Soothing Sachets

Hello! Well, everything went more or less according to plan this week, so here are the lavender sachets I promised you last week. I call them Soothing Sachets, because lavender is not just known for its moth repellent qualities, but also for its soothing scent.

The ones in the basket above are still scenting our home. But they won’t be doing so for much longer, because they are meant for gifts. Let me show them one by one.

This is the first one I made, after several discarded attempts. It is very simple, from self-striping sock yarn.

It closes with a button. Because of the way the sachet is constructed, the stripes are twice as wide compared to a sock.

It was fun rummaging through my button box for just the right button.

All of the sachets use the same basic pattern. The next one is also very simple – colour blocks with a thin asymmetrically placed contrasting stripe.

The stripe is repeated in the button band.

Together with a box of calming herb tea, it’ll make a nice gift for a friend going through a stressful time. It is made from a combination of beautiful plant-dyed mini skeins.

The one below was made from some ordinary mottled sock yarn. A few stripes and garter ridges make it perfect for tucking under a sporty person’s pillow.

In this way even the smallest yarn scraps can be used.

For the next one, I again used colour blocks – this time embellished with a few tiny buttons…

… to match the mother-of-pearl button on the back.

Just the thing for someone’s lingerie drawer, I think. I made it from some of the tiny balls of yarn left over from my first ever published pattern – Tellina.

The Tellina cowl itself would also be a great project for using up some yarn remnants or mini skeins. It can be found here on Ravelry.

The Soothing Sachets have a fabric lining, sewn from small pieces of cotton fabric. No need to buy anything specially – any thin cotton will do, as long as it’s a colour that doesn’t show through the knitting. I used bits of an old pillowcase.

Making a lining sachet may be a bit of a pain for some, I thought, so I tried leaving it out and stuffing a knitted sachet with unspun wool with some lavender in the middle.

It is an option, but I don’t like the result as much as the lined version – its shape is less crisp and its scent is too faint to my liking.

So, why not knit a few first and then spend a cosy afternoon with the sewing machine on the dining table, and all other tools and notions needed at hand, to finish them all in one go?

Finally, here is my Pièce de Résistance 😉. Again made from self-striping sock yarn, but this time with a duplicate stitch heart on the front…

… and corrugated ribbing for the buttonhole band.

Won’t that make a nice gift for a beloved child? (Caution: Sew the button on very securely, or for small children leave it off and close the entire opening.)

Some of you reading this will be receiving one of these small scented gifts in the near future. My gift to the rest of you is the pattern (in English and Dutch). It contains instructions for knitting (including the corrugated ribbing) and finishing the sachet as well as a heart chart.

Click here for the free Ravelry download.

These Soothing Sachets are simple things, but with a bit of creativity they can become great little gifts. Have fun!

PS. Remember to make a few for yourself, too – to tuck under your pillow and keep the moths away from your knitting and spinning baskets.

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!

Scraps and Mini Skeins

Hello!

Here (above) is my entire collection of scraps and mini skeins of sock yarn. I’m fairly sure most of you will have some stored away somewhere, too. I keep mine in a plastic carrier bag. Not just any old plastic carrier bag, but one from that wonderful Norwegian institution Husfliden. Besides the yarn, it holds happy memories.

In it are two bags filled with sock yarn remnants, more or less sorted by colour.

Because I am allergic to dust mite, I store all my yarn in plastic. Not very attractive, but I just can’t go around wheezing and sneezing all the time, especially now.

Emptying them out, there is a heap of mainly pinks and purples, and another heap of mainly blues and greens.

On my bookshelves there is a book called Color in Spinning.

It contains a lot of information about and inspiration for choosing and combining colours for blending, spinning and plying your own yarns. It works with the colour wheel.

Although I usually choose colours intuitively, it is interesting to look at them within the framework of the colour wheel for a change. Arranging my sock yarn remnants in this way, it looks like this:

A hugely unbalanced colour wheel. Many, many blues. Some bluey greens, pinks and purples. Just one ball of bright yellow (whatever did I use that for?). And hardly any brighter greens, oranges or reds.

