Lavender and Moths

‘Oh, no!’ I thought while I was whizzing around the living room with the vacuum cleaner sometime this spring. (Or I may have thought something a little less polite.) I had just lifted the basket with spinning fibres beside my wheel…

… and discovered  a kind of grit under it. I knew what that meant – moths!

I had stuffed the fibres into a plastic bag, put them in the freezer, removed the grit, and shaken out the basket before I thought, ‘this could be interesting for my blog.’ The only things left to photograph were 3 cocoons.

Moth problems are unavoidable in a house containing so much that is high on the moth’s Munchability Index. (Isn’t that a brilliant term? It was coined by Adrian Doyle, conservator at the Museum of London.  There is a link to the article in which I found it at the bottom of this post.) Fortunately, I haven’t had moth problems very often, but often enough to recognize the signs.

I’ve taken a few photos of moths lately. It isn’t that I’m a moth geek or anything. It is just that with my camera in hand I’m becoming more and more aware of my surroundings. And when I see creatures I don’t know, I try to find out what they are.

This is the large yellow underwing on our kitchen floor. It is called grote huismoeder (literally: large stay-at-home-mum) in Dutch. Whoever thought of that name?

And this is a box tree moth.

Isn’t it beautiful, with its almost transparent veined wings in a dark frame? We don’t have any box in our garden, and its family has already destroyed our neighbours’ box hedge, so I can admire it without getting nervous.

Several moth caterpillars crossed my path while I was out cycling this summer. This hairy little monster is the caterpillar of the majestic white ermine (NL: witte tijger).

And this big fat beauty will later transform into a small emperor moth (NL: nachtpauwoog).

It isn’t any of these that munch on spinning fibres, knitting yarn and sweaters, though. It’s the clothes moth that does that. I have, (un)fortunately, not been able to photograph it and am borrowing someone else’s picture. Here it is – every knitter’s and spinner’s nightmare:

Photo: © Olaf Leillinger, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Doesn’t it look glorious in this picture, all shimmering gold? In real life it is only about 7 mm (0.25”) long – an unsightly beige-ish little fluttery thing.

So, what to do about them?

Moth balls and moth paper are one option, but they smell horrible and are carcinogenic. Another is cedar wood. There was a block of that in my spinning basket. Maybe it loses its moth-repellent quality over time? Something else moths hate is lavender.

This bush along our driveway established itself there years ago. It is a pale shade of, well, lavender.

This isn’t a moth, by the way, but a butterfly called painted lady (NL: distelvlinder).

Last year we planted some more lavender in our front garden.

It is smaller and a darker shade of purple.

Moths may hate lavender, but I love it. Its scent, the purple of its flowers, and the silvery grey of its leaves. When all the lavender in our garden had finished flowering, friends coming to spend a sunny afternoon chatting in our garden brought us a big pot of a different variety.

It has beautiful tufted flowers. I have placed it just so that we can see it every time we look out the kitchen window.

I don’t know what it is that makes moths hate lavender so much, but it is a well-known fact that lavender is an excellent repellent.

Over the summer, I’ve been knitting some lavender sachets from small remnants of sock and other fingering-weight yarn. Not the old-fashioned frilly kind, but more modern? simple? plain? ones. I don’t know exactly how to describe them, but if all goes according to plan, you’ll see what I mean next week.

Meanwhile, here are a few links to some interesting reading about moths, the problems they pose for textile-lovers and what to do about them.

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

Woad Adventures

Hello!

Remember the woad seeds I sowed in June? I received them as part of a project aimed at using more local wool and dyeing it with local dye stuffs too. That seemed like an interesting idea and woad can give a beautiful blue colour, so I thought I’d give it a try on a small scale.

Now, 3 months after the start of my woad adventure, it’s high time for an update. It’s not all good news I’m afraid. At first everything went well. Most of the seeds germinated and I had a number of really healthy looking plants (photo above). I planted them out around mid-July. Half of them in a sunny spot next to our garden shed, and the other half behind a big rose bush.

Below you can see the plants several days after planting them out. Already, things were not looking good at all.

Some of the plants were still sort of okay, some had almost disappeared. Uh-oh! Rainy weather = slug weather!

Several years back, we emigrated large numbers of slugs from our garden. We (read: my husband) collected them with BBQ tongs, put them in a bucket with a layer of water and emptied the bucket on a piece of land where the slugs wouldn’t bother anyone and would be much happier (or so we told ourselves.)

