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!

Making a Twisted Fringe

Hello!

We’ve had a lot of rather gloomy days here lately. I don’t mean gloomy because of the current coronavirus situation, although there is that too, but literally so gloomy that we need to keep the lights on all day.

We haven’t actually had a lot of rain. It’s just that on many days it’s been cloudy and grey.

I don’t really mind, and even enjoy the quiet atmosphere of some of these days. For me, the problem is that there often isn’t enough light to take pictures indoors, while the table on the patio is too wet to spread my knitting out on.

But last Sunday suddenly the sun came out.

I quickly set to work, because I wanted to show you how to make a twisted fringe. I’d finished knitting my Striped Linen Stitch Wrap. In this project, every row starts and ends with a yarn tail. In the basic pattern these are knotted into a fringe, but a later adaptation has a twisted fringe and that was what I wanted to try.

The yarn I used was Rowan’s Felted Tweed, a blend of lightly felted wool, viscose and alpaca. Because I wasn’t sure if the technique would work for this combination of fibres, I tried it out on a swatch first, and yes, it worked! This is how it’s done step by step.

1) Pin the end of the wrap to blocking mats.

The yarn ends were tied into bundles during the knitting. These are now undone one by one.

While twisting the ends, they need to be kept in place. The pattern uses a binder clip for this, but as I didn’t have any of those, I used a hair clip and a T-pin.

2) Undo a fringe bundle. Find the next 4 tails (they should be twisted in the order they were knitted).

3) Twist the first 2 tails together in the same direction as the twist of the yarn (i.e. to the right). Continue until they are slightly overtwisted.

4) Secure with a clip and pin onto the blocking mat with a T-pin.

5) Twist the next 2 tails in the same way and hold. Unclip the first 2 twisted tails. Tie both sets of tails together with an overhand knot as close to the ends as possible and let go. They will now twist together. Smooth this twist by passing it between thumb and forefinger several times.

Continue like this until all yarn tails have been twisted. Then repeat steps 1-5 for the other end of the wrap. Remove the wrap from the blocking mats and place it on an ironing board. Comb out the ends so that they are straight and not crossing each other.

6) Spray the fringe with a plant mister.

7) Cover it with a clean, moist tea towel. (Make sure it’s an old one that won’t give off any colour.)

8) Then, with the iron on the wool and steam setting, press the fringe with lots of STEAM.

Repeat for the other end of the wrap and leave to dry thoroughly. The tails should now be slightly felted, preventing them from untwisting.

9) Place the wrap with one fringe on the end of a table top. Make sure that the wrap is placed straight and straighten out the tails. Then cut off the knots at the length of the shortest tail.

I used a quilting ruler to make sure I cut the tails off straight.

There, all done! This is a great finish for a scarf or wrap. It’s really lovely to see the colours combined differently in each tiny barber-pole tail.

I’m really happy with this wrap and at the same time slightly sad that it’s finished. Many of the things I knit are for others, but I’m keeping this one. I’ve loved working on it and will miss the soothing rhythm of slipping and knitting, slipping and knitting many, many stitches.

Now I’m hoping for colder weather so that I can wear it. It’s a strange autumn. The pelargoniums and lobelias in our outdoor pots are still flowering and it’s the end of November! Still, we’ve had some night frost…

… and more wintry weather is expected for this weekend.

In case you’d like to knit a wrap like this, the pattern is called Striped Linen Stitch Wrap & Scarf (there is also a smaller scarf version) and can be found here on the designer’s website and here on Ravelry. The free adaptation for the twisted fringe can be found here.

Well, I hope that just looking at this warm wrap with its colourful fringe has warmed and lifted your heart a little. Take care! xxx

Burgundy Cardi

Hello!

Thank you for your kind comments about last week’s autumn walk. Today it’s all about knitting again. Looking through my photos I have a feeling it may become a longish post, so why not make yourself a nice cup of tea or coffee before diving in?

I’ve just finished a cardigan for our daughter and thought I’d talk about that for a bit. It’s the cardi I had to unravel the front of because I hadn’t read the pattern properly. Well, that was quickly remedied and it was soon time to check the sleeve length.

I didn’t have our daughter or any of her clothes at hand to measure the length, but I found an old sweater of mine she often borrows that I thought had exactly the right sleeve length.

