Crochet Curtains in Giethoorn

Hello!

Are you ready for our first summer outing? Do your bicycle tires have enough air? Did you apply sunscreen and put on your sunglasses? Okay, let’s go!

Today, we’re cycling to Giethoorn, one of our regional tourist hot spots. In case you have never heard of it – Giethoorn is a village of about 2,500 souls in a low-lying wetland area in the Netherlands. It is situated on a man-made shallow lake…

… and the old part of the village is incredibly picturesque, with its lovely thatched houses, narrow canals and high bridges. (Many houses can only be reached via these bridges or by boat.)

Giethoorn has a special place in my heart. For several years our daughter had a summer job in one of the souvenir shops. And in previous years, when things got a little too quiet at home, I sometimes hopped on my bicycle to spend some time in Giethoorn. Normally, it is teeming with tourists from all over the world driving whisper boats,

taking guided tours in a canal boat, or strolling along the narrow paths.

I took the pictures you see here last year. This year it has obviously been very different, with the canals looking more like this:

For many people depending on tourism for their incomes it has been a tough, tough time. Now, with most of the Covid measures lifted in the Netherlands, they are breathing a tentative sigh of relief. Tourists are welcome again, although in much smaller numbers than before because of the restrictions that still are in place.

But, hey, we didn’t come here to discuss the local economy. I took you to Giethoorn for some respite from all those kind of worries. And especially to take a look at the lovely crochet curtains that grace many windows. I know that many of you are knitters, but I hope that you are interested in crochet, too.

I’m not sure if I should call them curtains, as most of them are just fairly narrow strips of crochet (like the one to the left of the lamppost above). Perhaps valances is a better word.

These crochet curtains/valances were all the rage in the 1970s and 1980s, at least in the Netherlands. I have no idea about other countries. But now, outside Giethoorn, I very rarely see them anymore.

The ones in Giethoorn are all of white or unbleached cotton. As a child, I had some in my bedroom that were similar to the ones in the house below, but mine were bright green, which made the flowers in them look like Granny Smith’s apples.

Here is a close-up of the ones in the window over the front door:

Most of these curtains are crocheted across, back and forth in narrow rows, with the straight edge at the top of the window on one side, and increasing and decreasing to the points on the other. This way, they can easily be made to fit the width of the window.

And most of them use a technique called ‘filet crochet’, sometimes in combination with other techniques. Filet crochet consists of a kind of grid made up of chain stitches and what is known in the US as double and in the UK as treble crochet stitches. Some of the squares are left open and others are filled with double/treble crochet to make symmetrical shapes, flowers or even intricate pictures.

The ones above are 100% filet crochet, whereas the house below has simple narrow ones…

…which look like filet crochet…

…but where the spaces inside the diamonds are filled in with a kind of crosses in a combination of chain stitches, double/treble crochet and single (US) or double (UK) crochet. (An international standard for these terms would make life a lot easier.)

The house below has wider and more intricate ones.

Here they are in close-up:

Upside-down hearts in filet crochet, with stars in chain stitch around a centre of stitches that I can’t make out. At the top they have the same sort of crosses as the simple narrow valance above.

And I’ve kept the best ones till last – four genuine master pieces. Here are the first two:

Two figures wearing beautifully detailed costumes, holding on to what looks like bean poles.

Unlike the ones so far, these panels were not worked from side to side, but from the bottom to the top. They are a great example of true filet crochet, except for the border at bottom and sides, which was added as a final touch.

And here are two more beauties – the last ones:

I can see lots of birds. The ones on the hands of the figure on the left look like falcons. At first I thought he had long streamers on his sleeves, but they also seem to be hanging from his hands, which is strange. Perhaps it is an open garden gate he’s standing in front of. Who knows?  On the right I see birds that look like geese and ducks. And what is she holding in her hands? Bunches of grapes?

Grapes? That’s interesting. I can place geese and ducks in these surroundings. But falcons and grapes in Giethoorn? Not really. And taking a closer look at the costumes also makes me wonder. All in all it looks as if the patterns for these panels may have come from Germany, or perhaps from France.

Describing Giethoorn’s crochet curtains here has made me look at them in much more detail than I’d done before – I really enjoyed that. I hope you’ve enjoyed the trip, too. Thank you for cycling along and I hope you’ll join me again on next week’s outing!

Summer Break

Hello!