My collection of neutrals is tiny, too.

But there is more in my carrier bag. A selection of naturally dyed mini skeins that once entered my house through a subscription. The Natural Dye Studio (which no longer exists) sent me several small skeins in different fibres and colours once every week or so for a while. Here they are, also laid out in a sort of colour wheel.

A very different range of colours from my sock yarn remnants – much more balanced. But here, too, there is a gap in the wheel. Why? Where are the pinks and purples? After some digging, I found the missing section in a different bag.

Although I loved looking at and petting the hand dyed mini skeins, I have never actually done anything with them. I didn’t know what to do with such small quantities (10-20 g each) and some of them were really not ‘my’ colours.

Apparently I did have a plan for the pink and purple section of the colour wheel. They are wound into small balls and numbered. And I even made a colour card. There are no further notes with it, though, and I can’t for the life of me remember what I was going to do with them. Well, never mind. I’ll mix them in with the rest of my collection.

I have very clear preferences, easily summed up as blues…

…and pinks.

But the world would be a dull place without yellows…

…oranges…

And reds.

In many respects, I think the world would be a poorer place without the entire rainbow. But when it comes to knitting, I don’t know.

Although I feel dubious about some of the colours, in a sense I feel like Smaug, with my hoard of yarnie gold.

But unlike Smaug, I’m more than happy to share my treasure with others. In the past, I have given my yarn scraps away to sock yarn blanket and dolls’ clothes knitters. Now I’d like to knit some gifts with them.

I think it’s going to be a real challenge to make something beautiful with these small quantities of yarn. Well, maybe ‘beautiful’ is raising the bar too high. Let’s say something really nice. Gifts that won’t force the recipients to lie about how much they love them.

Will I be able to do that? And will I be able to step outside my colour comfort zone and use those bright green, orange, red and yellow mini skeins? I’m not sure, but I’ll give it a try.

I took the picture below, of a roundabout just outside our village, several days ago. Not my colours in knitting, but on a roundabout? Wow!

Sock Gift Labels

Hello!

Do you remember our visit to a PYO flower garden about a month ago? And that I started knitting a pair of socks for a friend’s Birthday in early October? Well, I finished them in time.

While I was knitting them, I studied the ball band for information about the composition of the yarn and noticed a circle with the text: ‘Geschenkverpackung auf der Rückseite!’ (It was a German yarn). Gift wrap on back – what could that be? Ah, the inside of the ball band was a gift label!

What a lovely idea! If we’d been speakers of German I would have used it straightaway. But we aren’t, and I’d rather have one in Dutch. So I decided to borrow the idea and make a personalized gift label for my cat-loving friend.

I gift-wrapped the socks, added a Birthday card and mailed them. I think socks are a perfect gift, especially now. What’s nicer than to give someone the gift of warm feet? Choosing the recipient’s favourite colours makes it even better. They fit into a letter box, are fairly lightweight and won’t break during transport.

I enjoyed this simple spot of crafting so much, that one dark and rainy afternoon I got my crafts supplies out again and made more. (If some photos look rather yellowish, it’s because of the lamp light.)

If you’d like to make some sock gift labels too, here’s what you’ll need:

Sock Gift Labels – List of Supplies

  • A pot of tea, mug of coffee or other comforting beverage
  • Calming and/or uplifting music, or blissful silence
  • Thick paper (1 A4-sheet will make 4 labels)
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Clear tape
  • Scissors
  • A flat surface/something to protect your table
  • Any other crafts supplies you have, like: stamps, inkpads, washi tape, markers, felt tips, coloured crayons/pencils, stickers…
  • And one or more pairs of handknit socks, of course!

Start by marking off one or several 25cm (10”) x 5cm (2”) strips, using your pencil and ruler. Cut them out.

Now let your creativity flow! Here is some inspiration.

I started with some very simple ones, using just some washi tape.

Then stamps and a marker in monochrome.