It’s a different shape and size, but that didn’t matter. As long as the measurements across the chest and along the underarm were the same it would be all right (I hoped). Measured by the old sweater, the sleeve had reached the arm hole and the starting point of the sleeve cap. The sleeves were soon finished and it was time to go looking for buttons.

I popped into a large fabric store while we were on our way to visit our daughter and was greeted by a colourful wall of buttons. (For those of you in the Netherlands, it is just outside Deventer. There is nothing on their website but the address and opening hours, but as there are so few fabric stores left, I thought I’d include a link here anyway.)

I tried to be quick because my husband was waiting outside. He is always patient, but I didn’t want to keep him waiting too long or arrive too late. I got briefly distracted, though, by the displays of satin ribbons…

… denim fabrics…

… and bling-bling.

‘Come on, just focus on the buttons, you can do it,’ I told myself. I looked at the wooden buttons…

… as well as the red ones.

So much choice! These 4 seemed most suitable.

In the end I chose the colour that matched the yarn best, the bottom one.

Time to see if the cardi fit and the sleeves were the right length. I pinned it together on the outside to make it easier to try on.

Yes, perfect! And the sleeves were the right length too.

Now all that was left to do was seam everything together.

My waistbands are getting a little tight and I don’t think it is because my clothes have shrunk. I’ll really need to watch what I eat for a while.

For a low-calory, high-protein spread, I emptied a tub of no-fat fromage frais into a sieve lined with a piece of moist cheesecloth, placed the sieve on a mixing bowl and left it in the fridge overnight. The next morning it had a nice spreadable consistency and I mixed in a couple of tea spoons of dried herbs and some sea salt.

I used a tasty German mixture with wild garlic and chili flakes that we got as a gift, but almost any fresh or dried herbs will do.

Well, back to the cardigan. To sew everything together I used the ordinary back stitch. At least I thought it was ordinary. But a while ago I talked with someone who always used mattress stitch and didn’t know how to do the back stitch. For her, and others who have never back stitched their knitting together, I’ve sewn a part of the side seam with a contrasting thread and taken pictures.

Mattress stitch is worked from the outside. It is very precise and best for very delicate knitting and for matching up stripes. Back stitch is much faster and works well for anything else. It is worked on the wrong side of the knitted fabric. First everything is pinned together with the right sides together.

(My pins come from the chemist’s and are meant for fastening old-fashioned hair rollers.)

It’s very simple, really, but not so easy to put into words. I hope the picture below is clear enough.

Back stitch is worked from right to left, holding the edges of the fabrics up. What you do is, basically:

  • Insert your needle from nearside to far side about 0.5 cm/¼ inch to the right from where the thread came up,
  • *Insert the needle from far side to near side about twice the distance to the left.
  • Pull the yarn through and insert the needle from near side to far side again through the same hole where the yarn originally came up* (where the vertical white thread is in the picture)
  • Repeat from * to *.

It gives a neat seam on the outside and looks like this on the inside:

I hope this is clear. If not, there is a good video here on YouTube.

After sewing on the buttons the cardigan is all finished. The pattern I used is the Quintessential Cardigan by the Churchmouse design team – a simple, classic cardi with great attention to detail. An elegant neckline, neat button bands, a few short rows at the hem, nicely sloping shoulders and well-fitting armholes.

The yarn I used is Lana Grossa ‘EcoPuno’. It looks warm and woolly, but actually is 72% cotton. The other 28 percent is a mixture of merino and alpaca. It does not stand up very well to unravelling, but other than that it was a nice enough yarn to knit with. The ‘Eco’ suggests that it is (partly) organic, but the ball band or the manufacturer’s website do not say anything about that.

It is an airy, lightweight yarn and the entire cardi in the size I made (finished bust size 99 cm/39”) weighs only 270 grams. Here it is in its entirety:

It was a lovely cardi to knit and I can see myself making more of these in different colours and yarns.

I had great difficulty capturing the colour in my photos. In some it looked purple, in others almost fuchsia. In real life it is the colour of the darkest leaves on this farm building that we often pass on our walks.

A beautiful deep burgundy.

Talking about this burgundy colour reminds me of something else – an unmatched pair of Gazelle Mitts. I knit many of these mitts before I was completely satisfied with the design.

The one on the left is the final version, before I knit the ones that ended up in the pattern. The one on the right is a discarded version that is ever so slightly different. Can you spot the differences?

I think I’ll unravel that and reknit it to make a matching pair. They’ll make a nice December gift.