These two simple swatches are all there is to show you of my knitting at the moment. I have plenty of knitting plans and ideas, but it’ll take a while for them to transform into something bloggable. So I thought, Why not take a break? A nice, long summer break! I can certainly do with one. How about you?

Now, before you think that my blog will come to a standstill, that’s not what I mean. What I mean is that I’d like to take a break from talking about my knitting. I’d like to take us on a few outings and write about some other summery things. Mainly knitting-or-other-crafts-related, of course.

I don’t know exactly what it’s all going to look like, and I can’t guarantee that my knitting won’t sneak in here and there, but I hope that it’s going to be fun and something to look forward to every week.

To start with, I’d like to take you on an early morning walk and share a recipe.

Imagine that it’s 7 a.m. We’ve just had a quick breakfast and are still slightly groggy and grumpy, feeling like, ‘Do we really need to get up this early on our day off?’ Then, seeing the sun slanting through the trees, and breathing in the fresh air and the mixed smell of pine trees, sand and heather, all the grumpiness is gone. Aaaaah, it’s so good to be here!

In some places, the ground is carpeted with crowberries dotted with many, many small dewy spider’s webs.

Can you see them? Here is one from close up.

There will be small black berries on the plants later in the season, very bitter when eaten raw. The plants also give off a slightly bitter, but really nice and tangy smell.

And here, on a dead tree trunk, is something giving off a not-so-nice smell:

It’s fox’s spraint. (Forgive me for being so weird to photograph fox poo, but I think it’s really interesting that they deposit it in such a prominent spot.)

Oh, and look, aren’t we lucky today? There, in the distance is a roe deer mum with her kid…

… strolling and grazing along the path. I don’t think they’ve spotted us yet, but we won’t be able to get much closer without being noticed.

And here are their hoof prints, one big and one small:

Aww, that was so sweet. Now, before we head back, let’s just enjoy the peace and quiet for a while on this lovely bench with a dead branch for a footstool.

The wind is soughing softly through the pine branches above us.

The sun is rising in the sky, but our bench is in the shade of the big old pines, so we won’t get too hot. I could sit here all day, enjoying the peaceful view…

… but I shan’t, because I promised to share a recipe with you, too. It’s my recipe for Very Healthy Oat Squares. I make these every other week. They keep very well and are ideal snacks to take on walks and other days out. Why not bake a batch of these (or of something else if you have a sweeter tooth) in preparation for next week’s outing?

Here are the ingredients all set out.

Very Healthy Oat Squares

For a 27 by 27 cm baking tray, makes 16.

Ingredients

  • 200 g thick-rolled oats (not the finer porridge oats)
  • 200 g wholewheat pastry flour*
  • 100 g sultana raisins
  • 50 g currants
  • 50 g dried cranberries
  • 8 g speculaaskruiden**
  • 3 g salt
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil + a little extra for greasing
  • 250 ml cold water or a little less

* Wholewheat pastry flour is more finely ground than ordinary wholewheat flour and is available from most healthfood stores.
** This is a typically Dutch spice blend available online here and there. Gingerbread spice mix is not entirely the same but a good substitute.

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180 ˚C (fan oven 160 ˚C)
  • Put all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl
  • Stir in 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil and grease the baking tray with the rest of the oil
  • Gradually stir in the water. Try using a little less than the 250 ml at first. The mixture should just stick together and should not be soggy at all. If it is too wet, the oat squares won’t keep as well
  • Knead through (by hand or using a mixer) for a minute or two
  • Drop the mixture onto the baking tray and, using wet hands, distribute it evenly and flatten it
  • Tidy the edges (ragged edges will become brittle and burn)
  • Cut into 16 squares and bake for 35 minutes
  • Remove the baking tray from the oven, transfer the squares to a wire rack and leave to cool before storing

In an airtight container, kept in a cool and dry place, the oat squares will keep up to two weeks.

Enjoy!

Van Dyke Lace

There is often more to knitting than meets the eye. Take this scarf that I’ve just finished. To an outsider, it may look like just another knitted lacy scarf, but to me it’s much more than that. To me it represents memories of Norway and a group of virtual knitting friends, with some literature and fine art thrown in as well.

Let’s take a look at the basics first – the pattern and the yarn. The pattern is called Lace Sampler Scarf and is a Churchmouse Classic.