After that, I added in a little colour using washi tape and a coloured ink pad, matching the colours to the sock yarn.

Several days later, I got out my brand new box of coloured pencils to add colour to a few more.

(A while ago, our local supermarket gave out coupons with which we could save up for lovely boxes of coloured pencils and sketchbooks. A nice change from the usual storage boxes and towels. It even has metallics like silver, gold and bronze!)

Adding colour to the stamped motifs was so much fun! On this one, I matched the colours to the sock yarn again.

Sometimes I knit socks with a specific ‘victim’ in mind, and sometimes I just knit socks because I feel like it and will see who they’ll go to later. Adding washing instructions to the label is always a good idea. And in the latter case adding the size is useful, too.

Here are 3 more pairs of socks in shades of blue and green, with labels decorated with stamps and washi tape.

I’ve really enjoyed playing around with my crafts supplies – I hadn’t used them for ages. They made me forget the time and all the woes of the world for a few hours. If you now feel inspired to make your own sock gift labels, I hope it’ll work like that for you, too. Have fun!

Bye for now and lots of love.

Knitting Traditions

Hello,

Today, I’d like to talk a bit about knitting traditions. I’m not an expert or a researcher, but I am a great lover of traditional knitting techniques and patterns. There are many beautiful and interesting books about traditional knitting, and I’ve built up quite a nice library over the years. These books, as well as various museum collections, have always inspired me tremendously in my own knitting. But lately I’ve been thinking…

It started with a visit to a stunning sock exhibition last November. I was particularly inspired by three samplers with patterns taken from socks from all over the world (photo above), and thought it would be a great idea to borrow from them for all kinds of other projects.

Later, doubts crept in. Can we just borrow freely from other knitting traditions? Anything? From any tradition? When does borrowing become stealing? Or even cultural appropriation? What if a pattern has a special religious or spiritual meaning for the culture we borrow it from of which we may not be aware?

I don’t have the answers. These are just some of the questions that popped into my head.

Well, back to my knitting book library. Sometimes people generously and thoughtfully give me books to add to it. My sister-in-law brought back this lovely booklet from a holiday in the island of Gotland, Sweden, a couple of years ago.

It is filled with patterns for mittens, some with tiny roses, some with blueberries, and many with geometrical motifs.

All of them are beautiful, but are they unique to Gotland? They have a lot in common with Norwegian mittens I’ve seen, and the ones with the roses on the front cover look very much like some Latvian ones.

And here is a picture taken during our visit to the knitting museum in Selbu, Norway.

The 8-pointed star, prominent in the 3rd stocking from the left, is also known as Selburose and has been used a lot in that area. Does that mean that it was invented by the people of Selbu and belongs to them? Do they have a sort of copyright?

No, of course it isn’t as black and white as that. The same kind of pattern appears in textiles from many other countries and cultures.

Take, for instance, these hand-knit mittens I bought during a holiday in Shetland. There is a ‘Selburose’ on the back of the hand, but it looks slightly different knit in colour.

It’s only to be expected that the same kind of patterns and motifs occur in different regions and countries. Some motifs, like the 8-pointed star, flow more or less automatically from the nature of the knit stitch itself. Besides, Shetland isn’t all that far from Norway and there has always been a lot of trading and traffic between them.

Both have great knitting traditions, and there are similarities. But still, Shetland knitting isn’t the same as Norwegian knitting. They both have colourwork, but it’s different. Shetland has a fabulous tradition of lace knitting that Norway doesn’t have. Norway has thick mittens, while Shetland mainly has finer gloves. And Shetland has hap shawls, while Norway doesn’t. Why? Another question I can’t answer. I can only guess that it’s something to do with the materials available and the climate, as well as with local tastes.

Here are 3 of my favourite books about Shetland knitting: Heirloom Knitting (about Shetland lace), Fair Isle Knitting and Shetland Hap Shawls Then & Now.

Classics on the subject, but none of them written by authors from Shetland. Fair Isle Knitting was written by Alice Starmore from the Hebrides, and the other two by Sharon Miller from Devon. What do knitters in Shetland think of that?