With that we’ve come to the end of today’s looooong blog post. As always, thank you for reading and have a lovely weekend!

An Interesting Knit

Hello!

Phew, it’s finished! My Panel Debate cardigan, I mean. It took me about 8 months from start to finish. Well, I knit several other things in between, but on 2.75 mm (US 2) needles and with quite a few technical challenges, it wasn’t a quick knit.

It certainly was interesting, though, and I thought you might like to read about some of the special techniques (so much I-cord!) and what helped me finish it.

Panel Debate is a pattern by Danish designer Bente Geil, and can be found on Ravelry under its Danish name Paneldebat. I used one of the designer’s own yarns: Geilsk Bomuld og Uld – a light fingering weight blend of 55% wool and 45% cotton.

Reading through the pattern, I couldn’t make head nor tail of the instructions for the neckline. There seemed to be something wrong, so I e-mailed the designer. She said she’d look into it and sent me a new version of the pattern the very next day (during her Summer break!). Excellent service, I have to say.

The design is modular and is made up of many panels (hence the name).

Each panel is knit onto the previous one, and the panels are alternately knit horizontally and vertically. The vertical strips end in fans made by knitting short rows.

What helped me knit the fans, was copying the instructions for them onto a separate page, with each step on a new line. I marked the row I was knitting with a sticky note and moved that down after each row. That way I was able to keep track of where I was.

I lengthened the body by 4 cm (approx. 1.6 inches). No problem at all – just added the required length to the first 3 panels and the rest took care of itself. I also enlarged the armholes because I’d heard from several other knitters that they’d turned out rather tight.

After the body was completed, the armholes were finished with attached I-cords.

Armhole before… 

…  and after attaching I-cord.

Then stitches for the sleeves needed to be picked up from the I-cord (the sleeves are knit from the top down). That really was a pain at first. But it went a lot better using a crochet hook and slipping the stitches from the hook onto the knitting needle.

Then I had to adapt the sleeve cap to the enlarged armhole. That was a bit of a puzzle, but after several tries I was happy. I used the magic loop method to knit the sleeves.

I’m not entirely happy with that, because it shows all along the middle of the sleeves. I hope the line will fade with washing and wearing. I haven’t had this problem before. Could it be because of the cotton content of the yarn? Or the reverse stocking stitch ridges?

The sleeves are finished with I-cord along the wrists as well.

Finally there was more I-cord to knit – all along the fronts and the neck. First I had to pick up a zillion stitches. Then I cast on 4 extra stitches for the I-cord.

I knit a few inches, saw that the I-cord ‘pulled’ on the front and frogged it. After repeating this several times, I finally found out how to solve it – by pulling the first stitch (on the outside of the I-cord) up a little longer than usual and holding it between my thumb and index finger while knitting the second stitch, to keep it from tightening.

This is the attached I-cord knitting process step by step:

1 – The 4 I-cord stitches are on the left needle, together with the picked-up stitches on the panel. At this stage, the yarn is hanging between the picked-up stitches on the garment and the 4 I-cord stitches. Now the yarn is passed behind the stitches to the first stitch on the right.

2 – Knit 3 stitches (knitting the 1st stitch very loosely and keeping it from tightening by holding it between thumb and index finger while knitting the 2nd stitch). Slip the 4th stitch knitwise, knit the first picked-up stitch along the panel and lift the slipped stitch over this stitch.

3 – Now slip the 4 I-cord stitches back onto the right needle.

Repeat these 3 steps for hours on end, until all of the picked up stitches along the fronts and neck have been used up, meanwhile making button holes along the right front.

Finally, ‘all’ I needed to do was weave in what seemed like an endless number of ends.

I put on some music, and several cups of tea later that was done, too.

Oh, and let’s not forget the buttons! I happened to have just the right ones, bought long ago in a lovely little shop.

There, all finished!

Here is a close-up of the very special armhole.

And this is what the cardi looks like from the back.

What helped me through the challenging parts of this knit was:

  • Finding moments in my week when my brain was up for a challenge (for me especially Saturday mornings)
  • Cutting the process up into smaller steps, taking a break after finishing a step and giving myself a figurative pat on the back
  • Using a crochet hook for picking up stitches
  • Copying difficult bits onto a separate page and keeping track of where I was by means of sticky notes
  • Relaxing and uplifting music in the background
  • Having good (day)light
  • Blogging about it

All in all, I’m happy with the process and happy with the result!