Over the years I’ve knit many items designed by the Churchmouse design team. Their patterns have beautiful photographs, are written with much attention to detail and always contain some tips and techniques. They also have a very friendly and helpful Ravelry board and, although I will in all likelihood never meet any of the people I chat with there in real life, their virtual friendship means a lot to me.

The yarn is 100% alpaca in a sport weight that I once brought home as a souvenir from Norway, where we have spent many wonderful summer holidays. I remember buying the yarn at a Husfliden shop in Mosjøen, a lovely small town about a hundred kilometres south of the Polar Circle.

I wasn’t into photographing yarn shops then (I didn’t even have a camera at the time), but I do have a few pictures taken by my husband to give you an impression of the town. Here is one of those attractive Norwegian wooden houses.

And this is a picture of one of the oldest streets of the town – Sjøgata (Sea Road).

The Lace Sampler Scarf uses three different lace patterns. It is a sampler, after all – originally meant as a practice piece. It starts with some Van Dyke Lace, followed by a section in Diagonal Lace and ending with some English Mesh Lace (photo below from bottom to top).

The designers playfully made the sections all in different lengths. That was the only thing about the pattern that I didn’t like. In fact, it really irked me. My mind is apparently more rigid symmetrically oriented than theirs. So I adapted the pattern to make the first and the last sections the same length, and the middle section twice as long.

While I was knitting, I didn’t really think about the lace patterns very much. Diagonal lace speaks for itself with its rows of diagonal eyelets. English mesh looks a lot like, well, mesh. And Van Dijk is a common enough name in this country. I knit on more or less thoughtlessly, enjoying the soft yarn in my hands and the different rhythms of the patterns.

But when I had just started on the last section, the book I was rereading also mentioned Van Dyke Lace and my attention was caught. It was Jane and the Ghosts of Netley by Stephanie Barron. (This is the seventh novel in a series of mysteries in which author Jane Austen features as an amateur detective. The novels capture the style and times of the real Jane Austen perfectly and are great fun.)

On p. 129 Jane is trying on a dress at modiste Madame Clarisse’s when an acquaintance asks, ‘I wonder if Madame Clarisse is familiar with the demi-ruff à la Queen Elizabeth, pleated in Vandyke?’ And a little later, ‘Forgive me for speaking as I find, Miss Austen, but you’ve rather a short neck – and the white demi-ruff, Vandyke-stile, should lengthen its appearance to admiration.’

Wait a second! Van Dyke Lace, pleated in Vandyke, a demi-ruff Vandyke-stile… where does this all come from? Oh, of course, it refers to Anthony van Dyke, the 17th Century artist who painted lace ruffs and collars so exquisitely! There are some great examples at the Mauritshuis in The Hague and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. (These are either bobbin lace or needle lace – I don’t know enough about lace to tell.)

Then I started looking for examples of Van Dyke Lace in knitting and found out that there isn’t just one kind of knitted Van Dyke Lace, but many. This is my/Churchmouse’s Van Dyke Lace:

The Vandyke lace in Barbara Walker’s Third Treasury of Knitting Patterns looks very different:

In Treasuries I and II, Walker also mentions a Vandyke check pattern, Vandyke faggot, Vandyke leaf pattern, Vandyke medallion edging and Vandyke swag stitch.

In Heirloom Knitting, about Shetland lace knitting, Sharon Miller describes a Vandyke Edging – pointy with zigzags.

The common denominator seems to be that all Van Dyke lace is pointy or zigzaggy in some way. There are probably many more variations on this theme elsewhere. I just love it that there is always more to discover about knitting.

Well, here is another picture of ‘my’ Van Dyke Lace (the section with the V’s). This isn’t fine lace as in Van Dyke’s portraits and Shetland knitting. Compared to the gossamer yarns used in Shetland lace (which can be up to 6.000 metres per 100 grams), the yarn I used (which was 334 metres per 100 grams) is like ship’s rope compared to dental floss. But to me the result looks more than fine.

I give many of the things I knit away, but I don’t know anybody who would like to have a shawl in this shade of pink, so there is nothing for it but to keep this one. And you know what? I don’t mind in the least, because every time I wear it, it will remind me of Norway, of my virtual knitting friends and of the things I discovered in the process.