We soon learnt that the bucket shouldn’t be left standing for too long or the slugs would crawl out. Ieuw!

Maybe we should have mounted another slug removal campaign this year, but we didn’t. And the result is that now, 2 months after I planted them out, one woad plant looks reasonably okay.

One has disappeared completely. And the rest looks… well, see for yourself:

I recently learnt that only fresh woad leaves from the first year’s growth can be used. Dried and older leaves do not give off any colour. I also found out that at least 250 g/½ lb of fresh leaves are needed for a 9 litre/2 gallon dye vat. Even if my plants had thrived, I wouldn’t have come close to that, but that was never the plan.

The plan was that small woad growers like me would bring their 10 or 20 grams of fresh leaves to a stall at a wool event, where together they would make a great dye vat. Unfortunately the wool event was cancelled because of Covid-restrictions. Oh well, that’s life at the moment. At least it’s been an interesting experiment. The dyers have found enough leaves for their vat elsewhere and I now know a lot more about woad.

Meanwhile I have started spinning the lovely blue-and-green merinowool-and-silk gifted to me by a friend. She gave me two batches of spinning fibre of 100 grams each.

When I took them out of their bags, I noticed that although they were the same colourway, they were very different, like two balls of yarn from different dye lots. Can you see it?

To solve the problem, I spin small portions from the two batches alternately. The result is a beautiful blend of blue, green, white and turquoise with the various colours still distinguishable.

Spinning it is like having a piece of mermaid’s tail in my hands. Not just because of the shimmery blues and greens, but also because it’s slippery. That is why I am spinning the fibre ‘from the fold’ as it is called. Some people hold a ‘fold’ of slippery fibres like these folded between their fingers, but I prefer wrapping it around my thumb.

Spinning it like this, gives me more control over the fibre.

Spun up and plied, the 200 grams would be enough for a good size shawl, but I’ve decided to spin it out to enough for a sweater by combining it with something else – 600 grams of wool in a colourway called… (drum roll)… WOAD!

This, too, consists of various shades: black, cobalt and turquoise. A sea of blues to go with the mermaid’s tail.

But unlike the mermaid’s tail fibres, the different shades can no longer be distinguished when this wool is spun. Everything blends together into a beautiful deep but not very dark blue. I’ve tried a little bit out.

This wool (a blend of Zwartbles and organically farmed Merino) is not dyed with woad, but the colour is similar to what can be achieved with woad (if the slugs leave some).

This woad adventure (the whole process of spinning, plying and knitting up this mountain of fibre) is going to take a long time, I expect. Especially because I also have many other projects on the go. I’ll show you my progress when there is something worth showing. But first more about some of my other projects over the coming weeks. Bye for now! xxx

PS More info about the local wool & woad project can be found in this blog post.

Quilts in Kampen

Hello, and welcome to the last of the outings on my blog this summer! Hope you have the time for a good long read. I have really tried to keep this post from getting too long, but failed miserably.

All of the other outings were close to home. This time we’re travelling a little further afield, to the city of Kampen. And this time it’s not just me, but also my husband you’re traveling with. Kampen is not very far afield (it is only about 28 miles from here), but somehow we rarely visit it and we really felt like tourists ourselves.

With less than 40.000 inhabitants city seems too big a word for Kampen, but that’s what it officially is, I think. One side of the city centre is bordered by a park and several old gate towers.

On the other side, there is the river IJssel, where several tall ships are moored today. The white ship on the left is The Flying Dutchman. When she is not in Kampen, the ship and her crew are sailing around Scotland, navigating the Caledonian canal, visiting the outer Hebrides and treating their passengers to Scottish whisky and music.

Like any other town or city at the moment, Kampen has its share of empty shops. It also has the usual chain stores that can be found everywhere else. But there are also many small and quirky shops, beautiful old buildings, museums etcetera.

This is the main shopping street with on the right an old tower called ‘the new tower’.

Below the carillon and the clock, something is dangling from the balustrade. On closer inspection that something turns out to be a cow. (Fortunately not a real-life one.)

Why? Can it be a farmers’ protest or something?

Branching out from the main shopping street there are many lovely narrow streets and alleys to discover.

My eye is always drawn to old buildings and I feel most at home in the older parts of towns and cities, but the juxtaposition of old and new can also be attractive.