Well, that was a lot of technical detail. Sorry to the non-knitters among you (it’s a miracle you even got this far). If all goes according to plan, my next post will be of more general interest. Bye for now, and hope to see you again soon!

Saturday Knitting

Hello! This week I’m writing from a white and frosty village. We’re not entirely snowed in, but last Sunday we were treated to a beautiful thick blanket of snow, blown up into dunes here and there by strong gusts of icy wind. And because it’s stayed (far) below freezing even during the daytime, the snow is still here. A rarity nowadays and utterly lovely!

Before anything else, I need to show you this. The snow-shovel guy reversed and drove up several times specially so that I would be able to take a good picture for my blog.

Thank you Mister Snow Shoveler! Enjoy your moment of fame 😊!

It’s tempting to natter on about the snow, but I have made quite a bit of progress on the knitting front, and I’d like to talk about that, too. So let’s do that first, and have a few more snow pictures afterwards.

Recently, I wrote a very long post about my possible need for a little more focus. I don’t know if you’ve been able to plough through it all, but one of the insights I gained from a book I read on the topic was: ‘Different (knitting) tasks use different parts of the brain’. I realized that for certain aspects of my knitting projects, I needed to find moments during the week when the active thinking part of my brain would be fresh.

Saturday seemed like a good time, especially Saturday mornings. So I thought about what I would like to accomplish and noted it in my planner. The first thing I wanted to focus on was the sleeve cap of my Panel Debate cardigan. A puzzle because I’d enlarged the armhole and could no longer follow the pattern – how could I make a sleeve cap that would fit into the armhole and around my shoulder?

Spending several hours tinkering with it with a well-rested brain really worked.

I finished the sleeve cap. And using the parts of my brain that do the more automatic tasks, I was able to almost finish the rest of the sleeve in the evenings. Yes, progress!

The next task I wanted to tackle was finishing one of my UFOs (UnFinished knitting Objects that have been lying around for a long time). I chose a scarf and wrote that down in my planner for the next Saturday.

All I needed to do was weave in the ends and give it a Spa Treatment. Here it is, doing a stretching exercise after its bubble bath.

As always, the transformation was magical – the lacey holes opened up nicely, and the rest of the knitted fabric did too.

Before blocking
After blocking

This is what the scarf looks like when ‘worn’.

It is the Polka Dot Scarf by the Churchmouse design team. The pattern describes two sizes and I made the larger one. The yarn I used is Debbie Bliss ‘Rialto lace’, a very soft merino.

For a long time I disliked polka dots. I think it was because of that horrible sixties song about the Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini. Do you know it? But these subtle ‘dots’ made me overcome that.

Looking around for matching things for pictures of the scarf, I discovered that I actually have several other items with polka and other dots.

All in all this has become a generous airy shawl that will make a lovely gift for someone. Happy with it.

I’m also happy with my new Saturday knitting plan. Being able to make considerable progress with such a small adjustment to my life, has really given me a positive boost. In addition to these two projects, I have even made some progress on a new design of my own.

Until now, this winter I have felt sort of lost on Saturdays, with nowhere to go and no one to visit. This focused Saturday knitting has also solved that. I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep it up once we get back to a more ‘normal’ life and the gardening season starts again. But I won’t look too far ahead.

For the time being the garden doesn’t need anything doing to it. All I need to do at the moment is admire the hyacinths I planted in pots in November…

… enjoy looking at snow-covered shapes, like the dead flower heads of the Marjoram…

… and feed and talk to the birds.

I hope you’re all snug and safe, wherever you are. Bye for now, and ‘see’ you again soon!

Knitting Spa

Hello!

OK, complete focus on knitting today – no tangents or digressions. Maybe this is all old hat to you, but I thought I’d show you what happens to my knitwork after the actual knitting is finished and the ends have been darned in.

Last week I said the hat and scarf I made for my brother needed some TLC to relax. Well, they got more than just some TLC – they received a full 4-star spa treatment!

It all started with a bubble bath.

Aaaaah, so relaxing, especially when combined with aromatherapy. To make the bubbles, I use a no-rinse detergent for delicate fabrics – Eucalan or Soak. There may be other brands, but these are the only two I know.