Spinning Drenthe Heath Sheep

Last year, I bought a bag of Drenthe Heath sheep wool. During our walks, we often see flocks of these sheep at work in one of our national parks. They are kept for conservation grazing, and their work is eating young trees and shrubs. Without them, our open heathlands would turn into woodland in no time.

Drenthe Heath sheep are not primarily kept for their meat or fleeces, but their meat seems to be good (I’ve never tasted it) and they produce fleeces of 1 to 2 kg per sheep. I know that their wool is generally considered to be of poor quality, but still I wanted to experience for myself what it feels like, how it spins up, and what I could knit with it.

An entire fleece would be way too much for me, so I bought a bag with small quantity of prepared wool.

Taking the wool out of the bag, I saw that it contained five rolled-up batts, or large rolags.

The label on the bag said, ‘150 grams. Washed and carded Drenthe Heath Sheep Wool, €10,00.’ There was also a business name on the label, but no website or contact information.

Asking around, I found out who had done all the washing and carding for me, and also that this person was going to be present at a crafts fair. Bringing a tuft of wool, I visited her stall at the fair to learn a bit more. Although she was busy selling her wares, she took the time for a chat. One of the things she said about the wool was, ‘there is quite a bit of kemp in it.’

Kemp???

‘Yes. If you look at the wool closely, you can see some dark fibres mixed in with the lighter wool. That is kemp.’

Back home I looked for more information about kemp. On p. 22 of The Spinner’s Companion Bobbie Irwin defines it as ‘Undesirable fiber found in some fleeces, especially those of more primitive breeds.’ I also found out that kemp isn’t actually wool but hair. I went on to read much, much more, including that sheep have primary and secondary follicles. It was all very interesting, but would go much too far to repeat it all here.

Summing up, all sources agree on one thing – kemp is bad news!

Only Robson and Ekarius are slightly milder in their great tome The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook. On p. 9 they state, ‘Kemp isn’t all bad, though. Its very nature of odd dye absorption is sometimes useful, as in the production of true tweeds.’

In spite of all the bad news, I started spinning.

When I spin, I always have a tea towel on my lap, to protect my clothes and catch any dirt and fibres coming from the wool. For light fibres I use a dark tea towel, and for dark fibres a light one. This helps me to see what I’m doing.

I divided the wool into two equal portions and spun it into a fairly thin thread. During the spinning, the wool shed a lot of kemp. I put some on a sheet of white paper to take a closer look.

So this is kemp – short, rough, slightly curly hairs that make yarn prickly and don’t take dye well.

After spinning two bobbins full, I plied everything into a simple 2-ply yarn. While I was plying even more kemp fell out, but quite a bit stayed in too.

Drenthe Heath sheep can vary in colour, but their fleeces are mostly off-white. They are fairly small, hardy animals and have apparently lived in this region from about 4000 BC. My wool came from an animal like this one:

Although this isn’t the nicest wool I’ve ever spun, spinning 150 grams of Drenthe Heath Sheep wool has brought me a number of things:

  • In-depth knowledge of kemp
  • Several enjoyable hours of meditative treadling and drafting
  • A closer connection with these animals that have lived here for thousands of years
  • 135 gr/422 m/460 yds of yarn

The yarn is a sort of heathered oatmeal shade and feels, let’s say, rustic. I like it more than I expected, I have to say, but I don’t think I’d use it for something to wear.

I am also left with several question marks:

  • Would it have been possible to remove the kemp entirely? How?
  • If so, would the yarn still be scratchy?
  • Would it have been better if I’d spun it into a thicker, loftier yarn?
  • And last but not least – what could I knit with it? Hmmmmm…

If you’d like to read more about Drenthe Heath sheep, I’ve written about them here and here. And there is more information on the website of the Drenthe Heath sheep breeders’ association (mainly in Dutch, but with an English summary).

A Cup of Tea in the Garden

Hello!

First of all, thank you for all your kind comments about my new pattern, here and on Ravelry. Thús has already been downloaded many, many times. It’s been rather overwhelming, but very nice too. Maybe you’ve already noticed – there is a new button in the black bar ↑↑↑at the top↑↑↑ saying ‘Patterns’. If you click on that, you are taken to a page where you can always find ‘all’ of my patterns. There are not all that many yet, but I hope to add a few more over time.

But let’s not keep standing here in the driveway. Please come through into the garden! There’s a chair waiting for you in the shade of the old pear tree. Placed at a safe distance from mine, of course. I have a day off today, so there’s all the time in the world to catch up.

