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!

Perfect Knitting Weather, but…

Hello again! Welcome to a white and snowy world!

It started to snow at three o’clock on Tuesday afternoon. Exactly at the predicted time. We live in a very well-organized country. A code yellow warning was issued by the meteorological service. Train timetables were adjusted long before the first snowflake fell.

So the snow wasn’t a lovely surprise. But lovely nevertheless. We don’t get snow all that often, and although it usually isn’t more than just a few centimeters, I always find it exciting and exhilarating. I just have to share some of all that white loveliness with you.

With my camera in hand, I stepped out the back door, where our pots with herbs are. The most fragile ones are safely under glass, the others will hopefully survive.

I walked round the house for a look at our bird feeders. If you look closely, you can see that this great tit has a sunflower seed in its beak. Great and blue tits and sparrows fly on and off, picking up one seed at a time, eating it in a quiet and safe spot on a branch, and then coming back for more.

First, I took a stroll through our village and noticed this little tree, snug in its stripy knit coat:

Then I walked down the road outside the village, past a stack of wood waiting to be picked up.

And finally I came to the wood at the end of the road.

It looks like a very quiet place, but I was definitely not the only one enjoying it. There were lots of people around, with or without dogs, children, sledges and even skis.

How I love this weather! The snow, the pale light, the cold. Perfect knitting weather, but…

… my knitting more or less seems to have come to a standstill. There isn’t much knitting going on at all. I really don’t know why. Am I suffering from a winter depression? No, I don’t think so. I love winter and I’m feeling perfectly all right otherwise.

Waiting for inspiration I’ve been knitting some socks.

At first I said to myself, it’s only natural after all the gift knitting. Just take your time. Relax a little. Knit another pair of socks. Some ideas will come to you, just wait and see. But now I’ve almost finished three pairs of socks.

There’s just the toe of the third pair to finish and the ends to weave in. Apart from that, I’m struggling to get the pockets of a nearly finished cardigan right. And that’s it. There’s nothing else on my needles.

High time to actively go hunting for inspiration and something to knit. Something interesting. Something a little more challenging than socks. High time to dive into my yarn stash and leaf through some books in my knitting library. I’ll let you know when I find something.

Meanwhile I’m thinking of all of you travelling to and from work by car or by train in this weather. I hope that the roads are not too slippery and the trains are on time. And I hope that you can also enjoy the snow a little.

Most of all I’m thinking of my knitting friend Monique, who gets onto her bicycle every day to deliver the mail whatever the weather. I really admire her for that. And I also admire her for her knitting. Monique knits and designs some of the finest and most beautiful lace you’ll ever see. If you’re into lace knitting, you must take a look at her website. She has just published the second issue of her free digital magazine ‘Fine Shetland Lace’. (Scroll down a little and you’ll see a download link.)

Reading through the magazine, I came across an inspirational quote that seems like a fitting end to this blog post. It’s from Irish lace knitter and designer Aisling M. Doonan:

Sometimes… you have to sit down and begin for the ideas to come.