I can’t say that I prefer one to the other. Eucalan is sort of syrupy and yellowish, whereas Soak is thinner and clear. Both are available in various lovely scents. The Eucalan I have has a very mild lavender scent. My Soak favourite is Lacey, a subtle flowery scent that is harder to pinpoint.

Only a teaspoon of detergent is needed, so a bottle lasts forever. Both also come in small trial packages, that are ideal not only to try out the products, but also to tuck in with a knitted gift.

As their name says, no-rinse detergents do not need to be rinsed out. After a bubble bath of about 30 minutes, I first gently squeeze out most of the moisture. After that I’d roll a more fragile knit in a towel to squeeze out more water, but robust knits like these I put in the spin dryer.

Now, still slightly moist, the scarf and the hat get different wellness treatments, tailored to their specific needs. I thought the scarf would benefit from acupuncture, while some steam would be best for the hat.

First the scarf. These are my acupuncture (in knitting terms also known as blocking) tools.

Foam blocking mats, blocking wires (that come with a wooden ruler), and T-pins (stainless steel pins in the shape of a capital T). At first I used this kit only for lace knits, but now I’m using it for many other projects, too.

I threaded wires along the long sides of the scarf, between the edge stitch and the next, going up and down every other row.

Then I pinned it onto the blocking mats, smoothing the scarf out along its length and pulling firmly widthwise. (Never do this on a wooden table or floor – the T-pins may prick through the mats and damage the surface underneath.)

And here is a close-up. I hope you can see the wires and T-pins.

Now, let’s leave that to dry and continue with its mate. The still moist hat is pulled around the end of the ironing board.

Then it is covered with a moist press cloth (i.e. an old tea towel that doesn’t give off colour) and steam-pressed. I used the lowest setting that will give steam (silk/wool). If the picture looks slightly blurry, that’s the steam.

I tried all this out on a swatch first, to make sure nothing terrible (like felting) happened to my ‘clients’ and they would benefit from their treatments.

After pressing the hat was still slightly wet and I placed it on the blocking mats with the scarf. Twenty-four hours later everything was dry and I unpinned the scarf.

A lot of work for a simple hat and scarf. Is it really worth all the effort? I think it is – very much so. I took before and after pictures, but unfortunately they are not very clear because of the dark yarn colour and the dark weather.

Here are the hat and scarf (before on the left and after on the right):

And here is a close-up of the k2, p2 rib pattern (again before left and after right):

Can you see the difference? Before blocking the knitting was irregular, and the purl stitches disappeared between the knit stitches. After blocking the knitting evened out and the purl stitches became visible. And before blocking the scarf was 1.5 m x 14 cm, so stiff that it could almost stand up on its own, and slightly scratchy. After blocking it was 1.6 m x 25 cm, with a lovely drape and nice and soft.

Now all that’s left to do is gift-wrap the set, put it in a box, add a few Dutch treats and send it off to Germany, in time for my ‘little’ brother’s Birthday.

Here is a behind-the-scenes picture of the ‘Knitting Spa’ photo shoot.

The kitchen counter was the lightest place in the house on a dark day, and the bread kneading board made a nice natural surface for photographing the tools and detergents. A perfect Knitting Spa with everything to hand: hot & cold water, a bath tub, teas & tisanes, and a nice view of the front garden.

The yarn and the pattern I used:

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.

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!

Song of the Sea

Hello!

Today, I’d like to tell you about a UFO (UnFinished Object) that I’ve just finished. It’s a loop cowl from a pattern called Song of the Sea (Ravelry link), designed by Louise Zass-Bangham.

A lovely pattern and lovely yarn. So why did it become a UFO? Well, there’s a story behind it.

Several years ago, friends of ours gave up their jobs and house, and sold or gave away almost all of their belongings to sail the seas of the world indefinitely.

I was knitting this cowl as a farewell present for one of them. When it was nearly finished, it suddenly dawned on me that she would just be wearing shorts and bikinis where they were heading. They weren’t going to sail to colder climes.

It had taken our friends a lot of trouble to get rid of everything they didn’t need anymore, and I didn’t want to burden them with something they would never use. So that’s how my Song of the Sea ended up as a UFO.

Looking at it again earlier this year, I decided that it was far too nice to be left unfinished. Now I’ve knit the last few rounds and blocked it.

