whether the buds on branches like these will open, but this time we were lucky. White cherry blossoms against a white wall – simply beautiful.

I’ll tell you more about the cardi-with-a-few-clues-now when I’ve made some progress. Bye for now and take care!

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!

Knieperties

First of all, Happy New Year! It’s a bit late, I know, but I still want to wish you all the best for 2022.

We’ve had an uneventful but nice and relaxing week, and I hope you’ve had a good time, too. My Christmas Break knitting project is almost finished. I’ll share that with you next week when it’s all done (I hope).

What I’d like to share with you today is the recipe for knieperties, paper-thin waffles that are traditionally served on New Year’s Eve and Day in this part of the Netherlands. They can be eaten flat or rolled up. Similar ones are also baked in Germany, which isn’t all that far away from here.

Baking knieperties (pronounced something like kneepertees, with an audible k and stress on the first syllable) is a tradition passed on to me by a neighbour across the street. She baked stacks of them on New Year’s Eve for her extensive family and always brought us and other neighbours some, too. After she died about a decade ago, I decided to continue the tradition.

Traditionally knieperties were baked using a cast-iron waffle iron held over a fire, but nowadays everyone I know uses an electrical waffle iron. Mine is from German manufacturer Cloer.

INGREDIENTS:
(makes about 100)

  • 150 butter at room temperature
  • 325 g fine caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 500 g flour
  • A pinch of cinnamon
  • 600 ml lukewarm water

METHOD:

  • Cream the butter together with the sugar and the eggs.
  • Stir the cinnamon through the flour.
  • Add small quantities of flour and water alternately to the butter-sugar-egg mixture until everything is stirred in (the batter should be quite thin).
  • Preheat the iron for about 10 minutes until the little light switches off – heat setting 3 (middle top) works best for me.
  • Place one tablespoon of batter on the waffle iron. Close it and keep it firmly closed with your fingers. Hot steam will come out – take care not to burn your fingers!
  • Open the iron when steam stops coming out. The waffle should now be a pale golden brown. Quickly transfer it to a chopping board.
  • Leave to cool flat or roll up very quickly using the handle of a wooden spoon.

From start to finish, baking this quantity will take about 90 minutes to 2 hours.

Knieperties are deliciously crunchy and so thin that they are almost translucent.

This is my set-up, with from left to right: chopping board for cooling knieperties, wooden spoon for rolling them, waffle iron, plate for stacking cooled knieperties, small bowl of batter (works easier than big mixing bowl; refill from time to time), pancake turner (bottom right-hand corner) for flipping knieperties from iron to board.

And this is the whole batch, excluding the ones that got eaten during the process. Rolled-up knieperties can be filled with whipped cream if you like.

In the pouring rain (we’ve had quite a bit of that here lately) I took them around to several neighbours. A great opportunity for catching up on the latest news.

Knieperties are not just served around New Year’s, but also on other special occasions.

Instead of an ordinary Christmas card, dear friends sent us this:

A wonderful pop-up card of Villa Rams Woerthe, a historic house in a nearby town. The last time we visited it, we were served tea and knieperties in the drawing room. ‘Must enjoy baking knieperties’ is high on the list of requirements for anyone who wants to work there as a volunteer.

This is what it looks like from the back:

And this is what it looks like in real life (photo taken in spring):

I’d love to visit it again someday soon. Ah, so many plans and ideas for the New Year! I’ll try to share anything I think may be of interest and hope to ‘see’ you here often.