I once knit a ‘Shetland’ hap shawl. I am placing Shetland between parentheses here, because it isn’t very authentic.

The wool is from genuine Shetland sheep, bought in Shetland. But, for one thing, I am not from Shetland and I spun the yarn at home in the Netherlands. For another, I used a pattern called Quill by American designer Jared Flood. It’s a hodgepodge. Is that okay? Or should we aim for more authenticity? And what exactly is authenticity?

I don’t think I’d be bothered about these questions so much if I lived in a place with a great knitting tradition, like Shetland or one of the Scandinavian countries.

And if I had grown up in a fabulous and colourful knitting tradition as that of Muhu Island in Estonia…

… I think I would be content with that, knitting within my own tradition happily ever after. (Photograph in Designs and Patterns from Muhu Island, by Anu Kabur, Anu Pink and Mai Meriste, p. 45).

But what if you live in a country without such a great knitting tradition? And at that my thoughts turned closer to home. Do we have a knitting tradition at all in the Netherlands? What kind of knitting did I grow up with?

To start with, I remembered a lot of acrylic, in orange, brown, purple and fluorescent green. But thinking about it a little more, I realized that even though our knitting tradition is not as impressive and extensive as that of some other countries, we do have a few things. There’s the Dutch heel for socks, for a start. We also have knitted lace caps for traditional costumes in some areas. And we have traditional ganseys (sharing many elements with English ganseys).

We also have Grolsche wanten – mittens with Norwegian-looking star patterns. Not bad, really. What else do we have? And then I suddenly thought of what I found in my parents’ attic.

To be continued…

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

In Love with Making

Why make things when we can buy them?

For my Mum it was necessary to make things because they weren’t available in shops or she couldn’t afford to buy them. For me and for my daughter’s generation it’s different. We don’t need to make things and it is, in fact, often less expensive to buy ready-made things than to buy the materials to make them ourselves. So, why still make things?

As always, I can really only speak for myself, but I think we all agree that a home-cooked meal tastes much better than any ready-made meal from the supermarket. There is nothing we can buy that comes close to a hand-knit pair of socks. And would you ever treasure a shop-bought bed covering as much as you do the quilt or the crocheted blanket your grandmother made?

It may sound cheesy, but for me, it’s all about love. Love of the materials, love of colours, love of the people I make things for, love of the process of making. That’s why Making appeals to me so much. Everything about this bi-annual magazine speaks of the love of making things.

In the US one issue costs $ 26,00 and it is around the same price in Euros in the Netherlands. That’s a steep price for a magazine, but… it was love at first sight. And what’s more, the first two issues were themed Flora and Fauna.

How could I resist?

The people at Making always work with themes. There are always two related themes following each other: Flora and Fauna, Dots and Lines, Color and Black & White, Desert and Forest. I love the whole idea, as well as the projects, the photographs, the stories, the styling and even the ads (there are just a few, they are only on the last few pages, and they are in keeping with the theme).

Knitting is only one of the crafts in Making. There is also weaving, sewing, embroidery, dyeing, felting, rug hooking and much more, as well as a recipe now and then and essays about all kinds of interesting subjects. Some of the projects are small and simple, others a little more complicated.

I brought the third issue, themed Dots, with me on a holiday to Germany a few years back.

I enjoyed leafing through it when I woke up early in the morning. And I enjoyed studying the photographs and reading the essays in the evenings on the covered porch of our Ferienwohnung, after we’d come back from one of our long walks.

Everything in this Dots issue is in shades of indigo blue or undyed. It isn’t as if everything is covered in polka dots – the dots theme is much more subtle than that. In one of the knitting projects, the triangular Indigo Sea Shawl, the dots take the form of a row of eyelets along one side:

During the same holiday in Germany, I bought yarn for this shawl in a very special yarn shop in a former smithy, a few miles from our holiday home. The pattern specified three 50-gram skeins of a sport weight yarn. With a wingspan of just over a metre it was too small to my liking, so I bought four skeins.

