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!

Thús

Hello!

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

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

My wish was granted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, here are some technicalities.

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

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

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

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

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

Thús can be worn single…

…or wrapped around twice.

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

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

Thank you and happy knitting!

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

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

Rose-Tinted

Hello!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Heart-Lifting Spring Things

Good morning!

How are things going in your part of the world? I feel torn in two directions. On the one hand, my heart is heavy with all the bad news from around the world and closer to home, but on the other, it is still spring. And what a glorious spring!

I think there’s enough bad news already, so here are a few heart-lifting spring things from my home turf. Let’s start indoors. Every spring from around Easter I grow garden cress on our windowsill.

I love it sprinkled over cottage cheese on Swedish knäckebröd.

This time my knitting is in sync with the seasons. I found six balls of alpaca yarn in a lovely blossom pink shade in my stash, bought in Norway years ago. They are going to be knit into a Lace Sampler Scarf. Here’s my swatch.

In our back garden, the pear tree has shed its blossoms in a snow of white petals. Now it’s the apple tree’s turn to shine.

There’s lovely quick and simple apple blossom embroidery project in the May issue of Country Living (British edition). It has some other nice ideas for things to make as well.

The pink knitting on the right is for a new design I’m working on. This is just a first try – it may take a while for the pattern to materialize.

Leaving the house through the front door, the first spring things to catch the eye are a pot and a basket filled with ‘wild’ strawberries, dug out from an overgrown patch in the garden.

Normally I’d plant them with pelargoniums. Every spring members of our local brassband go from door to door selling them to raise money for new instruments and uniforms, but not this year. It’s one of the many things that are different this spring. The brassband will have to make do with their present kit a little longer.

Turning left and walking almost to the end of the street, we come to an old, old Japanese cherry tree in full bloom.

The sky is incredibly clear and blue now that there are no planes creating a haze. Our solar panels have never produced so much energy in the eight years since we installed them.

Strolling along the street in the other direction, we come to our farmer neighbours’ cows. They are out again after having been are kept indoors all winter.

I would have loved to go a little further afield to visit a flock of sheep, pet the newborn lambs, chat with one of the shepherds and take some photographs, but unfortunately that’s impossible this year.

I did talk (on the phone) with one of the volunteers of the Rhedense schaapskudde, though. It’s a flock of Veluwe Heath Sheep, a rare breed breed much bigger than the Drenthe Heath Sheep I wrote about here and here.

The volunteer told me that their lambs are growing fast and the adult sheep will be shorn soon. (Their wool can be spun, but is too rough to be used for clothing.) Their four bottle-fed lambs have become a close gang and tend to wander off together when the flock is out grazing the heathland.

This is a difficult period for the flock, as they largely depend on the revenue from their annual Lambing Day and the adoption of lambs by visitors, but they are moving with the times and people can now adopt a lamb online. It’s not as nice as choosing and petting one’s ‘own’ lamb in person, but it’s a good alternative. Although this year’s Lambing Day is cancelled, we can still visit virtually through this video from a couple of years back. Enjoy!

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(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.

Finishing Willapa

Hello! Today it’s all about knitting (and some music). I’m sorry to disappoint the non-knitters among you – I promise to write about something of more general interest next time.

I had been feeling a bit off-colour for several days, but struggled on until I thought, ‘Enough is enough’ and gave myself an afternoon off. I brewed a pot of tea, put on some music and spread an unfinished knitting project and everything I needed to finish it out on the dining table.

Do you remember me writing about UFOs and my New Year’s resolution to finish (or frog) them all? Well, this the first one. It is a cardigan called Willapa that was designed by Annie Rowden for Brooklyn Tweed. This is the front page of the pattern with a ball of the yarn I used:

I would have liked to make it from the original yarn, Brooklyn Tweed ‘Loft’, but the only shop in our country stocking that had run out of my colour choices A, B and C. I chose Lamana ‘Como Tweed’ instead. The yarns are similar, but not the same. They are both fingering weights, both tweedy, and both knit up to the same gauge. But Loft is more rustic and has (imho) more interesting colours, while Como Tweed is airier and softer.

So, why did this cardi become a UFO? I’m not entirely sure.

It was almost finished, but very soon after I’d started the front border, the frog chorus started to chant ‘Rip-it, Rip-it’.

The pattern said ‘slip the first stitch PURLWISE with yarn held in back’, while I would have chosen ‘slip the first stitch KNITWISE with yarn held in back’. I had my doubts, but thought, ‘How much difference can it make whether you slip a stitch purlwise or knitwise?’

So, I ignored the frogs and knit on. And on and on. It wasn’t until it was time to bind off that I decided I wasn’t happy with the edge stitches at all. They were different on the left and right and looked untidy.

But before I followed the frogs’ advice and ripped out many hours of knitting, I knit a swatch to check if slipping the first stitch knitwise would really be better than to slip it purlwise:

Yes, it did make quite a difference. The bottom half (A) of the swatch was knit slipping the first stitch of every row purlwise, the top half (B) slipping them knitwise.

Slipping the first stitch purlwise gave a stretchy/loose edge with a very different left and right side. Slipping the first stitch knitwise made the edge firmer. There was still a slight difference between left and right, but that was hardly noticeable.

So, I frogged the front border, knit it again, and was glad I’d taken the trouble.

At this stage Willapa was still a WIP. After the front border I knit the pockets and all the knitting was done. It was then that it became a UFO. I suppose it was because it was almost summer by then, and a warm cardi seemed irrelevant. And also because I dreaded weaving in all those ends and wasn’t happy about the pockets.