Please make yourself some tea. There’s hot water in the thermos and a selection of tea bags in the bowl with the blue decorations. The Dutch Blend is really good. Or you can pick some fresh Moroccan mint, if you like.

Looking up, you can see that there are already lots of small pears on the tree. It wouldn’t be safe to sit here later in the year. You’d need a helmet with pears falling from the tree left and right. But right now it’s the best spot.

And look, there is one of ‘our’ young great spotted woodpeckers. Several of them and their parents are in and out of the garden all of the time. Only the youngsters have red caps. Their nest was probably in a tall tree in the nearby wood.

This particular youngster is slightly clumsy. It has difficulty climbing up the stem of the apple tree, and last week it dropped down – thud – right in front of me into the long grass, squawking, squawking for its parents.

It will have to learn how to climb up, because it’s what woodpeckers do, and also because that’s where the food is. Here’s another youngster with dad. First they sit looking at the feeder filled with peanuts together…

… then dad gets a piece of peanut with his son or daughter looking on…

… and feeds it to his offspring (we know it’s dad, because unlike mum he has a red spot at the back of his neck).

I often sit here watching them. And knitting.

I’ve just finished a pair of socks, knit from the toe up to the cuff. There’s enough yarn left for another pair with the colours reversed. I’m knitting those from the cuff down to the toe. I’ll tell you more about them when the other pair is finished.

If the socks look slightly on the big side, that is because they are. I made them for someone with bigger feet than mine.

I’ve also been thinking about the pink striped cardi I wrote about two weeks ago. My friend Marieke suggested hanging it up with some weights on it to see whether it would sag. That was a great idea and I used clothes pegs as weights. Not only did it show that it didn’t sag, it also gave me the opportunity to look at it from a distance.

It’s fine. There is nothing wrong with it at all. It’s just that I’m not crazy about the stripes and can’t see myself wearing it. So, rrrrrrrip! There it goes! I’ll put the yarn away for a while and think of something else to make with it.

But here I am, wittering on about my knitting. How about you? How are you doing? I hope you and yours are well. Does your government still tell you to stay home? Or can you go out and about a bit more now? Do you have some nice knitting on your needles? Or do you prefer crochet, or embroidery? Or a good book?

Oh, how time flies. It’s been lovely to have your company here. Thank you for stopping by and I hope to see you again soon!

Thús

Hello!

Well, here is the new (free) pattern that I promised you last time. It’s a loop/cowl called Thús, which is the Frisian word for Home.

As a child growing up in Friesland, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. What I did know, was that I wanted a peaceful, cosy home.

My wish was granted.

But I don’t take it for granted. I’m grateful for my home every single day, now more than ever.

When we were first exhorted to ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’, my initial reaction was, ‘……….??????’ (Read: Stunned – is this really happening?) Soon followed by thoughts like, ‘What can I do, other than just staying home?’ and also, ‘But what about people who don’t have a safe home?’

One of the ideas that popped into my mind for positive things to do was to design a knitting pattern. Something small and not too complicated, but just complicated enough to take a knitter’s mind off their worries for a while. Something that would be comforting to wear and suitable to send as a gift to a friend or relative when it’s impossible to visit them.

After many swatches, sketches and tries, it became this loop. I’ve made two versions. You’ve already seen the pink one at the top of this post, and this is me wearing the blue one.

(I’m so not cut out to be a model. It is way out of my comfort zone to be in the spotlights like this, but someone has to show what it looks like when worn.)

Knitting may seem trivial in a world in crisis. And maybe it is. But for me it’s a way to bring some beauty into the world, and also a way to express my love and concern.

With a little bit of imagination, you can see that the stitch pattern looks like rows of tiny interconnected houses.

It’s my take on John Donne’s ‘No man is an island’*. Even if we are all staying in our own homes, we are still all connected.

Now, here are some technicalities.

Thús takes just one 100-gram skein of fingering-weight or sock yarn. I think most knitters will have something like this in their homes somewhere. I chose blue and pink, because those are the colours I feel most at home with.

The pink version is made from a skein of Merino Singles dyed by Catharina at Wolverhalen (I wrote about her here). For the blue version I used a skein of Tosh Sock that had been marinating in my yarn stash for a while. These two yarns are very similar, and yet knit up differently.