I chose three shades of blue-green (what else?), and then added a grey one for a little contrast.

After we got home, I regretted the grey. (It is muddier than in the photo, with a hint of brown.) I didn’t love it and had the feeling that it sucked the colour out of the blue-green shades. I couldn’t go back to change it for a different colour, so I put it away until I knew what to do.

I dug out the yarn for the utterly simple Indigo Sea Shawl recently because I’m desperately in need of another in-between-projects project. Why?

Well, although I love making things, it isn’t always plain sailing. Just as in any important relationship, there are struggles and setbacks from time to time. Right now, I’m puzzling over a new design that isn’t working out as I at first envisioned it. I’m struggling to finish a UFO. And after weeks of waiting, the yarn I’ve ordered for a sweater for our daughter still hasn’t arrived.

So when I saw that Juffrouw Lanterfant (the yarn shop I wrote about last week) stocked the same yarn, I decided to replace the grey with another shade of blue. I photographed the skeins, wound the yarn into balls and took more photographs.

And then, looking at the photographs, I thought: hmmm, perhaps that grey isn’t so bad after all. I still don’t love it, but I don’t hate it anymore either. Maybe it will work in combination with the blues. Maybe it will even be a valuable addition.

So, what shall I do? Embrace a colour I’m not really in love with and give it a chance? Or tell it that I don’t see a future for us together and take it to my knitting group’s yarn swap in March?

Unfortunately the Dots issue is now out of print. The other issues are still available from some yarn shops and on the Making website.

Autumn Colours

Autumn is mushroom time. It’s a terrible cliché, I know, but it’s true. As soon as it was officially autumn, mushrooms started springing up like, well, mushrooms in the woodland on our doorstep.

Or perhaps I should say mushrooms and toadstools. I keep having difficulty with the distinction. In Dutch we call them all paddenstoelen, which literally means toadstools.

I’ve been taught that mushrooms are, on the whole, the ones you can eat, while toadstools are the poisonous ones. But what if you see a beautiful specimen and don’t know if it’s edible or not? What do you do then?

‘Look, what a beautiful… errr’

‘Hang on a minute, I need to look it up in my field guide first. Yes, here it is – I think it’s a blusher. That’s edible, so, ‘What a beautiful mushroom!’ (Or, wait, it may be a false blusher, which is poisonous, so…)

Maybe other people aren’t bothered by this, but I am. I may have left the translation world last year, but the translator inside hasn’t left me. I’m still very much focused on words.

It’s not just the mushroom/toadstool distinction that’s bothering me. It’s also the word toadstool itself.

On one of our recent walks I nearly stepped onto a toad.

Can you imagine it sitting on one of these fragile stools?

Or on one of these?

It would never work. The only fungus that would hold a big fat toad without breaking that I can think of, would be a cep. But that’s a mushroom.

It’s all very confusing.

It’s the same with some knitting-related words, like sweater, jumper, pullover and jersey. Very confusing.

Ravelry, the big online knitting platform most of you will be familiar with, helps a little. In its vast pattern archive it uses ‘sweater’ (124,663 patterns!) as an umbrella term, and in that category distinguishes between ‘cardigan’, ‘pullover’ and ‘other’. But what about jumper and jersey? And why are sweaters called sweaters?

I don’t know. But there’s one thing that I do know, and that is that it’s sweater weather again. Looking for some inspiration, I bought Kim Hargreaves’ new pattern book – Covet.

Kim Hargreaves started out as a designer for Rowan, but has been working as an independent designer for many years since. I like her designs a lot because they are timeless classics with great attention to detail.

There are 12 designs in Covet: 5 cardigans, 5 pullovers, 1 dress that can be shortened to a pullover (which Kim calls a sweater) and 1 granny square crochet wrap in a bulky yarn. No hats or scarves this time.