The wooden buildings on the right are the workshops of the Koggewerf, where a shipwrecked kogge (a medieval wooden sailing vessel) found here was carefully reconstructed. Unfortunately, the kogge was out sailing and the buildings were closed, but just peeking in through the windows and looking at another boat and the buildings from the outside was nice too.

What really struck me in Kampen this time, is that it is very much a city of makers. Or maybe every town and city has them and they are just more visible here. Or maybe it was just that I was more open to them this day.

Anyway, as a maker myself I feel a sort of kinship with other makers. I make things with wool and other fibres, words and sometimes fabrics. But I’m also interested in people making things with wood, metal, dough, chocolate, glass, paper or in any other medium. What materials do they use exactly, how do they use them, what do they make and why? It’s the process of making things I’m interested in at least as much as the product. And here, in Kampen, we cannot only see the finished products, but also some makers at work actually making things.

This time we didn’t visit the smithy, the coffee roasting company or the cigar factory, but from a previous visit I can tell you that even for a non-cigar-smoker cigar making is interesting and the smell is overpowering!

We did see the chocolatiers at work, though.

Of course we had to sample some of their products.

I think that for my husband, as a great amateur cook and occasional chocolate maker, that was the highlight of the day. For me, it was SuperGoof Quilts.

Now that was a super lovely surprise. I didn’t know anything about this quilt shop. Turns out it is owned by a blogger who has been blogging about quilting since 2007! With a great sense of self-mockery, she calls herself SuperGoof, or Goof for short.

Of course SuperGoof Quilts is a shop, and of course it sells fabrics, as well as some other things. Just look at these fun stuffed toys with their finely knitted sweaters and hats:

But this is about more than buying and selling. What this is really all about is the love of making things.

The fabrics are lovingly chosen and express Goofs exquisite taste.

The fat quarters and eighths are neatly folded and lovingly displayed by colour. Here are the blues…

… and the reds.

I didn’t ask, but looking at the quilts on display, my guess is that red is Goofs favourite colour. Isn’t her sampler quilt stunning?

Would you believe that she doesn’t own a sewing machine? It is all done by hand! If that isn’t love.

Goof (sorry, I don’t know her real name) told me that as a mother of four teenagers, carer for her parents and maternity nurse, she used to get up before everyone else for a spot of quilting. Amazing that she found the time for it in such a busy life, but at the same time I totally understand how important it was for her. The quilt with the stork and the words ‘home is where the heart is’ reflects her life at that time.

The finished quilts are beautiful, but I also like it that there is quite a bit of work in progress on display.

And then there is this mouse quilt that was a mystery quilt-along project from autumn 2020 to spring 2021. I don’t know if you can zoom in, but there is so much to see on it.

More pictures and information about this quilt can be found here on SuperGoofs website. She doesn’t have a webshop, so you’ll just have to travel to Kampen to visit her some time!

Since I discovered her, I’ve been reading SuperGoofs blog. It has lots of lovely pictures and her writing is light and fun. She writes in Dutch, but in the top right-hand corner of her homepage, there is a Google Translate box where you can select your language. I just loved her recent post in which she explains how she reacts when non-quilters visiting her shop comment on how much time quilting must take. Here is a quote:

“And if you love something?
You don’t think about time at all.
At most something like, Goodness is it that late already?”

And that’s just what I’m thinking now. Time to close off. Thanks for your time and hope to see you again next time!

Cycling to Giethoorn

Hello! Before I get back to more ‘serious’ posts about knitting, spinning etc. I’d like to take you along on two more outings this week.

In a roundabout way, this bicycle track leads to the charming village of Giethoorn. The track is bordered by a beautiful flowering verge. To my delight I see a group of common yellow swallowtails fluttering around the red clover. There are at least ten of them!

With a wingspan of about 7.5 cm/3”, this is one of our largest native butterflies. Contrary to what the name suggests, it is not common. At least not in this part of the country. I saw the first one ever in our garden only last year. It seems they are gradually moving north with the rising temperatures. And now a whole group of them! I know that a group of geese is called a gaggle, but what is the word for a group of butterflies? A flock? A flight? A flutter?

Among the plants in the verge are wild herbs like watermint, soothing for stomach and mind.

There is valerian, too, also flowering at this time of the year, another calming plant.

Picking them for a herbal brew is not allowed here, in this nature reserve, but just drinking in their scent and their colour is soothing enough in itself.

A little further on, a white stork is gorging on frogs. There are plenty of those in this wetland environment.