Specs of the blue yarn: 100% merino wool; total meterage/weight 361 m/395 yds/100 g
Specs of the pink yarn: 100% merino wool; total meterage/weight 366 m/400 yds/100 g

The difference is that the pink yarn is a single, untwined thread, while the blue yarn consists of two plies. As a result, the blue version turned out shorter, cosier and squishier, while the pink version is sleeker, drapier and considerably longer than the blue one – it has five more rows of tiny houses.

The loop starts with a provisional cast-on and is knit flat (back and forth). I’ve heard of knitters who love grafting ends together, but I have never met any of them. I certainly don’t belong to that rare species. So, no grafting here. The ends are joined together using a much more knitter-friendly three-needle bind-off (all explained in the pattern).

Thús can be worn single…

…or wrapped around twice.

Thús is a free pattern – no strings attached. But if you’d like to do something in return, please consider making a donation to an organisation supporting refugees, other homeless people, or children/adults in unsafe home situations.

Thús can be found here on Ravelry
(available in English AND Dutch, also to non-Ravelry members)

Thank you and happy knitting!

* The quote comes from John Donne’s Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation XVII. This is the entire passage:

‘No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.’

Rose-Tinted

Hello!

It’s good to be back! After a week of taking things a little more easy, here is the promised knitting update. I hope you don’t mind that it’s grown rather long. All three projects that are on my needles right now are pink, as you can see above. But first, let’s stop and smell the roses.

There’s a lane just outside our village that officially goes by another name, but is locally known as the Black Road. That may sound rather ominous, but it’s just that the soil in that particular area is black, and the road was literally black before it was covered with grit and rubble.

The Black Road isn’t the fastest route to anywhere, and is just used by agricultural traffic and people like us, going for a stroll. At this time of year, the sweet briar growing along it is in flower.

Fully open, the flowers are a very pale pink, almost white. But when they are just opening, they are a more, well, rosy pink.

This is the shade of pink of the first knitting project on my needles. The pattern is called Lace Sampler Scarf, but it is actually more the size of a stole than a scarf.

The ‘sampler’ bit refers to the fact that it uses three different lace patterns and can be a practice piece for beginning lace knitters. These are the first two, called Van Dyke Lace and Diagonal Lace:

I’m using an alpaca yarn that had been waiting for a suitable project to come along for a long time. It is thicker than the yarn used by the designers and I needed to modify the pattern to suit my yarn and the amount of it I had. I’ll write more about how everything works out when it’s finished. What I can say already, is that it’s a very enjoyable knit.

The second project on my needles is actually a UFO – one of the 9 UnFinished Objects languishing in a dark corner that I want to finish (or frog) this year. It is in the shades of pink of some of the lupins in our front garden.

It is ‘Kinetic’, a long, striped cardigan from Rowan Magazine 65.

I started it in early summer last year and am not quite sure why I abandoned it. It certainly isn’t the yarn. The pink yarn is a gorgeous blend of cotton and cashmere. It is combined with some white Kidsilk Haze – a fine lacy blend of mohair and silk – left over from another project.

I think it’s the stripes that I’m not really happy about. Perhaps the white is too white next to the pinks? The cotton-cashmere yarn is also much thicker than the Kidsilk Haze, and the narrow white stripes knit on the same needle size are slightly transparent as a result. What will that look like when worn? Will the garment underneath shine through? Will it stand up to frequent washing? And won’t it sag?

What to do? Finish it? Or frog it and make something else with the yarn? What do you think?

Looking at this post and my blog in general, it may seem as if I view the world through rose-tinted glasses. Well, I do and I don’t. I’m not a happy-go-lucky person by nature. World politics, racism, poverty and climate change can keep me awake at night. And now there’s also this pandemic with its short and long-term impact. Sometimes, I’m hopeful that the current crisis will lead to a better, fairer and cleaner world, but on the whole I’m not so optimistic.

I think it’s important not to look away, and to do what is within my (limited) power. I also think it’s important not to go down a figurative Black Road. That’s why I deliberately put on those special glasses now and then – the ones that focus on things that are good for the soul. Like roses. And knitting.

So, here’s a tiny corner of the third rose-tinted project I’m working on. It’s something I’m designing myself. I hope to publish the (free) pattern soon, if not next week, then the week after that.