Well, my afternoon off solved all that. Weaving in the ends took about an hour, but was quite pleasant with some good music on.

My husband isn’t a big fan, so I only play this music when he’s not there. But I love it, especially On the Nature of Daylight. It is something between classical and minimal music, and the composer’s own website says, ‘The Blue Notebooks is a subtle and peaceful protest against political, social and personal brutality.’

With that peaceful protest in the background, I found the courage to finish my cardigan. Here it is:

It has a very wide front border, widened at the neck with short rows, that can be turned down to a nice collar.

Following the instructions in the pattern, the pockets would have ended up exactly on the sides of my hips. This is already my widest part, and it doesn’t need to be accented by pockets. So I moved the pockets down and forward, where they almost disappeared into the lower border:

Unlike the pattern, I used the same edge stitch for the pockets as for the front border (slipping the first stitch knitwise). The pattern didn’t say how to sew on the pockets. I tried out several ways, and in the end just used ordinary small back stitches. The pockets are on the small side, but big enough for a hankie or a slip of paper with some notes.

Willapa is knit from the top down, has narrow sleeves with wide cuffs meant to be folded double, and has lovely raglan shoulders.

All in all I’m very happy with the pattern, the yarn and the end result. If you’re looking for a simple, but definitely not frumpy looking cardi to knit, I can really recommend Willapa. You can find it on Ravelry and on the Brooklyn Tweed website. It is a well-written pattern and, apart from the edge stitches, there is much to love about it. I hope my notes are helpful for anyone making it.

(I can also recommend taking an afternoon off when you’re not feeling quite well.)

So this was my first UFO turned FO. One down, eight more to go.

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.

In-Between-Projects Project

Pale, medium and dark grey, with a some clear blue thrown in now and then – that’s February skies. For people in the Southern hemisphere, like some of my relatives and friends, it’s a different story, of course. But if you’re in the North and tired of dreary days, I hope this blogpost will work as a spot of colour therapy.

A long time ago, I bought a big bag full of alpaca yarn. Single balls in many different colours and some neutrals to offset all that brightness. I was going to crochet a granny square blanket, something like this:

After crocheting just a few squares I realized that the yarn wasn’t suitable. At least not to my taste. It had zero elasticity, which meant that it lacked the squishiness and coziness factor that a blanket needs. It was also very smooth and slippery, and I was afraid that all those woven in ends would soon unravel.

I put the yarn away until I had a better idea for it.

Many years later, I thought of starting an ‘in-between-projects project’ – something simple to knit while I was finishing another project, to prevent that from becoming a UFO. Something that I could easily put aside when I was ready to start something new, and pick up again when that was at the finishing stage. It needed to be rather boring, or I would still be in danger of creating more UFOs.

I chose this pattern:

It is simply called ‘Stole’ (Ravelry link) and was designed by Theresa Gaffey. Basically it is no more than a huge expanse of ribbing. My alpaca yarn would be ideal for it – nice and drapey. There wouldn’t be too many ends to weave in that could come undone. And I had many colours to choose from.

I thought it would be nice to do one half in neutrals (black and greys) and one half in cheerful colours. This was my original colour choice:

But when I was on to the last colour but one, I wasn’t happy. The medium pink looked ‘dirty’ beside the bright fuchsia, and the whole thing seemed out of balance. So I tried out all kinds of alternative colour combinations, always keeping the neutral half intact.

I tried some very bright colours next to the original red and fuchsia. Cheerful, and a lovely contrast with the neutral half…

… but not really ‘me’.

Some purples next to the red and fuchsia then?

Not bad, but not great either.

Okay, what if I ripped out the red, fuchsia and pink entirely? That would mean many, many hours of knitting down the drain (there were 400+ stitches on my needles), but I didn’t mind. This wasn’t about finishing something quickly.

So, what if I chose a gradient of pinks and purples, mirroring the gradient of neutrals?

Nice. Well- balanced. But I wasn’t in love with it.

How about a gradient of blues instead?

Ahhh, yes, that felt good. But, really, blues again? Very predictable and not very exciting.

In the end I went with the blues anyway. I ripped the stole back almost entirely to the neutrals, but decided to make it a little more exciting by leaving in a very narrow band of red.

Here is Theresa Gaffey’s Stole finished:
(I wasn’t feeling very photogenic and cut my head off. Don’t worry – just in the photo.)

Well, it is no longer Theresa Gaffey’s stole, but very much mine. I used her pattern as a starting point, but cast on more stitches, made the ‘ribs’ several stitches wider, added I-cord edges, chose a very different colour combination, and used 11 colours instead of her 9.

That’s one of the nice things about knitting. You don’t need to be hugely creative to make a project your own. Just choose different colours, tweak a few details if you like, and you end up with something unique.

With its 0.70 by 2.20 m / 27’’ by 87’’ it is a huge stole – almost a blanket.

I didn’t use blocking wires to stretch the knitting out. I just soaked the stole in a no-rinse detergent for 30 minutes and put it in the spin-dryer. Then I stretched it out on the floor, using my hands to smooth and stretch the knitting as much as possible. As an alternative it could be stretched out on a bed, or perhaps even folded double and stretched out over a drying rack. Warning: Some colours may bleed!

Now I still have more of the alpaca left.

Would I like to make another stole like this? Hmmm, maybe later. I loved the meditative nature of this project. And my idea behind it seemed to work – I haven’t created any new UFOs for quite a while. (I haven’t finished any old ones either, but I’m working on that.) But I think I’ll first choose something else as my next in-between-projects project.