A cow is dozing in the sun with two starlings on its back. It is all so peaceful – an oasis of peace in a crazy world.

And then the smell of pancakes tells me that I’m in Giethoorn. It is not as quiet as last year, but still not as busy with tourists as it normally is.

Giethoorn is lovely all year round, but especially now, when the hydrangeas are in flower.

There are hydrangeas in almost every garden, and they come in many varieties and colours. The deep pink mophead ones are the most common.

But there are also hydrangeas with flat or pointy flowerheads, in many shades of blue, pink and purple, as well as white ones.

In some places it is almost too much.

I’ve taken a zillion pictures and am having a hard time limiting the number here. Before I stop, I just have to include this one, with the house with the blue shutters mirrored in the water.

It is getting late, so I cycle home without stopping. Only back in our own, slightly less charming, village do I squeeze my brakes to take a few more pictures, because the sheep are back!

A flock of sheep visits us several times a year. Instead of the heavy machinery that used to do it, they now mow the grass in green spaces around the area. And here they are ‘at work’ in the local business park.

And this lovely day doesn’t end here. Back home a surprise awaits me – a parcel from Devon, UK.

Finally, the yarn I’d ordered for something I was going to knit during my summer break. I’d left it a bit late and then it got held up at customs.

It is a heathered organic wool in a gradient of pinks, from palest watermint pink to deep hydrangea pink. No, wait, I don’t think hydrangeas come in this particular shade of pink. It is more like foxglove.

Instead of a summer project, it is now something to look forward to for autumn. You’ll probably see it cropping up in blog posts later this year. Well, that’s all for today. Hope to see you again for another outing in a few days’ time!

PS: Last summer I wrote a blog post about crochet curtains in Giethoorn. For anyone who missed it, it can be found here.

Colourful Socks

Hello!

Cycling for the sake of cycling is often good enough for me. But sometimes it is nice to have a destination. One of my favourite cycling destinations is the village of Vledder. It is the home of the museums of Forged Art and Contemporary Glass Art. The museums’ entrance is at the back of the house with the clock.

But that’s not why we are here. Today I’m taking you along to the local bookshop. It is a small bookshop with a great selection of books, as well as postcards, magazines, gift items and artists’ supplies. The sight of their wall of coloured pencils never fails to lift my spirits.

But I’m not an artist and didn’t come to buy pencils or paints. My aim was to spend some pocket money and buy a foreign magazine.

There is a whole host of German magazines with titles like Landliebe, Liebes Land, LandIdee, LandLeben, LandZauber and so on. They all contain luscious photographs of lovely homes and gardens, recipes and articles about all kinds of things to do with the countryside. They are hard to distinguish from each other.

This time I chose Landlust. There was an article in it about a Felt Studio, with colourful photographs that had the same effect on me as the wall of coloured pencils.

There were also several knitting designs in this issue – three sweaters, a dress and a shrug.

I’m not terribly excited by them, but I discovered that the magazine has an extensive archive of knitting patterns and really enjoyed browsing through it. All patterns are free digital downloads in German. (If you don’t want to subscribe to their newsletter, just click the window away when it pops up).

There are also other crafts ideas sprinkled through the knitting patterns in their archives, including some cute cardboard sheep wrapped in wool that would be great to make with children.

The magazine also has its own line of knitting yarns. I have never tried any of them, but I did squirrel…

… away several balls of their sock yarn a while ago. Reading the magazine reminded me of those and I started a pair of socks straightaway, in cream, a rosy pink and watery blues and greens.

The yarn is called Landlust Die Sockenwolle, has 420 m/459 yds to 100 g and is composed of 75% wool/25% polyamide. It looks and feels like most other, similar sock yarns: smooth (not hairy) and hard-wearing enough to be worn in walking boots. (As you know I’m not sponsored, so this is my own honest impression of this yarn).

Some balls have subtle colours and patterns, others come in bold colourful stripes.

I’ll show you what they look like knit up when I come to them.

Well, that brings us to the end of another post. The way back home leads through a village that was awarded Unesco World Heritage status several weeks ago. It is now overrun with visitors. That would be another nice cycling destination and I’ll keep it in mind for some other time.

Bye for now and have a nice weekend!