I love the cable designs and also the seemingly simple ones in stocking stitch. I’m not a big fan of the new bell sleeves, though, and I can’t see myself or anyone I know wearing the figure-hugging knee-length dress in a very warm wool and alpaca blend knit on 6 mm needles. With a polo neck. Just thinking of it makes me break out in a sweat. Taken literally, sweater would be a better word for this design than dress.

A design that drew my eye immediately was ‘Devote’, a cardigan with a stunning shawl collar.

Beautiful! And it also has some lovely decorative decreases on the sleeves, too. But the shape is not suitable for me, alas. Too short and tapering down to a narrow waist. I could probably adapt it, but this time I was looking for something to knit straight from a pattern.

So I got out some of her older books. Even books from years ago don’t look dated – that’s quite an achievement. Earlier this year, Kim let us know that some of her books won’t be reprinted anymore, so if you’d like to add some to your knitting library, don’t wait too long. You can find them all here on her website.

One of my favourite Kim Hargreaves books is Pale, which was published in 2018. There are several patterns in it that I’d love to knit. To start with, I’ve chosen a cardigan pattern called ‘Fair’.

It’s a simple little cardi in stocking stitch, but with a great fit and lovely details, like integrated pockets with rolled tops, a neat button band and side vents. It’s designed for a new yarn – an airy cotton and alpaca blend – that I’d like to give a try. It’s called Alpaca Classic and it looks very light and soft.

Now to choose a colour.

Autumn is the season of oranges, yellows and reds. I love these bright spots of colour in gardens and woods at this time of year.

The brightness of the yellow stagshorn (above) is a sight that makes me very happy. And it’s the same with the orange lanterns of the Japanese Lantern.

And then there’s red, from the bright red of the fly agaric at the top of this post to the deep dark red of these beautiful heart shaped leaves.

These are cheerful accents in a world that is gradually turning brown, but… apart from some shades of red, I never wear autumn colours. They just don’t go with my hair and skin tone. Fortunately the yarn for the cardigan I want to knit comes in many shades. I dithered between several, but finally chose blue (again – it’s my go-to colour).

The yarn producer, Rowan, calls this shade ‘Peacock’, but I don’t think it looks like peacock feathers at all. To my eye, it is somewhere between turquoise and sky blue. Could I call it ‘Autumn Sky on a Sunny Day’? I’m looking forward to knitting with it.

Coming back to the ‘real’ autumn colours, although I will never wear them in large doses, I can see me using them in small quantities, as accents in combination with other colours. I’d like to get out of my colour comfort zone a little and to experiment with them in that way. So last weekend, I chose a few small balls of yarn in autumn colours to play with.

I bought these during a visit to two very special yarn shops I’d never been to before. Now I’m in doubt as to whether I should write about these shops – or yarn shops in general – on my blog.

On the one hand, I’d love to, and I think it could be interesting and useful. For me, it’s about more than shopping and buying. It’s also about creativity, colour, inspiration and meeting like-minded people.

But on the other, won’t it seem terribly commercial, as if I’m advertising for these shops? (Which I don’t want to do – I prefer to stay independent). Will people in other countries want to read about yarn shops in the Netherlands (and some in Belgium in Germany perhaps)? Does anyone want to read about yarn shops at all, for that matter?

I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while, but so far have been unable to make up my mind. If you have any ideas, thoughts or opinions on this, I would appreciate your input very much. Thank you for reading. Have a lovely week and until next time!

Summer Crochet, an Incident and an Accident

Hello again! This time it’s a bit cooler in our little corner of the world than last week. But summer has just started, and we’re sure to get some more hot days, so I’ve been thinking about suitable warm weather projects.

Summer crochet

As I wrote last week, I often switch over to crochet in summer. I don’t know why exactly. Is it because the materials I use for crochet are more summery? Is it because the crochet projects I choose are usually small and portable? Is it because I have more time for focused attention and more light for fiddly techniques? Probably a bit of everything.