Song of the Sea is knit in the round and has three different stitch patterns, forming large breakers, medium-sized waves and tiny wavelets (in knitting order, from bottom to top). Here’s a close-up:

The pattern has a choice of two sizes – a long and a short version. I made the long one. It can be worn singly…

… or twisted double for more warmth.

It’s nice, isn’t it? So what am I going to do with it, now that it’s finished? Well, I’ve decided to keep it for if/when our friends come back, even if it is only for a short visit. I’ll gift-wrap it, stick a sticky note with her name on it, so that I won’t forget what’s inside, and put it away in the basket where I keep more gifts for later/someday.

I couldn’t find anything about the inspiration behind this design, but it made me think of the animated film Song of the Sea. Based on an Irish folk tale, the film tells the story of 10-year-old Ben and his mute sister Saoirse, who turns out to be a selkie (somebody who can turn into a seal and back again).

The drawings in this film are exquisite. To give you an impression in case you haven’t seen it, here is the official trailer:

From their latest newsletter, I know that our friends are safe and well ‘down under’. They frequently don’t have access to the internet, but when they do they sometimes read my blog. So, if you’re reading this, dear T and H, I wish you fair seas and following winds!

This is the second of the nine UFOs I intend to finish this year. I’d better get a move on!

(Un)springlike

Hello! It’s so good to ‘see’ you here again. I really hope that you’re all doing okay. Life here is very much as usual, strangely enough, apart from the almost constant feeling of unease and worry in the background. I’m still working (from home), cooking, cleaning, and doing everything else I need to do. And I’m still always knitting. I really, really miss seeing people in real life, but am grateful for all the other ways we have for keeping in touch, including this blog, although this is a bit of a one-way thing.

After a cold spell with night frosts and a raw wind, spring really and truly arrived here about two weeks ago. All of a sudden it was warm and sunny, leaves were unfurling and trees were starting to blossom.

Only my knitting was out of sync.

I was knitting a warm wool-and-alpaca sweater for our daughter. Not exactly something she would need in spring. And even the colour was unspringlike!

When I think of spring colours, I think of yellow, fresh green and pink. I associate the (hard to capture) deep burgundy-meets-terracotta of my knitting yarn more with autumn. Warm yarn, wrong colour – uh-oh, another knitting project in danger of becoming a UFO!

But then my eye fell on the newly unfurled leaves of the Japanese maple in our back garden…

… and on the fresh young leaves of the skimmia.

Through the lens of my camera, I started seeing more and more of these so-called autumn colours. Enchanted by the frothy pink blossoms of Japanese ornamental cherries, I had never really noticed their leaves before. Now I saw that they were actually orange:

And the flowers of the elephant’s ears in our front garden are a really springlike pink, but look at the stalk!

Walking around with a camera in hand can be like a treasure hunt. I often see things that I would otherwise not have noticed. Besides, it helps me to focus outward and keeps me from ruminating too much. You could give it a try, too, if you like (or perhaps you already do?). Any old point-and-shoot camera will work.

Here’s just one more treasure I found – pear blossoms on the big old pear tree in our back garden. The general impression is white, but there are lovely red ‘things’ inside. I’m no expert, but I think they are the anthers (correct me if I’m wrong).

Phew! UFO attack avoided. Having seen all these springtime reds and oranges, the colour didn’t feel wrong anymore. I felt like finishing my knitting project, and that’s what I did.

The pattern I used is the Better-than-Basic pullover designed by Churchmouse.

And here is the finished sweater (it would have been nice to photograph my daughter wearing it, but unfortunately I didn’t have the opportunity for that):

It looks pretty basic at first glance, so why is it called Better-than-Basic?

To start with, the pattern has options for several different versions: tunic or hip length (mine is in between), wide or narrow ribbed edgings (I’ve chosen wide), and a funnel or a turtle neck (I’ve done neither of these).

Then there are the special techniques, like the ‘clip & turn’ short rows for a gradual shoulder slope:

The same short-row technique is also used at the hems, so that the sweater hangs more evenly.

Other features are an invisible cast-on, two special bind-off methods, and tips for customizing sleeve and body length – all explained very clearly.

The shoulder seams are placed slightly forward and the special sloping armhole results in a relaxed dropped shoulder without too much bulk under the arm.

On special request, I made the sleeves extra long, so that they can be used as hand warmers during bicycle rides. Or they can be worn folded up, like here:

Okay, maybe this is not an ideal springtime knit, but it is definitely a pattern to keep in mind for next autumn.