Sheltering from a Thunderstorm

Hello! Here is another extra blog post. This time I’m taking you along on one of my summer walks. It starts at this church door. Legend has it that at the time the church was built a certain young lady of noble birth…

… fell in love with the master builder and vice versa. Her family thought this highly unsuitable and sent her away, hoping she would forget about him. During her last night at home, she had a dream about what the church steeple should look like, and before she left she had the opportunity to whisper it into the builder’s ear… (More about that later.)

This walk leads us through an environment that holds many happy memories for me. It isn’t a nature walk this time, but a walk through an agricultural landscape with many lovely old farmhouses.

Some of them still have the little old baking house next to them.

And they often have well-tended vegetable plots.

It is all truly idyllic and picturesque. But just as in any paradise, there are snakes around here. Well, this isn’t really a snake, but a slow worm – a legless lizard. I found it lying upside down with a damaged tail, apparently run over, and thought it was dead. I didn’t like the idea of more vehicles running over it even though it was dead so tried to move it, and then it suddenly wriggled – Eeeeek!

But also – how wonderful! These are rare and elusive creatures, and this is only the third slow worm I’ve ever seen in my life. I moved it to the verge hoping it’ll survive.

We also have one type of poisonous snake in this country: the adder. But the poison that is bothering people around here doesn’t come from snakes. It comes from fields like this:

It is a field of gladioli. The cultivation of these as well as lilies and flower bulbs meant for export to Asia is a source of great concern to those living here. When these fields are sprayed, people living next to them can see a mist of pesticides descend onto their lawns, trampolines and vegetable plots. People are worried about their own health and that of their environment. The discussion about this issue has also become venomous. I really hope a more sustainable solution will be found for the future.

Agriculture has changed enormously here over the past decades. Many farmhouses have been turned into Bed & Breakfasts, and the old agricultural tools have become decorative objects.

Looking at it from a positive side, I’m glad that the old farm buildings have not been pulled down, but been lovingly restored and given a new destination. Small bits of land are still used for growing corn – here flattened by heavy rainfall.

While southern Europe has suffered from unprecedented heatwaves this year, our summer has been cool and unsettled, with frequent thunderstorms. Before going for a walk or a bicycle ride, I always checked the storm radar and I also kept an eye on the sky. Although it felt slightly oppressive this afternoon, the radar didn’t predict any storms and the sky looked clear enough. But halfway along I heard a rumbling in the distance and a terribly dark sky came closer VERY quickly.

Fortunately I found the perfect place to shelter from the thunderstorm: under the eaves of a farmhouse, with my back against a small door.

A door too small for a cow or a person to walk through. Maybe it was for pigs in olden days. Sitting there, with my umbrella to cover my legs, I waited until the storm was over. Snug like a rabbit in its warren.

With the storm disappearing into the distance…

… I walked back to my starting point – the church from the story that still needs an ending.

Well, the master builder did what his beloved had whispered into his ear and gave the church a very special onion-shaped steeple of which the village is proud until the present day.

The young lady’s father realized that the builder was a person worth his daughter and when she came back from her travels they married with his blessing and lived happily ever after.

So, where is the knitting in this story? Uhm, hidden inside my walking boots. I always wear a pair of hand knit socks in them. More about some of those next time!

Woolly Country Life

There was a small market in the square behind the church in the photo at the top. This market – called Wollig Landleven (Woolly Country Life) – visits a different village in our part of the country every month from spring through autumn. It is a lovely small-scale event.

The Country Life part refers to ‘essentials’ like soaps, sausages, cheese, herb teas, clothes and all kinds of knick-knacks for the home. My favourite of these is the baker with his wood-fired oven.

The smell is heavenly, and their lovingly displayed loaves are delicious as well as a feast for the eyes.

But I mainly came for the Woolly part, of course. There was wool in different forms. There were raw fleeces in plastic bags…

… complete sheep skins…

… and hand-dyed fibres for felting and spinning.

The last time I went to a ‘real’ crafts fair was in February 2020, and no indoors yarn events will be held here in the near future, as far as I know. The organizers of our regional (indoor) crafts fair are now aiming for February 2022. This market only gets permission because it is outdoors and complies with all the regulations, lilke one-way traffic and a limited number of visitors. And we still need to be careful to keep a 1.5 metres distance, disinfect our hands etcetera.

But in spite of all that, the atmosphere is relaxed, and it is wonderful to stroll around looking at the wares and just be among people. It takes some getting used to that again. There was one person who stood out because of her daring and original outfit.