It’s inspired by this challenging time we’re going through. I know that may not sound very attractive, and I can’t guarantee that you’ll like it, of course, but I really hope that it will make you smile.

It’s a small project for intermediate knitters with some experience in lace knitting. If that sounds like you and you feel like starting something new in the near future, why not start rummaging through your stash now?

What you should look for in those boxes in your attic, in the cupboard under the stairs or under the sofa, is 100 grams of fingering-weight yarn (approx. 360 m/395 yds). A solid or semi-solid colourway will work best. It can be a luxury yarn or a sock yarn, as long as it is soft enough to be worn around the neck. Choose the colour you feel most at home with!

Well, that’s all for now. Thank you for reading and I hope to ‘see’ you here again soon!

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

Wool Stories

Now and then, I come across something in my diary I wrote down months ago. For last weekend, my diary said, ‘Knitting & Crochet Days Amsterdam’. Under normal circumstances, I would have taken an early train to the capital and then taken the ferry across the IJ for a day of meeting up with friends, chatting with yarn sellers and dyers, and finding new inspiration. I would also have taken pictures and shared them here with you.

I know that there are worse things in life, and I’m 100% behind the government’s decision to cancel all events until at least September, but I did feel slightly disappointed that I had to cross this event out (I’m only human).

I soon found a good alternative, though – I paid an online visit to a lovely dye studio and yarn shop in my part of the country.

It is called Wolverhalen, or Wool Stories in English. I also revisited the pictures I took during a visit in October 2019 (the ones you’re seeing here), and had a lovely long phone call with the owner, Catharina. She kindly sent me this photo of herself:

Catharina is a woman of many talents. Before she started her shop and dye studio about a year ago, she was an ambulance driver for many years. And before that, she ran her own flower shop.

I can’t say that the ambulance driver part of her career is reflected in her business, except in her friendly and caring presence, but the flower shop part certainly is. In addition to yarn, knitting books and tools, and Swedish woollen blankets, she also offers a great selection of plants and pots.

They give the beautiful light and airy space a relaxed and homey feel. For us, knitters, the most important part is the yarn, of course. Adjacent to the shop, there’s a sparklingly clean, well-organized and well-lit dye studio.

Here Catharina dyes her wool, silk, mohair, yak and suri alpaca yarns. (Don’t these materials just sound like music to your ears?) During my visit last autumn, there were some freshly dyed skeins in very bright shades on her drying rack. They were meant to be wound into sock minis – small skeins to be used as accent colours.

In addition to these bright and cheerful shades, she also produces sophisticated neutrals, refined pastels as well as gorgeous charcoals, deep blues, purples, greens and browns.

When I asked her why she decided to start Wolverhalen, Catharina told me about her life-long love of making things, and that she had been dyeing yarns as a hobby for several years before turning it into a business. Guess what her favourite colour is? Green, of course! I needn’t have asked.

Some of the yarns are dyed with natural dyestuffs and some with acid dyes. Environmentally friendly citric acid is used as fixative for the latter. (Acid dyes are not themselves acidic but require an acid to set them.)

The environment, sustainability and animal welfare are important to Catharina. (That sounds like music to my ears, too!) She avoids the use of plastic as much as possible, chooses recycled or recyclable materials for packaging, and all her wool is mulesing-free.

Well, let’s browse around the shop a little more. Below, on the right, is some økologisk Hverdagsuld and Tynd Lamauld from Danish brand CaMaRose.

(I don’t remember what the yarn on the left was.) I have no experience with these, but I love the range of colours and bought a few balls during last year’s visit to try them out. They’re still waiting patiently in a basket.

And here is some BC Garn Baby Alpaca, also from Denmark.

Not my colours, but oh so soft!

During my recent online visit, I ordered one skein of yarn that definitely IS my colour. It came wrapped in tissue paper with a lovely plant print, accompanied by a handwritten card with a personal message. Such a treat! I have an idea for it, but can’t tell you about it yet for fear of jinxing my creativity.

This blogpost is one of the ways in which I try to help small businesses survive this crisis. The world would lose so much of its colour if they were to disappear, don’t you think? I know it’s just a small drop in the ocean, but many small drops…

I hope your local yarn shop is still open for (online) business, or will be again soon. If not, there’s always Wolverhalen. The website is entirely in Dutch, but Catharina does ship worldwide and I’m sure she’ll be delighted to answer any questions.