I love the act of crochet. The movement, the rhythm, following intricate schematics, making something very fine. But it’s hard to find projects that I really like. Do I want a crocheted sweater or crocheted socks? Not really. I do like some crochet blankets, but apart from modular blankets, with small pieces joined together later, I wouldn’t call them summer projects. Just imagine having a blanket in progress on your lap when it’s around 30°C!

A crochet scarf

But here are some really summery crochet projects that I’ve made or am planning to make. First of all there’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’:

I made this fabulous scarf a couple of years ago, during a holiday in Germany. Crocheted into it are memories of early morning birdsong, mountain walks, sunny vineyards and cosy rainy evenings. Bohemian Rhapsody is made from 75 (!) colours of naturally dyed yarn. The yarn was dyed by Renaissance Dyeing, a small company based in the Southwest of France, and is available as a kit complete with pattern.

The yarn arrived in the form of mini-skeins. I had a lot of fun playing around with them before winding the yarn onto embroidery floss bobbins:

It is a woolen yarn, but so light that it is no problem to work with during warmer periods. This is a project that never gets boring. There are blocks in three different sizes – Large, Medium and Small. These three blocks have different motifs, and are attached by the ‘join-as-you-go’ method in various combinations. The pattern is available in English as well as in Dutch and has very clear instructions.

More crocheted scarves

Talking about crocheted scarves, I saw some beautiful ones by Sophie Digard last week, during a stay with a friend in Maastricht, in the ‘far’ south of our country. We were strolling through the lovely cobbled streets of her city when I spotted one of Sophie’s amazing scarves in a shop window. The friendly shop owner allowed me to open some special drawers with glass covers displaying them. I didn’t feel comfortable taking photographs without buying anything, but if you’d like to get an impression, you can see an array of inspirational pictures here.

These shawls are very expensive. That doesn’t mean that they’re not worth the money, though. They’re all handmade, and they’re all unique. Just think of all the hours that have gone into those tiny stitches. Way above my budget, but that doesn’t matter. Just looking at them is so inspiring!

An incident

I’m sorry to say that I can’t show you any photographs of Maastricht’s beauty spots at all, because my camera was nicked at the railway station on the way back. It was ‘just’ a small point-and-shoot camera, but it was MY small point-and-shoot camera! Fortunately I already have a new one exactly the same. And fortunately the memories of this lovely time with my friend were not just on my camera, but are also safely imprinted on my mind. An unpleasant incident at the end of an otherwise wonderful visit. Well, things like that happen. Let’s get back to more crochet ideas.

Hankies

Over the years I’ve crocheted many, many borders around hankies. I know they’re rather old-fashioned, but they’re so nice to make. I love this kind of very fine crochet. I’ve given many of them away, but here are a few of them that are in my pockets every day. I don’t blow my nose on them – I use them for cleaning my glasses.

Every year I choose a crochet project to work on during our summer holiday. Sometimes it’s something very special, like the Bohemian Rhapsody scarf. But it can also be something very simple.

Potholders

Last year I made some ordinary striped potholders. Nothing fancy, but I like making them. And we regularly need new ones because they tend to get burnt.

I have no idea where the pattern comes from – probably from my mum. There are several similar patterns on Ravelry, although I seem to be using thicker yarn.

Shawl with crochet border

For this year’s summer holiday project I’ve chosen a shawl with a crochet border. The shawl itself is from a very thin woven wool fabric – it’s just the border that’s crocheted.

The shawl is called ‘Oda’ and the materials were dyed by local dyer Lindelicht. The fabric and the yarn were dyed in the same pot, so that they match beautifully. Marianne, the person behind this micro-business only dyes very small quantities, which she sells at crafts markets.

Well, I hope that has given you some inspiration for crochet projects. Now on to the accident I mentioned in the title.

An accident

While I was away in Maastricht, one of the young house martins I wrote about before fell out of one of the nests high up under the eaves of our roof. My husband found it next to our chicken coop. The little creature couldn’t fly yet and had apparently crawled there for some company. Just look at the fluffy little thing:

Awww.