Looking at the shawl now, it occurs to me that it might be a Stephen West design. And yes, a quick Ravelry search tells me that it is Slipstravaganza. He is so creative, and his designs really stand out.

I enjoyed looking at several baskets filled with handspun yarns. To me it is always inspiring to see what choices other people make. What colours did they choose to combine? How many plies? How thick or thin is their yarn? Is it slubby or even?

It was a lovely surprise to meet two new indie dyers. The first was Wat Wollie (which is a pun in the local dialect and could be translated as What WOOLd you like). Petra dyes her yarns in beautiful saturated colours.

Apart from at these markets, she also sells her yarns through Etsy, and her website can be found here. Petra has only been knitting for a few years, but has quickly become an accomplished knitter, as her sweater shows. I forgot to ask which pattern she used, but I think it is Goldwing by Jennifer Steingass.

The stall next to hers was that of Badcattoo Yarn. It’s fun to see how every dyer has her own style. Badcattoo’s yarns are generally lighter and often have parts left undyed. She also has a website.

For a long time now, my policy has been only to buy yarns with a specific project in mind. But for once I’ve deviated from that rule and bought a skein from both dyers with no idea what I’m going to do with them yet. I had some pocket money to spend on frivolous things, after all.

Both are fingering-weight yarns with a percentage of nylon in them. Top right is Badcattoo’s yarn in lovely pale sky blues with black, white and brown tweedy neps. And bottom left Wat Wollie’s skein in deeper hues of blue and purple, with a few brown speckles here and there.

It felt so good to be hanging out with my ‘tribe’ again for a while.

For anyone living in or near Drenthe, an overview of upcoming Wollig Landleven markets can be found here.

No Plan but a List

Hello, I’m back (although I haven’t really been away). I hope you’ve had a good summer and feel ready to get back to normal life, in as far as it can be called normal at the moment.

Beforehand, I imagined myself during my Summer Break like the sculpture above, only slightly more curvy and with a pair of knitting needles in my hands. No plan, just lazing about.

Except… I’m not the lazing-about-type (I must have been an ant in a previous life or something). I soon realized that staying at home with a husband working through the summer, there was the danger of my two precious weeks becoming two very ordinary weeks. I still didn’t feel like making a plan, but I needed something to give me some sort of direction. So, I got out a notebook and made a list.

A list of things that make a summer holiday into a summer holiday for me. It included:

  • Travel
  • No alarm clock
  • Simple, orderly environment (tent or cottage)
  • Read a foreign magazine
  • No newspaper, no tv
  • Grocery shopping in an unfamiliar shop (I love those huge French Hypermarchés, and the aisles with dozens of different types of muesli and honey in German supermarkets)
  • Spend as much time outdoors as possible
  • Lots of exercise (cycling, walking)
  • Lots and lots and lots of time for crafting and reading
  • Simple food, try a few new things
  • Sightseeing, visit a town, city, museum
  • Some pocket money to spend on frivolous things
  • Send postcards
  • Eat or drink something somewhere
  • Several new books to read
  • Take photographs
  • Keep a diary

Most of the items seemed doable, although some would require a little imagination. I didn’t want it to be a to-do-list with items to check off, just something I could use as a kind of compass. I didn’t do everything on it. One of the things I did do, was take photographs. Loads of them.

Photographs of landscapes…

… lovely houses…

… flowering heather…

… and many, many more.

I didn’t go grocery shopping in one of those big French or German supermarkets, but I did visit a health food shop close by that I’d never been to. They had a display of deliciously fresh looking vegetable plants outside…

… and some lovely honey and other nice things inside.

I did send a few postcards, but I didn’t keep to the ‘no newspaper, no tv’ item on my list. I felt the need to stay informed, and especially the publication of the IPCC climate report felt too important to not read about.

So scary! But the hopeful thing about it is that it seems to have conveyed a sense of urgency. I often struggle with the bad news from around the world. How can I enjoy a Summer Break and blog about small pleasures when so much is going wrong?

This is one of the books I have been reading during my Summer Break:

It is set in an imaginary place in Ireland (travel!), far removed from the real world. In it I found a nugget of wisdom that applies to our everyday world as well: ‘… even in times of death, destruction and ignorance, there are still good people who can make a difference.’ (p. 90)

That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Trying to be a good person making a difference. And to be able to do that, we need a break from time to time. Knitting isn’t going to save the world, but at least it isn’t making things worse either. So, I’ve sat knitting and reading on our veranda, behind the flowering dill, quite a bit.