In a natural environment it would die. That’s the way it goes. But what was my husband to do? He couldn’t very well just leave it to die, could he? It was impossible to return the chick to its nest, because that was too high up to reach safely. And besides, which family did it belong to, and how do you stuff a house martin back into its nest?

In the end he picked the little chick up and called the Animal Ambulance, a wonderful institution run by volunteers. They arrived promptly, said they had recently taken a chick just like it to a bird rescue centre, and also that they expected this one to survive. Well, let’s hope so.

Summer knitting

Meanwhile I’ve also been looking around for summer knitting projects. I already have some ideas and expect to write about them next time.

Have a lovely week!

Note: This post isn’t sponsored in any way. I just like writing about beautiful things and the people who make them possible.

Tellina – A Simple Cowl Pattern

Surprise! I’ve published a pattern on Ravelry! It’s a simple pattern for a cowl, knit in stripes of five different colours, and I’ve called it Tellina.

I’ve been working on this project for quite a while. The reason I haven’t mentioned it here before is that I wasn’t sure if it was going to work out and how long everything would take. And now, suddenly, it’s all finished.

At the top you can see the cowl in neutrals and pink. And here it is in blues and greens:

Before I show you some more pictures of the cowl, let me first tell you how it came about.

It all started with the yarn…

These days, my policy is not to buy any yarn unless I have a specific project in mind to make with it. But at a crafts fair in February, I fell head over heels in love with a yarn that came in sets of five mini-skeins. (I wrote about it in a previous post). It was soft, it had a slight gleam, it was hand-dyed and fair trade, and the colours! Oh, those colours!

The blues and greens reminded me of the sea, the sky and the marram grass on sand dunes on a sunny day. (The day we took these pictures wasn’t all that sunny, so the colours below are a bit more muted than those of the yarn.)

And  the grey, fawn, cream and pink combination made me think of seashells. To me, seashells are some of nature’s small miracles, with all of their different shapes and  subtle colours. I keep some in jars on my window sill – souvenirs of many trips to the seaside, in the Netherlands and abroad.

So, I caved in and the yarn came home with me. At first, I only looked at it and petted it. Then I played with it for a bit, just for the fun of seeing the colours of the shells and the yarn together.

And then I started thinking about what to make with it. I looked around on Ravelry and in my pattern books, but couldn’t find anything that spoke to me. So I decided to design something myself. It couldn’t be a big project, or I’d have to buy more yarn to go with it. (I only had 100 grams of each colour combination.)

I soon decided that a cowl would be perfect. It would be a lovely thing to make and to wear, and I could use up as much of the mini-skeins as possible.

I made swatches in all kinds of stitch patterns. I daydreamed, sketched and coloured. I knit more swatches, to try out different needle sizes. I cut some knots (figuratively speaking) and knit a prototype. Then I finally knit the actual cowls. Here you can see them side by side (click on images to enlarge).

The cowl is knit in the round, in a combination of broken rib, stocking stitch and rows of slipped stitches. Here you can see the different pattern stitches and the subtle variegations in the yarn from close up:

The pattern owes its name to a group of shells commonly found along our shores, called Tellina in Latin. One of them is the thin tellin (Tellina tenuis), a small, delicate shell with bands of colour in various shades. My favourites are the rosy pink ones, like the top left one in the photo below:

The cowl is suitable for all levels. For experienced knitters it will be a breeze to knit. And it’s totally doable for inexperienced knitters, too. (Only if you’re really new to knitting, I’d suggest asking a slightly more experienced knitter to cast on the stitches and knit the first two rounds for you. After that you should do fine.)

For those of you who’d like to make their own Tellina, you can find the pattern here on Ravelry.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Should you decide to knit this pattern, please don’t throw away the scraps! There won’t be a lot of yarn left over, as I’ve tried to use up as much as possible, but it would be a shame to throw away even the tiniest amounts. I’ll try to think up something to do with them. I don’t know exactly what it’s going to be yet, but I have some ideas and hope to publish a few small projects here on my blog during the summer months.

As always, thank you for reading!