And although the weather was unreliable, I’ve also been walking for hours and cycling for miles and miles.

I didn’t keep a diary, but I’d like to write about a few of the things I’ve seen along the way and thought I’d do that here over the next couple of weeks. It’s far too much for one or two blog posts, so there’ll be a few more than my usual Friday ones. Hope you don’t mind.

What I would have liked to do as well, was visit a few yarn shops in the area, but most of them were having a Summer Break just like me. The only one I visited did have some nice yarns…

… but otherwise was such a mess…

… that I beat a quick retreat and won’t even tell you where it was. But not to worry – there will be a few other crafts-related things to share.

Bye for now, and see you again soon!

(This isn’t my bicycle, but a purely ornamental one in a neighbour’s garden.)

Places to Sit and Knit 2

Hello, and welcome to another Place to Sit and Knit. It’s there, under the giant white-and-yellow striped parasol behind the artichokes. I hadn’t planned on writing the second instalment in this series so soon, but couldn’t resist.

It was our niece who brought us here. She has been a student at Nijmegen university for a year now – a lonely year filled with zoom lectures. She rents a room in a house with several other students in a village outside the city. We arrive bearing a basket filled with goodies and a pair of old-fashioned crochet pot holders.

We’ve kept in touch by e-mail, Whatsapp, snailmail and phone, but it is wonderful to see her face IRL again and to finally see where she has been studying so diligently on her own all year. I really, really hope our young people will be able to have a slightly more normal life after the summer.

After several mugs of tea/coffee and a guided tour of the village we paid a visit to the local windmill.

It is no longer functioning, but now houses a shop selling everything a home baker will ever need, from dozens of different kinds of flour to seeds and nuts, dried fruit, yeast, baking tins, proofing baskets and much more.

To my husband this is what a yarn shop is to me. This time I was the one waiting patiently outside. (I didn’t mind – I brought my knitting.) This time it was my turn to ask, ‘Did you get everything you wanted? Are you sure you don’t need anything else?’

As we rarely get to this part of the country, we thought we’d better cram as much into our day as possible. So, on to our next stop: Nijmegen Botanical Garden. There are actually two gardens separated by a beech avenue: the botanical garden proper and a flower garden.

On the afternoon of our visit, the bog area of the botanical garden looked like something from a fairy tale.

At least from a distance. I hope they’ve been able to keep the wedding dress and the bridegroom’s shoes from getting too muddy and their tempers from getting too frayed. Whose idea was it to take wedding pictures in a bog anyway?

The Friesian horses drawing their fairy tale carriage were pacing back and forth outside the garden, only stopping for me to take a picture.

It’s beautiful to look at, but I’m so glad I’ve never had to go through the ordeal of a fairy tale wedding like that.

Today’s Place to Sit and Knit is in the flower garden. There are lots of lovely places to sit and knit here. Ordinary benches surrounded by flowers.

And extraordinary seats covered in foliage.

We’re heading for the tables and chairs under the big parasol.

Time for some tea, fruit juice and carrot cake. Did you bring your knitting? What are you making?

I’m ‘working’ on my new shawl design, using a combination of silk/mohair lace yarn and a fingering-weight merino yarn. It doesn’t look like much yet, does it? It’s a work in progress and I’m not ready to show you more at this stage. Sorry! These things always take a long time, at least for me. I plan to have the pattern finished sometime in September. Saying that here out loud feels like giving myself a deadline, and I think that’s a good thing or I’ll stay dithering over the details forever.

At the first of our Places to Sit and Knit, my blogging friend Helga from Sweden told me about a linen top she is knitting, using a pattern called Siw (Ravelry link). It is an oversized top with a lovely lace panel on the shoulders. It might be just the thing for some linen yarn that has been marinating in my stash for a while.

My yarn is thinner than the yarn used in the pattern, but it may work. I’ll swatch and see.

With the 1,071,226 patterns currently available on Ravelry, it can be hard to decide what to knit. There are all kinds of filters available to help us choose, but for me nothing beats tips and inspiration from friends – real-life knitting friends, Ravelry friends and friends met in the blogosphere. Thanks, Helga! How is your Siw coming along?

It’s nice here, isn’t it, just sitting and knitting, sipping a drink, and enjoying the flowers (click on images to enlarge). And the best thing is: admission is free and you can come back anytime you like!